Engagement and Optimisation: Architecture for optimisation

How do you construct the architecture of a site or web application you are designing to give an optimised experience? When talking about architecture it is not specifically about the technical implementation but more the concept of a site being able to exist in multiple areas, accessible from multiple paths and able to accommodate different user interactions.

An optimised architecture must be;

Adaptable – to adapt to different user needs (how they arrive to the product, via search, email, bookmarks or referrals)

 

404   Be aware that users arrive deep into the content a site offers. Every page should have the ability to act like a landing page. Ensure the user’s initial intent is satisfied by clear calls to action, signposting and visual clues to get them started and motivated to continue on site. Group pages together and see what percentage of the total audience arrive at them to give you an idea of how to shape and model the content around their wants and needs. Offer numerous opportunities for varied paths of navigation, from different user types.

Portable – to allow elements of it to appear on other platforms and in multiple devices

 

image   A good example is the Wikipedia website and their mobile version. They offer the same content, but use different display surfaces to serve from the same content repository. The ideal is to make your service interfaces standard, flexible, lightweight and multi-device friendly. The content you provide goes beyond the browser. The ability for you to control all permutations of a device platform, where your service may appear, is very difficult if industry standards are not followed.

Contextual – an appreciation of the context the users come from and what they are expected to do on the site next is critical to delivering a solution which is optimised for engagement

 

Slide18   The purpose of having an optimised architecture is to  deliver the right content at the right time to the right group of users. Analysis tools like Google Trends, Compete and Quantcast can all give you an idea of the demographic, whilst Google Analytics and UberVu can assist in the sentiment and conversation around your product or service. Adjust accordingly, ensure you have Site Search switched on if you use analytics. Internal search is a cheap way to gauge what CTAs to present people when they arrive and to check if your IA is delivering the right results.

Geo-location can also assist in presenting pertinent information to the user if they are in a specific location, especially important for mobile devices.

We no longer think of web pages as static elements that are linked by a site diagram view. If we think of states of a page where a user’s interaction describes what is being displayed and which elements can be used, then this is a closer view of web pages and one which needs to be described when developing a solution. It is a deportalized approach to developing a site, where many of its components can exist in different areas, different sites and different platforms.

Consider the information as the application. If the content can be opened up for a diverse and creative use then it will have more impact and likely to go further. Be aware that a company’s perceptions of the usage of their content will not impede the way the users interact and uses that content.

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It is the web equivalent to the SOA (service orientated architecture) approach to software. Google’s Gadgets and Apple’s widgets have become mainstays and the iPhone approach to software with their App Store is a natural extension of the SOA philosophy.

WIKIPEDIA – The notion of complexity-hiding and reuse, but also the concept of loosely coupling services has inspired researchers to elaborate on similarities between the two philosophies, SOA and Web 2.0, and their respective applications. Some argue Web 2.0 and SOA have significantly different elements and thus can not be regarded “parallel philosophies”, whereas others consider the two concepts as complementary and regard Web 2.0 as the global SOA.

So how do you build an information architecture that must accommodate these qualities?

Primarily, define the content and the different types. @CraigMod has written recently about the two types of content, the formless and the definite, and this is a very useful way to look at the content that is to be supported. His article outlines the foundations of what I call an optimised architecture, it is ‘definite content’ that allows this portability. When designing these ecosystems the content dictates the architecture and it should never be the architecture dictating the content.

Thomas Petersen has written about ecosystems and how the most adaptable systems enjoy such major success, and it is the content that they provide that allows this boom for the device manufacturers.

Showing adaptability, portability and contextuality will allow a system to enjoy the most benefit in the next ten years. The device already set up to enjoy and dominate this area is the smart phone, and the imminent arrival of the iPad. Content is still what drives users to visit and participate, and products aimed at consumption of content showing these qualities will be increasingly popular and successful.

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