Archive for the ‘Content Inventories’ Category An IA case study

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

The old

This was not so much a redesign, or even a relaunch, but more of a resurrection of a site that had become tired, old and ineffective. Its many shortcomings were highlighted with the onslaught of the new generation of sites from competitors that used user-generated content and a more social networking approach to their presentation layer.

As this site represented the best of computer related business journalism, it was apt that it should be the company’s first site that underwent a complete overhaul from the ground up.


The return of the Content Inventory

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Luckily I haven’t had to do these for a while as the projects have moved on to the core IA tasks but more about those in the coming weeks.

Content Inventories or Content Audits ( a less detailed look at the physical make up of your site) are time consuming and do take a fair degree of concentration to achieve the end results. They are not fun, they are dull and if you do them make sure you get paid every last penny for the trouble.

Nobody in their right mind would ever do these for amusement (unless they are twisted) but they are so important in gauging what the site is all about and what it has to offer.

Content Audit screen grab

An Excel spreadsheet earlier today

The importance of an audit comes out when designing the new structure of a site. It also helps to gain real inside knowledge that not even the site owners may have.

Being the most knowledgeable in the team about the product is never a bad thing and gives you much needed ammunition for future battles. For instance they may be sentimental about an item that rarely gets any traffic, only you will know the facts through analysis of web metrics – the decision to remove the item becomes easy.


Statistics to back up the arguments – evidence based design decisions

You will also see where content is sparse but where traffic may be heading and be able to raise this to the content providers. Some analysis tools also give you overlays of the users’ click behaviour – another great tool for deciding priority of the content.

The main areas covered in a Content Audit are;

  • Page ID – Allows future references in documentation to be made easily. The Home page starts with a zero, and decimal from there on in.
  • Existing Navigation Category – News, Products or Suppliers for instance.
  • Page Description – What is it you are looking at? Is it a News home page, a product listing or a contact page with Vcards?
  • Page Elements – What is actually on the page? Name the individual content types. Poll, news article headline, body text, image etc.
  • Format – What is the file type? HTML, JPEG etc
  • Content Location – Where does the page reside? Use URL string
  • Links to – Where does the page link to? USe URL string
  • Purpose – What is the point of the page??
  • Author – Who created the page
  • Publisher – Who published the page
  • 3rd Party Content – What external content is served up here
  • Traffic – What are the traffic stats associated to the page or section

And that is it. All you have to do now is go through each unique page type and fill out the spreadsheet. Once that is done, you can then create a suggested structure on a new tab.

Compare and contrast with your client group and watch them marvel at your Excel prowess (you will be a master by now) and your irrefutable page analysis and recommendations. All in a (few) days work (or a week for a large site) for an IA. Things only get better from this point on…..

Parts of the Process

Friday, March 30th, 2007

I have just completed a four week project on a large computing website and although I am an IA virgin I am happy with the results. My colleague produced the taxonomy and controlled vocabulary and with the help of the polar bear book, Communicating Design and the fantastic Elements of User Experience, I think I am getting to grips with the dark arts of information design.

Its tricky that the more you read the more you feel impelled to produce increasing amounts of deliverables but obviously time and money are deciding factors here. You must strike a balance. This project has produced 9 documents in total. They are, in chronological order;

  • Content Inventory
  • Information Scheme (requirements gathering)
  • Taxonomy
  • Controlled Vocabulary
  • Navigation scheme
  • Wireframe
  • Concept Model
  • Site Map
  • IA Strategy Report

I feel that they are all crucial to produce a design that is truly user centred. They do rely on quality research data and user related deliverables (such as personas) are critical to the quality of output. Persona led taxonomies are what really underpins the structure in this context heavy environment but more of those later….

What is important here is although two of us did the work, many more people helped create the end products. For a successful team you need to collaborate but you also need different skills in the core group. UCD and information science together seems to be the right mix.

Content Inventories

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

This hurts! There is no other way to describe your first job as an IA. Mind-numbing and boring but very necessary to establish a starting point for a site redesign. It may take a week to do but the information you gain from the excersise is rich and from it you can make informed decisions about the direction your site will go in.

After doing two I realised how important these are to any refresh or redesign. Structural problems are obvious and the hidden gems in your site are revealed. With the aid of web analytics you can see the most popular areas. With search logs you can see how a user finds your information. This can also be the basis for your controlled vocabularies once your taxonomy has been created. Use social bookmarking sites to note the tags your user’s are compiling and that you are reflecting the language they are speaking.

Whatever you think about the hard slog of doing a content inventory – stick with it. It probably will be the best research time you spend in getting your site the redesign it deserves.