RR: Info Architecture; Prototyping

Chapter5: Information Architecture

Information architecture is organizing information so that it is easy to use.  If we apply paradigm of design we learned last week, information architecture deals with the paradigm of engineering and paradigm of usability. (You can see nice pyramid about paradigm of design here)  So it is about how to make information easy to find.   So many interesting theories like information foraging is used. It will be especially useful, when there is many information in certain places, when the user will have to guess where the related information is located.  Providing self-relevant categories and many hints(scent) about where the info may lies is key task for the information architect.

There can be a really wide variety of category over specific items.  However some of the user-centered techniques for creating such architecture includes card sorting ,closed card sorting, similarity matching.  They request users to categorize and label various items.  The reason these are user-centered is that from various categorization available, designer follows what the customer thinks naturally.  One concept useful in this approach that is not discussed in the article is the concept of user’s mental model and designer’s representation model.  By making these similar, we can achieve optimal organization.  And that’s why we designers are interested in the model in user’s mind.

There are many topology certain sites can have.  For example there is hierarchy(tree), linear (sequence), matrix, full mesh, arbitrary network and hybrid.  Even though there is no absolute answer to the topology, a topology is adequate at certain situation.  One thing I would like to note is the horizontal vs vertical organization.  If there is many contents, horizontal organization with many links at certain level which means short required level.  Also the vertical organization means at certain level there is small number of links, which means deep required level.  It seems horizontal organization performs generally better than the vertical organization.  It seems because there are many choices, the probability of error also increases.  So in vertical organization where the user has to make many choices, there can be more errors.  So heuristically sublevel below 3 is now recommended.

Chapter 11: Prototyping

Let me begin with the different types and fidelity levels of prototypes.  There is horizontal and vertical prototype. Also there is variations like T and local prototype.  In terms of fidelity there is low, middle, high-fidelity prototypes.  Also if we consider the interactivity, there is scripted and click-through, a fully programmed, Wizard of Oz type, physical mockup and animated prototype.  So there is many types of prototype, and finding a adequate one to try seems daunting task.  Or is it?  Well, it seems common sense and reality check with time, budget and man power can reduce many choices into a few feasible rational selection.

1. First, matching the level of fidelity with the stage of progress is good idea.  That means start with low fidelity, proceed to the high quality pixel perfect prototype.

2. You should know using programming makes it complex, because nature of program is that it should be perfect to work even for the prototype.  Pen and paper are easy to create variations.  So begin with the pen and paper and proceed to the programming if it is required.  Please keep in mind that even though the prototyping code looks functional, development will prefer starting fresh.

3. Vertical prototyping is nice to test a certain feature which requires sequential interaction like check out. Horizontal prototyping is good for the general look and feel and feature set.

4. There is times when high fidelity prototype is required.  When the time comes, you will probably know.  Such event includes VC pitch, Big boss meeting, request from technical sales.

However there are pitfalls when using prototyping.  I already mentioned pitfalls with the programming in the previous blog post. There is a few more pitfalls.  Interestingly, there is a pitfall with low fidelity prototype and pitfalls with high fidelity prototype.

1. Low fidelity prototype is nice if it is used with the people who understands the design process.  However there are many cases where people don’t know about it.  If the people is your boss, client or stakeholder, it can be problematic.  For example, they may think you are an inexperienced amatuer (Maybe it is true that you are inexperienced amateur.  Not in the sense, your design skill is not good enough but you are not experienced with clients, if you showed it to someone who can think like that. )

2. High fidelity prototype also has its own pitfall.  For example, the clients sees the prototype, they think it’s done and may even try to save money by declaring the job done.  Other than that if you have a nice slick look and feel, most of your feedback can be on the topic of detail about look and feel not the interaction flow.  Also people tend to be less inclined to criticize work if it looks done, for it is too late.

By the way, the topics about the paper mockup was interesting.  I wonder maybe our next class will be an art and craft with pen scissor glue developing paper mockup for the mini-hub.


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