Research content and information

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Our latest submission covered information architecture and content as a part of Module 3, the psychology of UX.

My preliminary research was included as an Appendix and is included here for (my) future reference.

Research: content and information

”…You need to have a good understanding of the content before you even think of tackling the IA. If you don’t, your IA and content just won’t fit together later“

Spencer (2014, p.136).

Redish (2007, p.1) states that people come to websites for the content that transcends the technology they use. Microsoft’s (2012, p.19) former Manual of Style emphasised a web content strategy is critical for enterprise to communicate with users.

Digital content is every data input, stored, and output. Browsers present data using HTML made accessible by design, functional with scripts, and styled by CSS.

Content strategy

Hay (2013) broadly defines the context of digital content to include information, data exchange, and the interface. Presentation is only one of seven application layers (Dennis, 2002). Hay prescribes delivering web content semantically using HTML and its microformats, microdata, and metadata, which Frain (2012) inventories from content microstructures to modular structures.

Microsoft (2018a), Redish (2007), and Krug (2014) discuss scannable content writing and placing content visually “above the fold”. Content accessibility and usability is forefront of digital content strategy (Sydik, 2007) guided by the World Wide Web Consortium’s (2018) Web Accessibility Initiative. Content should follow universal design principles – not only visual design.

Navigating content

Redish (2007, p.63) and Weinschenk (2011, p.63) expose the three-clicks navigation approach used to constrain user interactions (attributed to Zelderman, 2001 in Wikipedia, 2016) as less important than designing a smooth flow of progressive disclosure. Perhaps it depends on our user’s needs, environment, and preferences (Spencer’s 2014, people, content, and context) as much as the quantity of content groupings curated?

Serving content

E-learning content can be reused efficiently using object models; discrete digital content retrieved on demand (Morrison, 2004). HTML5 and server-side scripting languages provide similar content organisation and management strategies.

When planning to serve content, Arango, Morville, and Rosenfeld (2015, p. 373) advise defining and grouping Content Components and the Connections or links between them.

Planning content

Great content starts with a plan (Microsoft, 2018b). Some considerations are summarised at Table 1.

Table 1. Content strategy considerations from Microsoft (2018b)
Community Commentary
Enterprise The answers to the following questions may guide content strategy:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they want to accomplish?
  • What is your business goal for providing the content?
  • Do you have time or budget constraints?
  • What kind of content best meets the customer’s needs and business goals?
  • How will the customer find the content?
  • Where will the customer look for information?
  • What devices will the customer use to experience the content?
  • Will the content be translated or localised?
  • How will you measure success?

For example:

  • If the customer need is immediate, maybe you blog today and create a more polished article later.
  • If budget and timeline are tight, you might choose a simple text format.
  • If the audience is large and the topic complex, a short, professionally produced video might make sense.
  • If content will be localized in multiple languages, graphics supported by text might meet the customer and business need at a lower cost.
Users’ needs
  • Complete a simple task or use a simple feature in an app
  • Get answers and expertise from a community
  • Learn a complex or comprehensive concept or skill
  • Learn product tips and tricks
  • Understand a process
  • Troubleshoot a problem

Content delivery strategies may include:

  • UI text
  • Video and infographics
  • E-books and documentation
  • Tutorial, technical papers, or articles
  • Communities, blogs and microblogs (such as Twitter)

Information architecture (IA)

 

Spencer (2014) directs us to understand People, Content, and Context when approaching IA. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. What we should understand of IA (Spencer, 2014).
Area Commentary
People What they need do to, how they think and what they already know:

 

  • group content in ways that make sense to them or
  • provide ways for them to find it easily.
Content What you have, what you should have and what you need to create an information architecture that works well for current and future content.
Context The business or personal goals for the site,

 

  • who else will be involved and
  • what your constraints are to create something that works for people and the business.

Arango, Morville, and Rosenfeld’s (2015, p.21-22) definitions of IA are at Table 3.

Table 3. Definitions of IA from Arango, Morville, and Rosenfeld’s (2015)
Definitions of Information Architecture
  1. The structural design of shared information environments.
  2. The synthesis of organization, labelling, search, and navigation systems within digital, physical, and cross-channel ecosystems.
  3. The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability, findability, and understanding.
  4. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape

They perhaps bleakly explain that no two people will experience or understand information in quite the same way.

Content design and delivery

Information architecture must meet the needs of our users and content in context of the enterprise goals (Spencer, 2014).

Navigation schemas should not be censored to fit popular visual design. The navigation to topics, tasks, and pages depends on the content strategy and information architecture. These depend on our enterprise and users’ needs. Guidance from “laws” is useful. Research, analysis, ideation, testing, and iteration is essential: design thinking!

Gócza, (n.d.) is one of many to expose popular myths grown from Miller’s 1956 Law of how working memory processes and clunks information (Khan Academy, n.d.). Clunking describes breaking down content and delivering it in small, easily processed pieces (Morrison, 2004, p.253-272: Weinschenk, 2011).

No designer should adopt popular beliefs, “standards”, or “laws” without researching their project’s people, content, and context.

Content delivery may be enabled by learning design concepts. For example, Morrison (2004) includes discussions on content object management (e.g. SCORM), Gagné’s (1956) events of instruction, multi-modal Cognitive Load Theory, and other learner models and instructional architectures that assist our users to process content and designers to organise it.

Summary

Digital information and content consumption is either pushed onto or pulled by consumers from providers who, in turn consume information (data) collected from the consumer.

Content includes the information it conveys, its management, and its communication using appropriate channels. Content and information are more than skin deep. Their strategy, management, technology, and delivery are complex over seven application layers.

The aim is to simplify its consumption through the content strategy, information architecture, and navigation.

Reference this post

Godfrey, P. (Year, Month Day). Title. Retrieved , from,

References

Denis, A. (2002). Networking in the Internet Age. New York, NY, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Frain, B. (2012). Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3. Birmingham, UK: Packt Publishing Ltd.

Gócza, Z. (n.d.). UX Myths, Myth #23: Choices should always be limited to 7+/-2. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from https://uxmyths.com/post/931925744/myth-23-choices-should-always-be-limited-to-seven

Hay, S. (2013). Responsive Design Workflow. London, UK: Thames & Hudson.

Krug, S. (2014). Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A common sense approach to web usability (4th Edition). Berkley, CA, USA: New Riders.

Microsoft, (2012). Microsoft Manual of Style (4th Edition). Redmond, WA, USA: Microsoft Press.

Microsoft, (2018a, January 19). Microsoft Style Guide: Scannable content. Retrieved February 8, 2019, from https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/style-guide/scannable-content/

Microsoft, (2018b, July 31). Microsoft Style Guide: Content planning. Retrieved February 8, 2019, from https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/style-guide/content-planning

Morrison, D. (2004). E-Learning Strategies. How to get implementation right first time. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Redish, J. (2007). Letting Go of the Words: Writing web content that works. San Francisco, CA, USA: Morgan Kaufman.

Spencer, D. (2014). A Practical Guide to Information Architecture (Second Edition). Northcote, VIC, Australia: UX Mastery.

Sydik, J. (2007). Design Accessible Websites. Raleigh, NC, USA: Pragmatic Bookshelf.

Wikipedia, 2016. Three-click rule. Retrieved February 20, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-click_rule

World Wide Web Consortium (2018, February 16). How WAI Develops Accessibility Standards through the W3C Process: Milestones and Opportunities to Contribute. Retrieved February 8, 2018, from https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/w3c-process/

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