info architecture and usability

Post OZ-IA 2007 Information Architecture conference in Sydney

| info architecture and usability | No Comments

Saturday night IA beers thanks to the nice guys at HappenerI have just gotten back from a jam packed weekend of presentations and drinking in Sydney at the annual Oz-IA conference. Information Architecture is a relatively new industry, however there was a good turn out with people not only coming from Sydney, but also Canberra, Perth, London, New York, New Zealand, and even Canada with about 120 attendees in total.

There isn’t much of a web development industry in Townsville and even less of a community for information architecture specialists, so it was really good to get out and meet people with the same interests.

Rashmi Sinha gets everyone talking about SlideShareOne of the key presentations that got everyone talking was Rashmi Sinha from SlideShare who talked about ten things that they learned by using agile design methods when developing SlideShare. Information Architecture usually requires a lot of research, planning and testing, however they took an entirely different approach and it appears to have worked well for them. I hadn’t previously heard of SlideShare, but put simply, they are an online sharing site for slideshow presentations. People can upload their PowerPoint presentations which can then be tagged and shared easily through the online medium.

Some of my other favourite presentations (in no particular order) included:

Designing sites people love – balancing emotion with business reality
Discussed the recent revamp of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Australian newspapers) websites including their reasoning for the new layout and changes in content focus. I visit smh.com.au everyday and didn’t really like the redesign when I first saw it, but it has since grown on me, and after seeing the presentation, I could understand why they have done what they have, and I think that it should be beneficial for users in the future.

Is length still an issue?
Iain Barker asks the question is length still an issueThis was a well backed up presentation discussing whether it is still important for content to be ‘above the fold’. Was really nice to see a bit of the research that has been done, and in my opinion, length isn’t so much an issue anymore, with most users realising that they need to scroll to see the full extent of a page, but of course like most things this depends on the context of the page. If you are a news media website with a lot of content and articles, you need length to get all the information to your users. If you are a small business with a single product, you might be able to fit everything you need to say/show on one page. Overall good presentation, that was well backed up with research.

Analysing quantitative data
Steve Baty pulls out the mathematic algorithms to teach us how to analyse quantitative dataOne of the most brain-intensive presentations of the whole weekend, but Steve has a very fun approach to keep users interested. At first I wasn’t really sure where he was going, and as I have previously done some studies regarding statistics, it wasn’t too much new information, and found myself drifting off a bit, but at the end it all came clear (and intriguing) and enticed me to want to learn more. Would have been nice to see a bit more as to what algorithms can be used in what situations etc, but I think I heard a rumour that Steve might be writing up a paper on this so I look forward to hearing more .

Love in an elevator – selling the value of IA to business
This was a fun presentation, with lots of pictures to help us all wake up from the after lunch slum. Now to convince my boss that information architecture is important…

Get out your pinking shears, it’s time to cut a few patterns
Sharon gets everyone interested in patternsI had heard a bit about patterns, and worked with programming patterns in Java, but I hadn’t really done (or considered doing) patterns for design. This was a real eye opener for me. I have had the book Designing Interfaces: Patterns for effective iteration design on my Amazon wish list for quite some time, but hadn’t really considered it a priority book. But after hearing Sharon explain what patterns are and what they can do, I am very interested to learn more. Expect to hear some more about patterns in the future.

Exploring multidimensional tagging frameworks
As far as I am concerned tags are great. I expected to get a bit more out of this talk, but overall it was good to get an idea of where tags might be heading in the future.

Semantic analysis in IA
Interesting presentation showing how linguistics and semantics to make information machine-readable.

Donna Maurer discusses ethical issues and information architectureEthical issues and information architecture
Any talk by Donna is going to be good, and this was no exception. Was good to see some insight to the way she works, and provide some generalistic guidelines for what we should and shouldn’t do.

Open your mind – map it
I don’t really use mind maps, I’m more of a lists kind of person, but it was interesting to see some of the cool stuff you can do with mind mapping software. Definitely made me want to try it out (especially the functionality to turn it into a report later).

What else did I get out of this weekend…?

  • Met lots of new people with similar interest groups
  • Learned a bit more about the Information Architecture industry in Australia
  • Got to see the sights of Sydney and do a little bit of shopping
  • All the walking around (and the early mornings) got me a bit more motivated to start jogging again… maybe tomorrow I shall start again, but we will see.
  • Potential opportunities to move south to improve my experience and job opportunities. There appears to be quite a bit of work available down here, and it wasn’t as cold as I imagined it might be.
  • Joined twitter

Further resources

Flickr photo pool
Official Oz-IA 2007 website

Oz-IA: Info Architecture conference Sydney, 22-23rd Sept

| info architecture and usability | 3 Comments

Over the last couple of weeks I have been looking into some of the upcoming conferences on web development, design, usability, information architecture, and well basically anything to do with online technology as part of my quest to learn as much as I can so that I can make the online world we live in a better place. I have found lots of interesting conferences, most of which are located either in the states (Austin, Texas – SXSW Interactive March 7-11 2008), London (Future of Web Apps Oct 3-5 2007 ) and New Zealand (Webstock). Which based on my (non-existant) budget, means the chance of me making it to any of these is currently unlikely. But don’t fret cos today I found something even better… SitePoint blogger Lisa Herrod posted an article about events coming up in Australia.

YaY!!!

Oz-IA/2007 - Sydney, September 22nd/23rd 2007But wait it gets better – one of the events, Oz-IA is offering a free pass to one lucky blogger. Woot! That is exactly what I need and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The catch… entries close today at 6pm so I am now hurriedly writing to try and get an entry in. Heres what I have found so far about the conference from their website.

When: 22nd – 23rd September
There will be 8 sessions a day, the ones I am interested in most include:

Ethical issues and information architecture by Donna Maurer
Last week I downloaded a podcast by Donna on Usabillity for rich internet applications from the 2006 Webstock Conference, and although haven’t had a chance to listen to the whole thing yet, I really like where it is going and I think she definetly has some great ideas hat we could all learn from.

Designing sites people love – balancing emotion with business reality by Elizabeth Pek and Andy Coffey.
I think theres a lot I could learn from this presentation. At Uni, the IT componenet of my degree focussed mainly on the back-end programming and as long as something worked then it didnt matter how ugly, or un-user-friendly it was. I disagree and I want to change that by making applications that work and people actually love using them… so hopefully this should give me a couple of tips.

Semantic analysis in IA by Matthew Hodgson
I am a sucker for organisation, so Information Architecture is something I have started doing a bit more research into, but I haven’t really had a chance to get deep in yet, so this would potentially give me the motivation to learn more.

Exploring multidimensional tagging frameworks by Scott Parsons
I love tagging, I think its great. However I don’t think it is currently being used as widely as it could be. Also I am considering implementing tagging in one of my upcoming applications, so multidimensional tagging sounds interesting..

It is at this point that I realise I think I am going to like all these sessions.The winners keep on coming…

Open your mind – map it by James Breeze
I like getting all my ideas out on paper (or a whiteboard), however there isn’t too much structure to it, so this could be a good way to learn how to get more out of my crazy mind jotting sessions.

Information Architecture of Wikis by James Matheson
I haven’t worked much on the development side of Wikis but now that I think about it, they are pretty good at structure information so it would be nice to learn a bit more. Potentially something we could all learn to use when creating information structures in other applications.

Landing Page Optimisation by Hurol Inan
This is a must. I think the first page you go to really makes a difference.. if the first page is confusing, chances are the other pages are not going to make much difference. First impressions count.

“Theres no I in team” a case study in collaborative information architecture by Patrick Kennedy
In my experience teams can either make or break a project. Working with a good team is great, but if you have a bad team, then it makes you wish you could do it all yourself.. I’m interested on finding out how to make teams work better.

ROI in Information Design by David Sless
This isn’t really something I have looked into before. Potential to learn something new here.

Rise to Play a Greater Part – Delivering Specs in the Bigger Picture by Faruk Avdi
I love project management and I love planning so this would be fun.

I am running out of time, so I am just going to leave it at that for now. I will have a more in-depth look into all the presentations over the next couple of days and post some more info for anyone who is interested.

Overall the conference looks very interesting. If you have any interest in Information Architecture, or even if you don’t I suggest you check it out, I am sure there is something we all can learn.

If I am lucky enough to get picked, look forward to hearing a lot more about the all the sessions. If I don’t get picked – look forward to hearing more about ways to help me make money to cover the cost of getting me down there

How not to integrate Google Adwords into your site

| design, info architecture and usability | 3 Comments

Don’t get me wrong I actually like Google Adwords. But there is a time and place for them. Here is a good example of how NOT to integrate google AdWords into your website that I came across while looking for AJAX tutorials today.

Example of bad use of Google AdWords
Source: http://ajax.stealthsettings.com/how-to/ajax-basics/

Whats wrong with this picture?

1. Hard to distinguish the difference between the Google ads, and the real content.
Now while some users (those who claim to make 5 digit incomes from Google ads) suggest that this is a good thing, think about your users. If someone stumbles across your site, for example looking for a tutorial on AJAX, and accidentally clicks a Google ad when they thought it was part of your site, do you think they will realise their mistake and come running back to you? Or will they just close the window and search elsewhere? If you answered yes (to them coming back to your site), congratulations you must have a loyal band of followers. But for the rest of us, chances are they won’t come back to your site again.

2. You can’t read the actual content
In the example above they have placed the ads between the article title and its body, which is a problem because:
a) it’s hard to determine which text is related to which article
b) you can’t quickly see how many articles are on the page, and if there are any that are relevant to what you are looking for
c) you need to scroll just to read one article which has only a couple of lines of text

So where should i put my Google Ads?

I personally find the best place for Google ads, is either at the end of an article (before the comments) or in the right column with any other advertising you might have. Google ads are clever in the way that they display ads based on the content for your page, so using them at the bottom of an article, can be a good way to provide users with additional information, without the need to research it yourself. This is also the most probable time (in my opinion) when users would be willing to click ads, as they have already found (and hopefully read) what they wanted, and are open to suggestions as to where to go next.

Want more information?

Here is just a couple of sites that I came across with some useful information on Google Adwords/Adsense.

Official advice from Google: Where should I place Google ads on my pages?
Smashing magazine: Google AdSense – Facts, FAQs and tools
ProBlogger: Positioning your AdSense Ads