Friday, December 12, 2008

9 Information Design Tips to Make You a Better Web Designer

A good series of articles on Web design ...

"This article is part of a series on the three components of web design, here are links to the other articles (so far published)

* The 3 Components of Web Design
* 9 Information Design Tips to Make You a Better Web Designer
* 6 Interface Design Tips Every Web Designer Should Know
* 8 Ideas, Techniques and Tricks for Your Web Toolkit

1 - Be methodical

Information design is a problem that gets more and more complex the bigger the website. However even a small website will benefit from a methodical, step by step process to figure out how to order and organise the site's content. Here are some simple steps you may wish to take:

1. Understand the Site's Content, Processes and Purpose
It's pretty hard to organise a bunch of stuff if you don't know what that stuff actually is. So your first task is to skim through the site's content, processes and goals. A site's content means copy, images, video and other assets you've been given or briefed on that needs to go into the site. A site's processes are the tasks and workflows that users will need to complete to interact with a site. And the site's goals refers to both the client's goals and the user's.

So for a simple restaurant example you might find that you have text for pages 1 through 20, you know that users will be attempting to complete some task such as making a reservation. You might also see that a user's goals on the site are to find out what the restaurant serves, where it is located and whether there are tables, and then hopefully make a reservation. Finally the client's goals might be to serve the user, but also to push them towards a set of specials they run.

2. Prioritize and Look for User Paths
Once you've got a firm grasp of what's going into the site, you can begin to prioritize information and figure out how users will traverse the site. What paths will they take to accomplish their goals? What pages are the most important? Which should be seen right up front and which are just supporting information?

Even with a simple example like our restaurant site, there are many ways of setting out the information. For example you might push specials straight away on the homepage, or you could tie them into the reservation process, or you might work them into the menus. Similarly you may find that given a client's goals, you will have a different priority on page content. Maybe the client tells you that no-one is ever able to find this restaurant, so you need to make a How to Get Here page and give it a high priority.

3. Organise the Information
With an understanding of what is going into the site, and a clear grasp of how the different elements relate to each other, how users will want to work through them, and how important different sections are, you can now organise the information for the site. This organising involves not just categorizing pages - for example figuring out that 'about the company' fits under an 'about' tab - but even questioning and rearranging the content you've been given. Sometimes you may find that it's better to combine multiple pages, break up one long section, turn some text into a simpler diagramatical representation, or any number of other rearrangements.

Develop a sitemap or plan of how the information will site in a heirarchical way. Although sitemaps are usually just a set of boxes indicating pages, you can work in all sorts of extra information explaining how the site is going to be set up, including things like quick links from the homepage, how different sections might tie in together, and paths a user might take through a sitemap."    (Continued via PSDTUTS, Collis, InfoDesign)    [Usability Resources]

Three Components of Web Design - Usability, User Interface Design

Three Components of Web Design

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