Blog 3 – IA

1. Why is it difficult for people to reward good IA?

  • Because  Information Architecture (IA) is a new field, many people have difficulty understanding what it is about. As IA is abstract, therefore people might conceptually understand it, but don’t “get it” until they see and experience it

Reference : Lecture notes

2. Explain what is meant by “Top-Down IA”.

  • Top-Down IA attempts to anticipate the users’ major information needs. It starts with a broad overview and understanding of the website’s strategy and goals, and creates a basic structure first. From there, content relationships are refined as the site architecture grows deeper, but it’s all viewed from the overall high-level purpose of the site.

Reference : Lecture notes

3. What are some common questions a user has upon landing on a page on a web site?

  • Where am I?
  • I know what I’m looking for, how do I search for it?
  • How do I get around this site?
  • What’s important and unique about this organisation?
  • What’s available on the site?
  • Do they want my opinion about their site?
  • Where else can I navigate to??
  • How can I contact a human?
  • What’s their address?

Reference: Lecture notes

4. Explain what is meant by “Bottom-Up IA”. Why is Bottom-Up IA becoming increasingly important?

  • The bottom-up architecture model looks at the detailed relationships between content first. It supports searching and browsing, the structure inherent in the content enables the answers to user’ questions to “rise” to the surface. Bottom-Up IA is important as users are increasingly likely to bypass your site’s top-down architecture.

Reference : Lecture notes

5. What is an organisation system?

  • The main ways of categorising or grouping a site’s content (e.g., by topic, task, audience, or chronology). Also known as taxonomies and hierarchies.

Reference: Lecture notes

6. What is a site-wide navigation system? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  • Primary navigation systems that help users understand where they are and where they can go within a site

site-wide navigation

Reference: Lecture notes

7. What is a local navigation system? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  • Primary navigation systems that help users understand where they are and where they can go within a portion of a site

local navigation

Reference: Lecture notes

8. What is a sitemap/table of contents? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  • Navigation systems that supplement primary navigation systems; provide a condensed overview of and links to major content areas and subsites


Reference: Lecture notes

9. What are site indices? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  •  Supplementary navigation systems that provide an alphabetised list of links to the contents of the site


Reference: Lecture notes

10. What are site guides? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  • Supplementary navigation systems that provide specialised information on a specific topic, as well as links to a related subset of the site’s content


Reference: Lecture notes

11. What are site wizards? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  • Supplementary navigation systems that lead users through a sequential set of steps; may also link to a related subset of the site’s content

vertical wizard

Reference: Lecture notes

12. What is a contextual navigation system? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  • Consistently presented links to related content. Often embedded in text, and generally used to connect highly specialised content within a site

contextual navi

Reference: Lecture notes

13. What is a search interface? Provide a screenshot of an example.

  • The means of entering and revising a search query, typically with information on how to improve your query, or other ways to configure your search

search interface

Reference: Lecture notes!/advanced

14. What is a query language? List some Boolean operators and provide examples of queries using these operators.

  • The grammar of a search query
  • AND, OR, and NOT.
  • OR: CPA OR “C.P.A” OR “Certified Public Accountant
  • NOT: .Net AND NOT (Java OR JSP OR J2EE) – that search will not return any results with any mention of Java, JSP, and/or J2EE.

Reference: Lecture notes

15. What is a query builder?

  • Ways of enhancing a query’s performance; common examples include spell checkers, stemming, concept search, synonyms from a thesaurus

Reference: Lecture notes

16. What is the purpose of a retrieval algorithm?

  • The part of a search engine that determines which content matches a user’s query. E.g., Google’s PageRank

Reference: Lecture notes

17. What are search zones?

  • Subset of site content that have been separately indexed to support narrower searching

Reference: Lecture notes

18. What are search results?

  • Presentation of content that matches the user’s search query

Reference: Lecture notes

19. In terms of content, why are headings important?

  • Because headings are labels for the content that follows them, in other words, headings suggest types of content.

Reference: Lecture notes

20. What are embedded links?

  • Links within text; these label (represent) the content they link to

Reference: Lecture notes

21. What is embedded metadata?

  • Information that can be used as metadata but must first be extracted

Reference: Lecture notes

22. In terms of content, what are chunks?

  • Logical units of content; these can vary in granularity and can be nested

Reference: Lecture notes

23. What are sequential

  • Clues that suggest where the user is in a process or task, and how far s/he has to go before completing it

Reference: Lecture notes

24. What are identifiers?

  • Clues that suggest where the user is in an information system, or a breadcrumb explaining where in the site s/he is

Reference: Lecture notes

25. What is meant by “invisible components” in IA?

  • Certain key architectural components are manifest completely in the background; users rarely interact with them

Reference: Lecture notes

26. What are controlled vocabularies and thesauri?

  • Predetermined vocabularies of preferred terms that describe a specific domain

Reference: Lecture notes

27. What is best

  • Preferred search results that are manually coupled with a search query. Editors and subject matter experts determine which queries should retrieve best bets and which documents merit best bet status

Reference: Lecture notes

28. List some of the difficulties with organising information.

  • Ambiguity: Classification systems are built upon the foundation of language, and language is ambiguous: words are capable of being understood more than one way.
  • Heterogeneity: Heterogeneity refers to an object or collection of objects composed of unrelated or unlike parts.
  • Difference in Perspectives: labeling and organization systems are intensely affected by their creators’ perspectives.
  • Internal Politics: Politics exist in every organization. Individuals and departments constantly position for influence or respect. Because of the inherent power of information organization in forming understanding and opinion, the process of designing information architectures for web sites and intranets can involve a strong undercurrent of politics.


29. What is meant by the term “taxonomy”?

  • Taxonomy is a hierarchical structure for the classification or organization of data, historically used by biologists to classify plants or animals according to a set of natural relationships.

30. What is hierarchy a natural way for humans to organise information?

  • Every person has a different way they search information. The principle of the five hat racks suggests that there are limited numbers of ways information can be organised, using a hierarchy helps display information in an organised manner, since information is very valuable to us all and also helps display things from start to finish.

31. List some design rules when designing a hierarchical organisation scheme.

  • Keep balance between breadth and depth
  • Obey the 7 +- rule horizontally
  • No more than 5 levels vertically
  • Cross-link ambiguous items if really necessary
  • Keep new sites shallow

Reference: LectureNotes

32. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of a hypertextual organisation structure.

  • A hypertext system involves two primary types of components: the items or chunks of information which are to be linked, and the links between those chunks.
  • Advantages: Hypertext chunks can be connected hierarchically, non-hierarchically, or both, provides great flexibility.
  • Disadvantages: presents substantial potential for complexity and user confusion, easy for users to get lost in highly hypertextual web sites.


33. What is social classification?

  • social classification is a convenient, generic label that may be used to refer to any of a number of broadly related processes by which the resources in a collection are categorized by multiple people over an ongoing period, with the potential result that any given resource will come to be represented by a set of labels or descriptors that have been generated by different people.


34. What is meant by the term “folksonomy”?

  • Folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and translating tags to annotate and categorise content

Reference: LectureNotes

35. Arrange the following list in alphabetical order then answer the questions below. You should look to the literature and existing theory to justify your answers.

  • a) Did you put ‘The Hague’ under T or H? Why?

Under T, because word starts with “The”

  • b) Did you put ‘El Paso’ under E or P? Why?

Under E, because word starts with “El”

  • c) Which came first in your list, ‘Newark’ or ‘New York’? Why?

New York, because after “New”, Newark has got “a” and New York has got space between two words.

  • d) Does ‘St. Louis’ come before or after ‘Saint Nicholas’? Why?

St.Louis comes after Saint Nicholas because ‘a’ comes after S in Saint Nicholas

  • e) How did you handle numbers, punctuation, and special characters? (Justify your answer.)

Space -> Special Character -> punctuation -> numbers

Reference :

  • f) Assuming the italicised terms are book titles, what might be a more useful way to organise this list? (Justify your answer.)

Alphabetical order

  • g) If the cities represent places you’ve visited and the book titles are ones you’ve read, how could chronology be used to order the list in a more meaningful way? (Justify your answer.)

Name of cities in chronological order and recently visited cities placed firstly.

36. Seek out and provide screen shots of web sites that are examples for each of the following organisation schemes:

a) Topic/Subject

Content is organised by different subject, category


b) Task

Content is organized by different kind of tasks



c) Audience

Content is organized by its users.



d) Metaphor

Metaphor based websites help users understand the content of the site by relating it to something they are familiar with



e) Hybrid Provide a brief explanation for why each example presented belongs to the particular type of organisation scheme.

Note that you cannot use the same examples as in the lecture notes or textbook

Hybrid Web specialises in producing spectacular and visually appealing websites with a focus on creating content and strategies that produce lead generation, inquiries and sales.

Hybrid Website could be combination website of a,b,c, and d above.


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