Monday, 17 March 2008

The flavours of Information Architecture

Patrick Kennedy, Senior Consultant in “Step Two Designs” based on Australia, mentions in his paper “The many faces of Information Architecture” eight different areas Information Architecture is involved in, which have slightly little differences. These eight areas according to the diagram underneath are a) Information Management (IM), b) Human Computer Interaction (HCI), c) Interaction Design (IxD), d) Usability Engineering (UE), e) Information Design (ID), f) User Experience (UX), g) Information Architecture (IA) and h) Experience Design (XD). People working in these sectors, (me included!) often find it hard to say where are the boundaries between them. By placing them in a circle and moving counter-clockwise from Information Management (IM) to Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is usually the chronological path a project takes.

The HCI Lifecycle

As Chris Johnson indicates in his diagram, there are three stages of Human Computer Interaction Lifecycle: Stage 1 is the Initial Design of an interface, Stage 2 is the Formative Evaluation of the interface and Stage 3 is the Summative Evaluation of the interface.

Stage 1 has five steps: a) Design Objectives, b) Task Analysis, c) Focus on Users, d) Design Guidelines and e) Structured Walk-Through. As you can see from the diagram from step five: Structured Walk - Through we might need to go back and Design new Objectives. Furthermore from step five we continue to the Stage 2 which has three steps: a) Rapid Prototyping, b) User-Defined Interfaces and c) User-Acceptance Testing.

Again from the final step of Stage 2 we might need to develop again Rapid Prototyping step. Likewise Stage 1, from the last step of Stage 2 we continue to the last Stage, Stage 3 which has also 3 steps : a) Operational Software Interface, b) Benchmarking and c) Formal Experimentation. From the output of the last step of this Stage we might need to go back to the Stage 1 and re-design the guidelines and from this procedure we might go again on the top, and re-design the objectives, if the Formal Experimentation results urge to an action like that.

This diagram is clearly showing that human computer interaction (HCI) is a cycle, where according to the inputs and outputs, we need to go back where we began and set new objectives. In the first two Stages, there are two smaller inner cycles which enforce the testing before ending to the last Stage.

Information Architecture is an important aspect of web design as well as human computer interaction lifecycle. These two areas have many fields in common as “task analysis”, “focus on users”, “user defined interfaces”, “user acceptance testing” and of course “formal experimentation”.