Friday, 25 April 2008

3-D Virtual World vs. Usability

Today, I read an interesting and great food for thought article, referring to the future of usability and Information Architects in the 3-D Virtual World. According to the article’s writer, Sean D. Williams, 3-D virtual worlds, present usability professionals with a new set of challenges. As efficiently Williams asks,

what will happen when we, the information experts, don't control the information anymore? What happens when a community constructs the information about a product or task? And what happens when we can't organize information according to users' cognitive maps anymore because they can "fly" and literally see the entire information space at once?... Or Do our information architectures break down when the information becomes truly spatial rather than an abstract hierarchy that we can predict through a card sort?”

Williams points out two major differences between 2-D and 3-D environments in terms of information issues. The first is that we should think “users” as “participants” in 3-D environments and that the 3-D virtual world demands a different navigation paradigm as the information is spatial and not conceptual.

Another question is whether 3-D virtual worlds support user friendly navigation paths. Jakob Nielsen, 10 years ago, stated that 3-D environments are almost always bad in terms of navigation versus to 2-D environments and he still supports this statement in the "Four bad designs" article.

As world changes and we move from 2-D to 3-D environments we should try to find answers in questions as how we will break the spatial information down. Among others, I am eager to see how the world of information will be transformed in a few years!!

Image 1: Example of virtual environments

Image 2 : Example of 3-D virtual environment

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Fold Line Conceptions

Reading the latest issue (175 issue) of .net magazine, I came across an interesting article “Anti-social networks” by Kath Moonan. In the article, there is a photo of her holding a big label “There is no Fold”. There is still a debate among designers, developers, Information Architects, web consultants whether there should be a fold line or not. A lot of people nowadays, as Milissa Tarquini tend to think that since web users have known how to scroll, there is no need to worry pushing everything above the fold line। Others advocate that people tend to spend a few seconds in a web site. As a result, if the main site elements as navigation bar are not viewable from the first sight (without the need to scroll to view important information) there is no chance this site to succeed. Of course these theories vary whether the page is the homepage, navigation page or content page (see guidelines). I personally believe, especially for the homepage, which usually is the first impression of a web site, fold line should be taken into consideration. All the critical information that contributes to the user experience in the web site, should be placed above fold line.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

IA position on Web Design

Reading a User Interface Design Update Newsletter from Human Factors International today, and following one of the attached links I came across this design. I found it interesting as it clearly indicates the position of Information Architecture (IA) in the Web Design process. According to the figure, Web Design progress has three major steps: a) Research and Planning, b) Conceptual Design and UI Structure and c) Detailed Page Design. In the first step the “Site Strategy” is being formed. Then the second step involves: “Knowing users and their goals”, “Navigation Design” and “Information Architecture”. From my experience, all these three are major responsibility of an Information Architect. However I would be interested to hear different views as well! Finally the third step involves the “Page types” (Interaction Design, Content Design and Presentation Design) which are directly linked to Navigation Design. How the pages will be formed is absolutely depended on the navigation structure. If major changes happen to the Navigation Structure the Web designer will have no other option but redesign the pages.