Unit 3, Section 2, Overview
Before moving on to the rest of the content head over to the Unit 3, Section 2, assessment page to answer a few quiz questions.
After your assessment, it is time to make sense of it all. We call the analyzer “analysis” and you are looking for the trends and stories you’re data is telling you. Most importantly, you’re looking for the goals of both your own organization and those of your users. What do you both want to accomplish on your website? Let’s walk through this.
We’re going to use an academic department website as an example. The figure here reflects a user analysis of the major users of the site, plus the organizational goals of the academic department. You’ll notice this matrix prioritizes information needs and services by user group. Let’s use this data to take a deeper look at how best to organize your website’s content and navigation structure.
So the first thing we’re going to do is what’s called an “information architecture analysis.” Using current students as our starting point, you will notice that almost all the content areas contained here is [sic] shared by other user groups. This is a good starting point. Based on our analysis, we have color coded the information needs of current students in the five main categories: Courses and Programs, About Us, People, Careers, and Resources. In order to data triangulate, we asked 22 graduate students in the assessment phase what their information priorities were, as you’ll see in the figure.
Now let’s compare that — their information needs with our preliminary information architecture to see if they match up. Again, using color coding, you can see that, in fact, each of the user groups’ information needs are met by our projected information architecture: Courses and Programs, About Us, People, Careers, and Resources.
Now let’s take a look at some preliminary data and analytics through head counts. Again, the color-coded figure shows that our preliminary information architecture aligns well with the major areas of the site that are used: Courses and Programs, About Us, People, Careers, and Resources.
Here is our preliminary IA map showing how we have organized what we have identified as the primary information needs of our users into five major categories, which serve as our main navigation elements. Again: Courses and Programs, About Us, People, Careers, and Resources.
Finally, let’s compare actual results with projected analysis and web map. You can see again that each of the five main categories map well to identify information needs. Furthermore, the organizational goals appear to be met.
- Assist and advise current students. Check.
- Market to prospective students. Check.
- Assist faculty and staff with relevant information to do our jobs. Check.
- Maintain our connection with alumni. Again, check.
Now, let’s step back and go over the worldwide consortium where W3C’s recommendations on how to conduct the analysis stage for websites.
First, you have to establish an ideal vision of what you want your site to be. Objectives. Look and feel, especially the feeling where effective emotional presence you want your site to have. You also want to identify potential challenges and constraints in running the site.
Second is a user audience analysis. Who are your users? They recommend field studies, which would involve most of the empirical methods discussed in Section 1.
Third is the ever-important user task matrix. Who and what do people need from your site? Remember, your organizational goals must be included in this.
Four is the establishing [of] a preliminary information architecture and insuring it reflects your previous steps, especially the user task matrix, which is what we just did.
Finally, a work flow analysis which we’ll not — we’ll not do here. However, it reflects an internal look in terms of who is managing the site and information.
W3C recommends looking at different scenarios to test your general process to make sure you have things covered. For example, with the department site, a committee has updated some requirements. Who do they go to for updating the site and what process do they follow?
So here is a tentative vision for this academic website. Note the emphasis on a feeling and caring student success and community [sic]. This should inform the general look and feel of the site, including the information provided and how it is organized.
As mentioned earlier, looking at the W3C recommendations we have just walked through, all of them except for Step 5, which we’ll not do since that is so specific to your own situations.
Now let’s look at some scenarios to ensure our preliminary information architecture is appropriate. We’ll examine the site architecture from the prospective of major user groups: Perspective Student, Current Student, Faculty and Staff, and Alumni. So from a perspective student standpoint, we believe they want, in order: Access to Course Information, Department Contact Information, Information About Faculty and Staff, Course Schedules, and Tuition Information.
Now let’s take a look at each to make sure our information architecture easily meets these needs: Course Information, Department Contact Information, Information About Faculty and Staff, Course Schedules, and Tuition Information.
Let’s do the same for Current Students: Course Information, Course Schedule, Information About Faculty and Staff, Department Contact Information, and Calendar and Events. How about if faculty and staff want to use the site? Again: Student Forms, Calendar and Events, Department Contact Information, Faculty and Staff Information, and Course Information.
Last, but certainly not least, our alumni. They’re looking for Department Contact Information, Calendar and Events, News About The Department, Careers, and Department Social Media Contact Information.
Well, that’s it for the analysis stage. You can see it is a lot of work, but again, remember “quality in, quality out.” We need to make sure our information architecture and general look and feel are closely aligned with our goals and our users’ information needs.
Remember, there’s no such thing as absolute reality and truth, but rather approximations of it based on solve, assessment, and analysis. Continuous improvement is the key.
Now it’s time to complete the section’s review session. Do not forget to discuss the module for others in the learning community. Review any readings, and do the hands-on activity.