How to Tell Web Navigation and Information Architecture Apart

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People in web design and development know that navigation design and information architecture (IA) concepts go hand in hand. In particular, IA is used to feed information towards usable navigation design.

Still, they are not the same. In fact, the reach of information architecture goes far beyond website navigation, which has been described as being only the tip of the iceberg that rests atop the site’s information architecture.

Information Architecture Defined

A site’s information architecture consists of two major components.

  1. The identification and definition of the site’s content and its functionality
  2. The basic organisation, structure, and classifications that define the connections between a site’s content and functionality

When you view a website, you’re not really seeing its information architecture (IA). Instead, IA informs the user interface, the part of the site you interact with. The IA is documented in diagrams and spreadsheets, not in prototypes, comprehensive layouts, or wireframes.

example of an information architecture site map

Here is an example of an information architecture site map by the Nielsen/Norman Group’s (NN/g) website. The blue nodes show tier-one information objects, while green nodes show tier-two objects, and tier-three objects are shown in yellow. 

While IA itself may not be visible to users, it definitely has a crucial impact on the site’s User Experience (UX), defined as the totality of everything the user encounters while on a website. However, users will feel  the structure of the site, depending on how its content is divided and connected in ways that meet their needs.

Website Navigation Defined

A website’s navigation is comprised of several user interface components. Navigation is designed to help users locate information and functionality, hopefully leading them towards favourable actions. Main components of navigation include local navigation, global navigation, utility navigation, facets, filters, footers, related links, and more.

example of navigation components

Examples of navigation components shown above

Some decisions have to be made when thinking of each navigation component. For instance, when usage priority is concerned, you need to ask yourself how much users depend on a particular navigation component. Placement is also another factor, calling for answers on which pages a navigation component should be present in. Lastly, the pattern is a factor that calls for questions on which navigation design patterns best support discoverability, whether it’s carousels, megamenus, or more.

IA and Navigation Relationships

The mistake many designers make when building a site is that they ignore IA and focus only on navigation. Doing so is inefficient, not to mention dangerous. Navigation that fails to address the full scope of content and functionality of a site can be a costly mistake.

For instance, imagine a design team opting to use the common inverted-L style navigation consisting of a top navigation bar and a left navigation rail, because they like how it looks. This template can be used on sites that have no more than 4 tiers, so you can only imagine the headache the design team has when they realise later on during a site inventory that many parts of the site will be more than 4 tiers deep.

IA First Before Designing Navigation

That being said, it’s important for designers to first define or redefine the site’s IA before even thinking of a design project. While it’s true that the IA has to be flexible to accommodate new information, it doesn’t have to be final before wireframing and prototyping—a first pass is enough to get an idea of the volume and complexity of the content.  Making choices on your navigation components based on appearances alone can force you to remodel your IA, or cram too much information in a navigation component, ending up in your website failing to accommodate the needs of users.

Top 5 Social Media Misconceptions Exposed – Part 2

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Second on our list of Social Media Myths, “I can’t measure the effects of my Social Media efforts.”

Unlike traditional marketing where you can simply give out flyers on the street and wait for potential customers to start making them calls and visits to measure your efforts, it takes more to measure social media. It might even be true to say it’s a tricky thing to do however, it definitely isn’t impossible.

So, how do you measure the returns of your social media efforts?

Some measure their efforts by the number of friends or contacts they amass – the better to get a word out on a promo, etc. Some go deeper by counting the number of actual interactions with these social media connections. Even deeper, others count the number of actual sales from these connections.

But, the old school business managers can take heart that there are more conventional tools and means available.  Below is one of the best resources and explanations I’ve seen on the topic and its quite entertaining too. Its by Olivier Blanchard of “The Brand Builder”

Olivier Blanchard Basics Of Social Media Roi

Whatever your marketing goals may be, Enform is here to help you create, build, measure and achieve those goals using digital and social media marketing tools.

It’s not a fad, it is measurable, it does deliver a competitive ROI.

Source: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-5-social-media-myths-debunked/

Browser wars and you, Explorer vs Mozilla

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Typical browser usage

Typical browser usage

I’ve tried to stay out of this battle for the past 3 years but the last few days have seen me enter the fray. The attached screen shot from Google Analytics for a typical web site shows 55% of visitors have Internet Explorer followed by Mozilla Firefox with 32%. Digging deeper we see that Explorer version 8.0 has 44% of its group with 7.0 at 39% so 56% of these visitor are using older Explorer versions than current.

The point of this is that though Internet Explorer is clearly the market leader in use, I have had nothing but problems with it over the last few months. The Mozilla fans around me are used to getting short change from me when pushing their barrow because its a simple question of “what’s in it for me?” I know Explorer, its familiar to me, what can Mozilla do extra that is worth my time to invest in learning to use it etc?  The answer now is simple, just having a working browser that doesn’t crash or freeze multiple times a day.

Despite nourishing it with all its regular updates and keeping it watered with regular system shutdowns, Explorer 7.0 would constantly stumble with Java scripts and Ajax routines (common programs within sites increasingly used to enhance user experience). The dreaded “Not Responding” threat would hang over me like a sword as I waited those extra few minutes hoping Explorer had just stepped out for a quick fag but the truth hung around like a bad smell building from the corner of the room. Finally, forced shut down for Explorer… do I want to report it and tell Microsoft about it AGAIN?. Sure, that will be the 12th time today but….

With some spare time on the weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to version 8.0. Its well out of Beta (pre-release stage) and should be patched up to work properly by now. Install, restart, follow the bouncing ball and all seems to be working fine. Some extra features make it more useable but nothing revolutionary compared with the Mozilla version I’ve been quietly using on the side for special operations secret to Explorer, but a welcome step forward. That is until we crash again…. and again… and again.

Enough is enough, Mozilla is updated, told to take over the front seat with Explorer banished to the cupboard along with the old camping gear that you might need one day. Firefrox seems to positively beam at the opportunity, it flies through updates and refresh compared with Explorer. Any minor hick-ups are dealt with sensibly with warnings and graceful reaction and not one lock-up or freeze in 24 hours of doing largely the same things that would require 10+ Explorer restarts. Sounds like a fairy tale where everyone lived happily ever after…. if only fairy tales were true.

In real life we are forced to deal with compromises and in the last hour I have had to face the reality of this with Mozilla Firefox. A program I use seems to work fine with Mozilla but issues with displayed HTML formatting had me pulling my hair out blaming everyone except my software. As a final desperate measure (and in response to a suggestion from a learned web man) I went back to the cupboard, pulled out Explorer and fired it up with the application. Bingo, no problem and now this specific program looks just like it should.

The moral of this story is that computing and the web will always be about compromise. Expect to make choices about the tools you use and be prepared to have a different shaped hammer in the other draw just in case your day-to-day one doesn’t quite work for something. But as far as your customers go, DON’T run the risk of forcing them to adopt to you and your technology decisions.

  • Always test your site on all common browser platforms (including Google Chrome)
  • Always err on the safe side and make sure it works on older legacy versions, even if it means losing some cutting edge functionality for the moment.
  • If your customer claims they can’t use your site properly there’s a good chance they’re right so investigate it properly.

Google measure web site “bounce rate” as the percentage of visitors leaving within 30 seconds of arrival, make sure your site is not a growing part of that important metric.

Enform Automailer custom templates

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Automailer custom template

Automailer custom template

If you like the Automailer idea but want to make sure you have your own unique look and feel, just ask us about building custom templates. Apart from the standard, simple  multi-column formats most often used we can also build custom templates as colourful or as simple as you’d like.

The options are only limited by cost and imagination. Enform can help you work out what works and even test it for you with version control.

Talk to Enform about custom templates.