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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    Making things usable - when the info gets too much....

    http://www.northants-chamber.co.uk/index.php

    Core work site.

    Of late there have been complaints that people are having issues finding things. The site was designed to have some sort of logical meaning to both people who have discovered it randomly (no prior knowledge), and those that use the services we offer to give more information.

    It seems that remit is not being met. For example, someone recently complained that there was no informartion on our "In Business" magazine. There is. It's obviously not easy enough to find though....

    So, I'd like to open a discussion on how best to organise data on a site when it effectively has a glut of propositions, without cluttering it up!

    I've been given the go ahead and am discussing budget for the long awaited xhtml1.1/css upgrade, so Ive gotta get the data mining part of it right!
    ~The Artist Latterly Known as Crazy Hamster~
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    Currently delving into Django, GIT & CentOS

  2. #2
    Sidewalking anode's Avatar
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    There's no easy answer to this; it look like you'll have to do some IA. Take a look around Boxes and Arrows to get started. Specifically, I'd read up on content invetories, card-sorting and controlled vocabularies in your situation.
    TuitionFree a free library for the self-taught
    Anode Says... Blogging For Your Pleasure

  3. #3
    Matt Williams revsorg's Avatar
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    Ideas:

    - Try your very best to stick to a single navigational hierarchy, in order to avoid confusing visitors who use a linear screen reader.

    - A front page that guides visitors to the content that is often burried by the standard navigational schema of the site can be the cornerstone of a site that makes a wide variety of information accessible.

    - A quick links navigation device such as a dropdown box, maybe with a quick links page that is navigated to via the standard navigational hierarchy.

    - Advertising other propositions, in a specially designated area of every page. Sitepoint does this well using the 'you might want to read these related articles' technique.

    - A system that allows you to publish urls deep into the site, to specific items, which are then published in other media. Long, dynamic page addresses often make this an impossibility.

    - Cross-linking, that is authored by someone who is aware of the need for visitors to find related, or different subject content. It is good if this process is informed by user testing.

    - Don't hide your content in PDFs. Our latest testing at Loud suggests that when set a challenge, users are less willing to launch PDF downloads when they are trying to find content than you might imagine.

    - Some companies can have a glut of propositions and get away with it. Some make a mess of it. A lot of this is in marketing, rather than the navigational layout of their website. Think how many propositions Microsoft has on the go at any one time!

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited by revs_org; May 27, 2003 at 23:25.
    work: revs | ecru
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  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    Really useful feedback guys, thanks muchly! I'll be applying some of revs suggestions and have already "lost" a couple of hours on "BoxesandArrows" thanks to Anode
    ~The Artist Latterly Known as Crazy Hamster~
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    Currently delving into Django, GIT & CentOS

  5. #5
    SitePoint Zealot
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    My first suggestion right off the bat is to look at hiring an Information Architecture to guide you through the process, or do it inhouse if someone has the know how and capabilities to do it for you.

    WARNING: It can end up costing a fair bit of time and money depending on the size of the project. AKA. the bigger the mess the longer it takes to fix it. It can also lead to a whole site redesign and labeling. Which can be both good and bad for you. Seeing as it is a website greatly used by the public they might not take to the change very well but if they are already confused it might help you out.

    - Pull out a complete site map of the exisiting site. If it confuses you. It will surely confuse everyone else.

    - Look at the information and documents you are posting for people to see. What is imortant? What's not? Can some be moved or a new category created to make it easier to find?

    - Cross refferenced information, is it in the right place to begin with, ar you using inline links, such as text, or sepreate links on the page to call a different section?

    - Naming conventions, establish them, and folder names and stick to them. So if a person gets lost the URL is not a convoluted mess or characters they don't understand.

    - Try to make sure you don't create too many levels in your sites hierarchy. On the same note try to keep to the golden rule of human retention of 7+/- 2. Thats how phone numbers are based. It's the optimal number that people will remember as well when you offer choices it is not a daunting task to choose one and there are enough options provided to cover what you want to show the user.

    - Other sites take care of this, like this one, by creating secondary navigation schemes shown by common relation.

    --

    I've had some experience developing such systems; as well as having some refference material. If you want or need any more suggestions feel free to contact me.

  6. #6
    Sidewalking anode's Avatar
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    Jixxy, you forgot the most important par, user interviews/card-sorting. Otherwise, the perfect navigation scheme will only be perfect to those who designed it.
    TuitionFree a free library for the self-taught
    Anode Says... Blogging For Your Pleasure

  7. #7
    SitePoint Zealot
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    Quote Originally Posted by anode
    Jixxy, you forgot the most important par, user interviews/card-sorting. Otherwise, the perfect navigation scheme will only be perfect to those who designed it.
    What! crap. I can't believe I forgot to mention that. I thought i had it in there. My bad.

    Yes, do market testing. Gather users, of varying age groups and gender. To make it all fair. And have them walk through your site before you launch it. It can provide invauleable insight into what the public sees as compared to what you see.

  8. #8
    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    I would recommend you also to have a look here:

    Structuring Content for Web Interface Usability:
    http://infocentre.frontend.com/servl...&rows=5&id=112

    Web Site Architecture 101:
    http://evolt.org/article/web_site_ar..._101/4090/635/

    Some Tips On Navigation:
    http://infocentre.frontend.com/servl...e&rows=5&id=90

    If you are beginner in Information Architecture, it would be worth to have a look at his tutorial:

    http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/...tutorial1.html

    Good luck!


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