Cats and dogs, but not much else

INN533 – Information Organisation

WEEK FOUR: Reflections on council websites and pets.

Often we find that an existing system has been built as a monolithic solution that jumbles the raw plumbing of the system with the business process and the user interface. Unfortunately this leads to a brittle solution that can’t evolve with new user interfaces, new underlying systems, or new business realities.

– McManus (2000), para. 2.

In making brief assessments about Melbourne, Hobart and Perth city council websites, seen through the user journey of looking for information on pets, it becomes clear that city size, and therefore budget, is a principal factor in how much attention has been paid to user experience and interaction design, formal information architecture, and flexibility of access.

Unfortunately, for the council examples, this appears to reveal an inverse relationship with the planning and execution stages outlined by Garrett (2000, 2010), where usability considerations were excluded at the outset and information organisation and retrieval structures have become rigidly tied to portfolio and management focuses rather than those of users.

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Garrett on information architecture

Garrett, J.J. (2011). The Elements of User Experience: User Centred Design for the Web and Beyond [EBL version]. Retrieved from

WEB IA: Closely related to information retrieval [does he mean database retrieval?]

TOP-DOWN: Mirrors strategy for product objectives, user needs/rôles (p. 89) [compare with Downey & Banerjee Big IA].

BOTTOM-UP: Working with given information to categorise logically (p. 90) [nice diagram on page 90. Compare Downey & Banerjee Little IA].

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Downey’s & Banerjee’s IA checklist

Downey, L. & Banerjee, S. (2011). Building an information architecture checklist. Journal of Information Architecture, 2(2), 25-42. Retrieved from

IA DEFINITION: Bailey (2002) organising so findable, manageable, useful (p. 25).

LITTLE IA: from ground up, using metadata and controlled vocabulary, not user-centric.

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McManus on information architecture

McManus, M. (2013, July 31). What is information architecture? [Web log post]. Retrieved from

RE-INVENTION: McManus is absolutely right in par 2 to mention the incidence of needless re-invention in IT generally. Looking at QUT’s CiteWrite printed booklet, the design is a dog’s breakfast mixture of 1990s web design (unreadably tiny sans-serif font and green/blue colour scheme a la Nielsen’s book), and inexplicably arbitrary paper sizes mixed together without an apparent logic to make the final product unfriendly to use and harder to navigate than it needs to be. These are all mistakes likely to have been made by kids ignorant of the past 20 years (let alone 100) in design and layourt of print publications.

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