Deja Vu: Analyzing the IA of AO3

Deja Vu: Analyzing the IA of AO3

For this week's post, I went back to analyze my favorite website: Archive of Our Own (AO3).

As I mentioned in a previous post, the usability and function of AO3 as a fan-fiction hosting site is superior to fan-fiction websites of years past. Because of my familiarity with it, I went back to analyze the information architecture of the site.

I have the main page of the site as the feature image for this post. At the top of the main page, you have a tool bar with drop down menus labeled "Fandoms," "Browse," "Search," and "About," and a search bar in the top right corner. Underneath the tool bar, you have links to fandom categories, a blurb about what the website is about, and a news timeline with the latest updates from the crew that keep the website running.

Content is prioritized by having the websites purpose - fandom content - front and center on the main page. After that, the pathways of navigation can vary.

When the "Search" menu is hovered or clicked on, the menu opens up into these categories:

This is the same for the mobile version of the website. From here, I would go to the "Works" subcategory because that's what I know I want. It brings me to this page:

From here, I can type in my wants and needs to find the fiction I want. For a first time user, I would not know how to use the other drop downs in the submenu to find what I wanted.

The other tabs are more straight forward when their menus are hovered over:

While the "Browse" tab, however, its drop down looks very similar to the search menu's drop down, but clicking on the "works" menu will bring you to a page where the most recent works are published to the site. The user is also encouraged to choose a fandom or be redirected to the advanced search to find what they are specifically looking for:

The advanced search function would seem to be the best option to find what you want to read on the site. While examining this site, I realized that I'd never actually used the search bar in the top corner before. When clicked into, it offers the following tip for searching:

I ignored the tip and typed in "supergirl" to see what results would pop up. What I got was 40k fiction results with the first page of results having the word "supergirl" in the fic title, with a fic for the actual show being the third result and not the first:

For first time users, this distinction can be confusing. If I were a new user, my first instinct would be to shortcut my way and use the search bar at the top to find my fandom. Since that would not produce the works that I wanted, my next step would be to go to the "Fandoms" menu to find what I wanted.

While there is no message at the top like browse that says to use the advanced search to find what you're looking for, there is an Edit Your Search button that takes you to the advanced search page.

To simplify using the bullet points in the assignment page:

Main menu structure: Great!

Submenus: Great!

Search functionality: Not very effective!

Labeling: Slightly confusing!

Content hierarchy: Great!

Navigation pathways: Good but can be confusing!

My Own IA

When looking at my hosted website, I went ahead and rearranged how the menu tabs are at the top of the page to match my main page. My main page has a greeting to the page visitor followed by the most recent blog post that I have made. Previously, the blog tab on the menu was at the very end of the list. I moved it to be right next to the home page tab to reflect my main page.

To continue with hierarchy, I consider the contact page to be the next important tab on the page followed by the about page. The FAQ tab comes last in case the user cannot find what they needed in the first four tabs.

Currently, my website has no search bar for the page visitors to use. If I were to use the site more and make it a fully professional website that I would use outside of the needs for this class, I would consider adding one so that users can search my blog for keywords and SEOs on posts that they might wish to view.

For the blog, I might include a post filter so that visitors can sort through my blog posts based on date published and content. If I were to become a published writer with books and stories to sell, a new tab would be added to the tool bar with click links to find and purchase my products.

Erin Byington

Erin Byington

I am a graduate student at Middle Georgia State University. I am working on my Master's in Professional and Technical Writing.
Warner Robins, GA