Information Architecture: A Case Study

Information Architecture: A Case Study

In thinking about this week's assignment, I thought about the travel websites I view regularly and concluded it would be best to compare the user experience between the two- and what contributes to it. I love to travel, but I am also a "penny-pincher," and enjoy saving as much money as I can in most endeavors. That said, one of my go-to websites for hotel stays is Priceline. Now, prior to taking this class I never considered "user-centered design" (UCD) in any of my web searches. However, when I "comparison-shop" between Priceline and other sites such as AirBnB, I feel the former puts the user (myself) front and center in its design process and logically structures its content for what we call: Information Architecture.

Exploration

Outside of pricing, a few of my chief considerations when viewing websites for potential hotel stays are user recommendations and their feedback. In my exploration of various sites for this exercise, they all seem to have the basics covered. "Where do you want to go?," "When do you want to go and for how many days?" And, while there is typically an abundant amount of information compacted in such a short amount of space, the cognitive load of all the content is structured in a way so as not to bombard the user. Moreover, designers must have known the main items users are looking for, because once location and dates are plugged in, pricing is listed accordingly. The information architecture of every website was formatted in such a way that designers were keenly aware as to the amount of foraging users tended to do to gather information. As a sidebar, since this is an analysis more so than a critique, the fact that AirBnB did not have a filter to view items based on user scores was a definite knock against them.

My guess, and quack summation, is that these are multi-billion dollar corporations that understand the nuance of information architecture. Millions of users access these sites so the theoretical foundations that underpin web structure, such as organization, labeling, navigation and searchability, are all accounted for, apparently, early on in the research and development phase. Each design seemed carefully crafted to optimize every pixel of space, logically, for the users' benefit. I also could not help but think of what designers must ponder when writing for the web in Chris Barr's, The Yahoo! style guide: the ultimate sourcebook for writing, editing, and creating content for the digital world, when viewing these sites, and the menus that were quick to catch my attention.

Analysis

My observation with the Priceline and AirBnB websites revealed two companies that fully comprehend information architecture. Credit is given for how they literally take the user's hand on a web journey to get from one crucial point of the site to another. The sites are well-organized, menu tabs are clearly labeled, navigation is easy and searchability is simple. And, to no surprise, each site exhibited Responsive Web Design (RWD), as there was no variation with the content across the various devices (mobile, laptops, desktops etc.) that I utilized. Admittedly, that has not been much of a problem in my web-building, but it is impressive to see how these "big-time" site's designs move seamlessly between mediums, and with no reduction in the way content is prioritized.

Overall, particularly with Priceline, what works well are the various methodologies employed to enhance the user experience. And, as noted by Louis Rosenfeld in Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond, the information is logically structured with considerations of users, context and content applied in the design.

Reflection

While the websites I explored were not totally identical to what I created, I was able to take away a few ideas to consider while developing my site. First, continuing to think about the user when structuring the main menu is crucial. Questions to reflect on include, "Do I have my page menus and dropdowns logically structured?" Users will engage the website for information so it is imperative that I have labels and headers that are easy to understand. As an "architect" of information, prioritizing content with legible and functional principles should ensure that, as a web designer, I have a clear and navigable website.

Reference:

  • Rosenfeld, Louis; Morville, Peter; Arango, Jorge (2015). Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly.
Calvin Green

Calvin Green

Calvin works as a Technical Writer for ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) creating tactical training programs for prospective law enforcement candidates. He loves to cook, travel and the outdoors.