Structurally Open-minded: Analyzing Information Architecture in Web Design

Structurally Open-minded: Analyzing Information Architecture in Web Design
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Morpheus: “You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.” - (The Matrix, 1999)

Morpheus' words are quite relevant a generation later. In both examining an existing website and creating a personal site, one must find structure but be open-minded. Former Yahoo Senior Editor Chris Barr wrote, "It's critical to understand the people who are visiting your site, what they want, what they need, and how they pursue their goals online." Just like brick and mortar stores, websites should be tailored to the target clientele.

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Information Foraging Theory

According to researchers Pirolli and Card, we forage for information much like animals forage for food. If the scent of a useful link is appealing and will potentially satisfy our craving, we are going to follow it.

Upon my visits to the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG), I indeed utilized information foraging. I wanted to know what the site was about. The purpose was twofold. First, I was examining this website as part of an assignment for a technical writing course. Second, I really was curious if this website would be of use to help me achieve some of my goals.

After more thorough scrutiny of the website, I am somewhat disappointed. With an owner and admins who have credibility, I hoped for and expected more.

For me, one of a site's most important features is search. I am somewhat internet savvy, so I can navigate probably any website with relative ease. (I use any ever so loosely. This is assuming the website is displayed in English or intermediate Spanish and is a general website.)

The search function is located in the top left corner of the page, isolated from everything else, and overshadowed by the group's logo. I hoped it would be closer to the action.

Upon searching broad terms, the results are rather vague and not formatted in a way that would denote one is viewing results for which was searched. "Crap!" (That's not what I really said. I was genuinely frustrated.)

Responsive Web Design

The overall display of the site on my laptop was pretty good. I did not notice anything falling off of my screen. Everything seemed to fit well. The pages flowed nicely. The owner and his team did well in practicing responsive web design.

Information Architecture & Design

I have mixed feelings about this particular area. The button for IWSG Sign-up is confusing. I can sign-up for their free newsletter. What if I want to become a paying member? There is nowhere on that particular page to become a member.

Throughout the site, there lies options for sharing content. One can share via email, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter (X or whatever Mr. Musk is calling it now), and Pinterest. The icons are tiny and faded.

Maybe they are trying to prevent excessive sharing. From a marketing viewpoint, sharing is free advertising. I would have those share icons readily displayed and maybe even a picture of Oprah handing out content. "You get some content. You get some content. You get some content."

The color scheme is warm and inviting. It is calming. Blue. It is my favorite color, so I give them cool points for that one. However, there is too much blue.

Home. At the very bottom of most pages, there is a link back to the homepage. It is a blue font placed inside a darker blue solid bar. This hides it. If a user is foraging for information, said user also needs to clearly know how to return home and meet back up with the pack.

Along the lower right, there are panels with useful information. One can click broad terms and discover past posts by year, month, and category in that order.

Centered on the homepage is the meat and potatoes of the site. This is where the posts take up residence. That works well.

Actionable Content

A user can act upon the site with general ease. The language and style are unambiguous. There is clarity and simplicity in the writing. Barr alludes to this in his book by stating that a site should use language that is not bloviated. To appeal to a wider audience, the writing should be at a general level - not dumbed down but not for those with higher, more technical education.

Personal Opinion

The IWSG's site is very useful despite some of my negative views. I feel they could have done some things better, but it will not prevent me from visiting the site again. I am a fan!

DrRomano2be

After critiquing someone else's website, I now realize that I have a lot of work to do on my own. Per a suggestion from Dr. Lucas, it will most likely focus heavily upon my memoirs project. Perhaps I could use my site to write rough drafts of each chapter or even sections of chapters.

What will be paramount is utilizing the tools I have learned thus far. There will need to be excellent search functionality, well organized content hierarchy, main menu and overall structure, actionable content, and plenty of other aspects that contribute to a well designed website.

This site is a work in progress. As long as I utilize structure and an open mind, I should be alright.

Mike Romano

Mike Romano

Mike is currently a technical writing graduate student and a civilian US Navy blue collar worker.
Chesapeake, VA