The IA of a Crossword Blog

A screenshot of a finished crossword puzzle.
Photo from rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com

This week, our class is studying Information Architecture and User-Centered Design. I've chosen to analyze the IA of a crossword blog, titled Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle, in relation to the four main theoretical foundations: organization, labeling, navigation, and searchability.

Organization

The main purpose of the site is posting a daily summary and review of the latest New York Times crossword puzzle. To this end, the site is organized well enough for the vast majority of visitors, who will be seeking the answers for the daily puzzle. Each post follows the same template: the post "titles" are simply the puzzle date, plus 3-4 clues from that day that the author deems most likely to be Googled. The fully solved crossword grid appears at the top, and underneath that is an explanation of the puzzle's theme, if any. This structure showcases user-centered design by centering users who are seeking puzzle answers. Positioning this information at the top of each post will satisfy almost any questions they have.

However, beyond this, the website is cluttered. Even though the extraneous links and text in the right-hand columns probably won't hinder users who are solely there for the blog posts, they are still distracting. And the users who are seeking more information may have difficulty finding what they need. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the information in the two columns on the right is divided, or why there are two columns at all. I think this could be cleaned up a lot, and most of this info could be merged and organized into submenus using a "hamburger menu" instead of header links. Full disclosure: 99% of the times that I'm accessing this blog, I'm doing so on a mobile device, where the headers and columns disappear completely- and they are not missed. This is an example of content prioritization in mobile versions. Overall, the website's poor organization could lead to cognitive overload.

Labeling

The labeling of this site is pretty straightforward. Since each blog post is written on the same subject and follows the same template, there's no need to differentiate posts by anything other than the date posted. This means functions such as tags are unnecessary. The posts occur daily, so each one has the date in the title, as well as prominently displayed at the top of each post. There is an archive in the rightmost column that sorts posts by year, month, and day. The rest of the information, although cluttered, is clearly labeled, and the site makes use of headers to sort and break up text. This site is clearly and logically labeled, so users can identify different elements and be confident in their clicks.

Dr. Lucas writes that navigation means "designing intuitive navigation menus and pathways within the digital environment to guide users to relevant content." Most of the website's information appears somewhere on the front page, so "relevant content" should be generally available for most users. There are only a couple of other pages one might navigate to, and they are clearly labeled and linked either in the header, or in one of the columns next to the main body text. However, the site is lacking the "menus and pathways" that create effective navigation, which means users will need to conquer the organizational hurdles mentioned above in order to navigate the site. It seems to me that effective navigation inherently requires solid organization, so this site has some room for improvement in that regard.

Searchability

Last but not least is searchability. The site features a simple search bar at the top of the page, powered by Blogspot, which hosts the site. I first tried searching for a specific date (January 21, 2023) and was surprised that it had trouble calling up the corresponding post from that date. The first post that was returned was from January 8, 2023, when sorted by relevancy. After sorting the results by date, the first post returned was April 21, 2023. The search bar did much better with words-only searches, such as "natick" and "three letter."

Dr. Lucas writes that searchability "correlates with the concept of indexing in literary studies, where the reader can quickly locate specific passages or references." With this definition in mind, I would consider the archive links on the right of the page to be another form of search tool, and they function well when searching for a specific date. This makes up for the search bar's failure. For a fairly simple website, the searchability factor seems adequate.

Concept Application

My website doesn't have a whole lot of content on it yet, so the core concepts of Informational Architecture are easily applied at this stage. My biggest takeaway for my own site from this week was accessibility, which I had not yet made adjustments for. Luckily, Wix has a built-in "accessibility wizard" that guides users through making necessary edits to their sites, and instructs them in creating and linking an accessibility statement page. Thanks to this feature, I feel confident that my site can be accessed by people of differing needs.

Emma Darnell

Emma Darnell

I work in wine and spirits sales while pursuing a Master of Arts in technical and professional writing.
Macon, GA