Wei Ding and Xia Lin’s book was borne out of the content of their graduate classes on Information Architecture, and is “conveniently divided” into ten chapters for use during the ten weeks of an academic quarter. It offers a broad, basic introduction to the fledgling field of Information Architecture (IA), User Centered Design (UCD), and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).
The term Information Architecture was coined by Richard Wurman in the early 1970s – he saw it as gathering, organizing, and presenting information. According to Ding and Lin, the main goals of IA are to simplify info; design and integrate information spaces; and create ways for people to find and interact with informational content. Primarily, they claim, IA’s primary aim is to help people understand and manage information and “make right decisions.”
The authors emphasize that balance must be sought between user control and design, and that meeting user needs should always be the ultimate goal. They are careful to point out that even though the user is the center of focus, this does not mean ignoring business goals and market opportunities.
A successful Information Architect is able to align business goals with user needs.
The most useful parts of this book focused on user behavior online, citing several important theories which explain how and why users behave the ways they do on the web. Zipf’s Law, which essentially explains that users will always take the path of least resistance, is foundational in UCD online, as it helps to tailor the ways IAs organize content. Fitts’ Law teaches IAs to make buttons large and to keep them near in proximity to other, related buttons and icons to maximize the potential for users maximum benefit.
The 80/20 rule is brought up here – the authors mention that 20% of the sources can generally be counted upon to provide 80% of the info. This ties right in with Barabasi’s Linked, and offers an explanation for the rich-get-richer phenomenon discussed in that text.