Monday, 17 November 2008

The Site Map is Dead - Long Live the Concept Model!

UE team, down your tools. Stop work on those site maps straight away. It's all wrong. Site maps represent the past, move towards the Concept Model. Well that's what we were told today anyway. Will it catch on? Not sure. Back to work guys.

"Hi, my name is Dan, now let me make an introduce myself. I love talking about me. In fact I am my second favourite subject, my son is my first." And he wasn't wrong. After today I know as much about his toddler as I do about navigation.

Now Dan is (in a nice kind of way) a bit of a nerd, and he just loves his 3rd favourite subject - Information Architecture - Structure in Context. He claims to be able to speak about it all day long, and I wouldn't bet against him. He also loves movies, violent comics (?!), and his own designs. Indeed I can't think of any website examples that we saw today that Dan hadn't created himself. So he was a little self-obsessesed.

Now let me briefly explain todays topic.

I moved house earlier this year, and put a load of my things into storage, loads of things. I filled the size of a single garage floor to ceiling. Every now and again I needed to get something out of storage, like my drill, and it was a nightmare. If I had simply put everything I owned into black bin-liners than it would have taken me ages to find the drill, and I would probably have bought another instead - bad navigation, the equivalent of a user leaving your site. But if I had put my drill into a box marked 'power tools', used multiple labels on the box in case some fell off or were obscured, and better still, ensured that the box was transparent so I had an idea of it's contents, then I would have found the drill in no time - good navigation. So that's what we need to do with our websites, put pages where users can easily find them with minimal effort.

So we spent most of the session looking at different ways to slice up a website. You wouldn't think it could be a whole days material but it more or less was. You can categorise by topic, chronology, audience, content, product/service, author to name a few. I won't go on.

One of the quirks of a European conference is the number of mixed accents you get to hear. German/English, Dutch/American, Norwegian/American, some easier to understand than others. I laughed today when a girl with a heavy Dutch accent asked a question. Her accent was so thick that after a couple of attempts Dan (the speaker) obviously couldn't understand a word she said, though he continued to pretend he could. After a third and final attempt, and to save any more embarrasment or awkwardness, Dan gave a completely irrelevant answer and we moved on. The Dutch girl looking as confused as Dan. You had to be there.

That was nearly as funny as listening to Rob chatting to the Norwegian woman sat next to him, She also wasn't quite as fluent in English as perhaps some others in the room. So knowing this, and for reasons only he knows, he decided to use the phrase 'anally retentive' and then spent the next 5 minutes trying to explain it has 'nothing to do with your bum' (pointing for effect). I had my head in my hands.

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