Event Apart: 7 Lies about Information Architecture

by August 29, 2007

Liz Danzico’s talk at An Event Apart dissected seven often-cited information architecture rules and highlighted counter examples that exposed why these rules might be better suited as design considerations.

  • It is much easier to follow rules (black & white) instead of guidelines (more gray) so people often do.
  • Rule 1: Navigation must always be consistent.
  • People can understand context based on a small set of information.
  • Navigation does not always need to be consistent it needs to be predictable and familiar.
  • Rule 2: The optimal number of navigation items is seven (plus or minus two) because that is what we can remember in our short term memories.
  • Broad and shallow navigation structures are easier to move through than deep and narrow structures but we don’t need to blindly stick to 7 options at each level.
  • Rule 3: Users must get to all part so the site at all times.
  • In closed site (application), you may want navigation to all parts of site. In open site, it’s not as relevant.
  • Rule 4: People must be able to know where they are at all times
  • People don’t have to know where they are, they have to know what’s next: where they can go from here.
  • Rule 5: The user experience must be seamless
  • It will never be seamless. Instead the designer must focus on making beautiful seams
  • Focus on tangible opportunities to transition
  • Rule 6: Shorter is better.
  • Minimizing clicks is not the only way to optimize interactions. When a story is needed, longer may be better
  • Rule 7: Information architects do information architecture
  • And so should developers, designers, writers, clients, and users