ORARIAN \ Teaching \ Cabrillo DM 166 Spring 2003  










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DM 166 - Introduction to Information Architecture

An introduction to information architecture, its history, procedures, methodologies, and production process. Students will gain a practical understanding of how an information architect creates and designs information organization schemes and overall Web site structure; including: form, function, metaphor, navigation, interface, interaction, and visual design.

General Course Information

Schedule & Assignment (subject to change)

Week 1


Topics Covered: Brief Introduction to the course; class policies & expectations; late policy for homework; required books overview; hand out syllabus(PFD 48K, version 1, 2/12/03).

Homework To Do: Find three definitions of Information Architecture (hint: they're probably not in the required texts). They should be different than the ones I refer to in class; one can be your own, but the other two must be referenced (name/author, date, URL or book title).

Reading To Do: Webmonkey Information Architecure Tutorial (all lessons)


Week 2


Topics Covered: Students to introduce themselves; course overview; discussion of Webmonkey article; What is IA? Who does it?; the family tree of IA; professional & academic pathways (HCI, LIS, Cognitive Psych); the dance of form and function (uncle Jakob's waltz). (Powerpoint slides available in PDF format - please email me)

Homework To Do: Build a site map of your project web site or personal web site (you have built or want to build). This does not need to be terribly complicated, a site map representing ten or so pages would be a good number.

ReadingTo Do: Nielsen Chapter 1; Krug Chapter 1

Week 3


Topics Covered:Development Team Roles & Responsibilities; Typical Web Development process—a broad overview. Timeline of a development process. Competitive Analysis & Best in Class of chosen Web site. Introduction of Mock Project.

Mock Project Description: You have been hired by a small (2-10 person) Web development company to be the Information Architect for the development of their Web site. The company is looking for clients with projects that span anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000. You can choose the focus of the business, and thus the audience, for this company: be it Silicon Valley tech companies, local non-profits, educational organizations, biotech, etc. Many of the homework assignments for this class will be based around typical IA deliverables for a project of this size.

Samples for this evening's class:

Homework To Do: Competitive Analysis for mock project—find other companies that provide similar services and see what they do on their web sites. You can begin with the list of companies on the SC-IA web site, which has a link to a much larger list of California Web Development companies. Analyze at least three of these competitors. Some of the samples above will be good starting points for the types of questions you should be asking yourself while doing the homework, as well as structure and style of the deliverable. Please write at least 1/2 page per site , but no more than one page, double-spaced, per competitor.

  • Figure out what kind of audience they are targeting.
  • Are they accomplishing the task of reaching them?
  • What kind of messaging are they using?
  • How does the design, layout, graphics, and copy fail or accomplish the site's communication goals?

Reading To Do: Nielsen Chapter 2

Week 4


Topics Covered: Target Audience Development; Ethnographic research; samples of Personas.

Samples for this evening's class:

Homework To Do: Build at least two Personas/User Profiles for your chosen project. These should be built upon the audiences you identified in your Competitive Analysis work. If you only have one audience identified, remember that the sites you chose might not just be looking for clients, but also for new employees, contractors, or business partners.

Reading To Do: Nielsen Chapter 3; Cooper: Perfecting Your Personas

Week 5


Topics Covered: In-class survey; site mapping & tools (ref. guest lecture notes); Inspiration demo.

Samples for this evening's class:

Homework To Do: Build a site map/architecture of an existing site (be it a site for the Mock project or for any other project). It's best if you do it on a project you have spent some time on, and especially one with some of the other homework applied to it).

Reading To Do: Nielsen's Ten Usability Heuristics; How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation

Week 6


Topics Covered: Heuristics & Usability 'standards'; Usability audit and what to look for; in-class walk-through of a site audit.

Samples for this evening's class:

Homework To Do: Usability Audit of an existing site or ecommerce experience. You can, of course, use a site you have already done the competitive analysis on. When doing the work, you may want to start with the spreadsheet—walking through the site and noting violations/comments you find. They all don't have to have Nielsen's Heuristics referenced to each one of your comments. You do not have to rank your violations.

Your homework should be about two pages of violations, and about two pages single-spaced of recommendations. Please see the samples above.

Shopping experiences you could use:

Reading To Do: Nielsen Chapter 4

Week 7


Topics Covered: Guest lecture; Chip Street, co-owner of Group of People will join us for a lecture on client interaction, negotiation, and running his own Web design business.

Homework To Do: None

Reading To Do: None

Week 8


Mid Term written and due by midnight Sunday

Scott will be in rm 1303 (our classroom) to hand out mid terms; I will also email a PDF to all of you.

Homework To Do: None

Reading To Do: Nielsen Chapter 5

Week 9


Topics Covered: Review of midterm; Intranets design discussion

Homework To Do: None - Happy Halloween!

Reading To Do: Nielsen Chapter 6, 7

Week 10


Topics Covered: None

Homework To Do: None

Reading To Do: Krug Chapters 6, 7

Week 11


Topics Covered: Ingredients list, Wire framing;Paper Prototyping; project samples

Homework To Do: Build a wire frame of a page of your chosen site or Web app (please read my note on choosing a page to wire frame). This can be a site you are working on for any class, as long as you tell me, in a written paragraph, what the site's purpose is.

Reading To Do: Krug Chapters 8, 9

Week 12


Topics Covered: Dynamic Content Possibilities Guest Lecture; Geoff Caras, President of The Igneous Group will present and discuss some projects he has worked on. He will show us many possibilities for the use of dynamic content and dynamic web pages.

Homework To Do: Build a paper or HTML prototype for your chosen site. Build at least ten to fifteen pages of the site, include elements that will be in the final site, include internal links, FPO images (i.e. For Placement Only—they're not the finals, only place-holders), text (mostly greek, but instructions may be needed for testing).

Remember: when building your prototype, think about what you're going to test. Are you testing navigational links and their ease of use? Is instructional copy understandable? Can users accomlish a specific task or set of tasks? You don't have to choose all of these, but focusing your testing goals (from the goals of the overall project) will help you focus how much to build out for your prototype.

Reading To Do: Krug Chapters 2, 3

Week 13


Topics Covered: No class due to Thanksgiving holiday.

Homework To Do: None (but don't forget about your prototype)

Reading To Do: Krug Chapters 4, 5

Week 14


Topics Covered: User testing—preparation; review of student paper prototypes

Samples for this evening's class:

Homework To Do: Put together a user testing process/protocol for your prototype—including testing goals, user profiles, scenarios, and testing script. Document the questions you want to ask your users, what order you want them in, etc.

Reading To Do: Krug Chapters 10, 11

Week 15


Topics Covered: In-class round(s) of user testing, with most people taking notes, then discuss; We will be splitting up and testing each other's prototypes, using the protocol you wrote up last week

Samples for this evening's class:

Homework To Do: Produce a brief user testing report based on your observations after conducting three to five user tests with your prototype and testing protocol.

Reading To Do: None

Week 16


Topics Covered: User Testing Report presentation and discussion by students

Final Exam (take home): I will email out copies of the final to you by Noon Saturday. The final is due via email by 3pm, Thursday, no exceptions.



Instructor & General Information

Instructor: Scott Robinson

Class time: 5:10–7:30pm Thursdays

Class Web page: http://www.orarian.com/teaching/DM166S03/


Vmail: 831-477-5201 box #1480 (email is always best)

Office hour is 1/2 hour before class—in CTC or by appointment.

Hand Out Syllabus(PDF 48K, version 2, 2/12/03)

Grading Policy

20% In-class participation

40% Homework

20% Mid-term

20% Final

I do not grade on a curve. Homework assignments must be electronic and in a portable format if produced in some other application (i.e., if you are delivering electronic files you created in Inspiration or Powerpoint or any other visual application, the file(s) should be delivered to me in PICT, BMP or ideally PDF format, so that I can view them without needing the original application; if they are textual, they must be delivered in PDF). Deliver your files directly to me via email.

Late Assigments: 25% automatic drop in grade if late. I will accept assigments later than 1 week, but only if you let me know.

Remember: presentation is important in all your deliverables.

Required Texts

Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. Jakob Nielsen New Riders Publishing. ISBN: 0789723107

Don't Make Me Think!. Steve Krug New Riders Publishing. ISBN: 156205810X

Recommended Texts

The Art & Science of Web Design. Jeffrey Veen. New Riders. ISBN: 0789723700

The Elements of User Experience. Jesse James Garrett. New Riders. ISBN: 0735712026

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd Ed.. Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. O'Reilly & Associates. ISBN: 0596000359

Web ReDesign: Workflow that Works. Kelly Goto & Emily Cotler New Riders. ISBN: 0735710627



© 1998–2007 Scott Robinson