On information architecture (2)

A couple of people asked me today what I thought about the information architecture (IA) of Google and Amazon. I think they wanted me to say that the IA was weak and rather boring in both cases.

I happen to think, from the user’s perspective (forgive me Gerry for using that term), that Google has a great IA for the purpose for which the website is used – as a search engine for the web wherein I get a great set of results. Likewise, Amazon often looks a little cluttered, especially the long page of information on individual books, for example Yet again the website fulfils the needs of (most of) the readers of the site – to identify the item; explain and review the contents; provide purchase information; associate the item with other, similar items; and give readers the opportunity to make comments. Simple really.

But couldn’t these sites offer more options? What about all the “what ifs”? Hmmm.

Gerry McGovern wrote recently about these “what ifs” with respect to site navigation but I think the same holds true in defining a site’s purpose. Gerry used the example of a satellite navigation device in his car for a trip from Dublin to Galway. He sets the destination and off he drives. Every now and then a voice pips up to offer an alternative destination – Donegal’s nice, would you like to go there? Turn next right. And later, the device kicks in with a suggestion to go to Kerry. The thing is, the driver only wants to go to Galway! That is the purpose of the trip and this darned little satellite navigation device better get used to the idea! Galway it is, and not Donegal or Kerry or Cork or Mrs O’Reilly’s farm down Hollyoak Lane.

You see how defining the purpose of a website can make all the difference? And often, simplicity is best of all. Just ask Google and Amazon.

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