Childhood, as far as your basic cheese selections go, was easy. In your typical middle-class family, you had one of three choices:cheddar, Monterey Jack, and those precious, flat, sandwich-sized slices of American. That’s what all the cool kids ate. I had to fight my mother to get those into my lunch. She used to make sandwiches with these huge slabs of cheddar cheese that looked like they were hewed from the side of an orange glacier. Although I lost the Wonder Bread battle, I didn’t give an inch on this one. For some reason, Mom couldn’t see the simple beauty in a perfectly proportioned square of processed cheese food.
The problem with childhood is that we never appreciate it while we have the chance. As I grew up, I developed more mature needs and tastes. Like many young adults lost in the hype of ’80s mass cultural wonders like Molly Ringwald and Oingo Boingo, I began to experiment. I told myself that I didn’t have a problem, but a little brie here, and a bit of Chaumont there, and before I knew it, I was hooked.
Reach is the number of different types of individuals that see an ad or message. Reach also applies to how well-known particular sites or groups of sites are. Web research and reporting companies like RelevantKnowledge issue monthly reports on the 25 sites with the greatest overall reach, as well as more detailed reports on demographic characteristics by site.
Validation is a way to make sure that your code is compliant with the current HTML specifications. This means you can check to make sure that you didn’t accidentally use proprietary tags that would only work on your particular browser. There are many HTML validation sites on the Web, such as Bobby, which will analyze single web pages for their accessibility to people with disabilities, Weblint, one of the first validators, and the World Wide Web Consortium’s rigorous validator, which provides validation for HTML 4.0.
Have you ever noticed those inviting orange buttons on some web pages, or spotted the odd link pitching an “RSS feed”? If you’ve ever clicked one out of curiosity, and then scratched your head at the unformatted gobbledygook in your web browser, you’ve seen an RSS file.
What is it really for, anyway?
Two things: RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and Atom are two specialized formats that create what’s commonly called a news feed, or just feed. A feed is an easy way for sites to share headlines and stories so that you can read them without having to visit two dozen different web pages everyday.
In other words, web builders use feeds to dish out fresh news and content from their websites and web surfers can use feed applications to collect custom-tailored selections of their favorite websites to be read at their leisure.
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After figuring out why a site should be built, the second most important aspect of designing information architecture is determining who the audience is. This is an invaluable step that many people fail to grasp. Many sites do not even take into consideration who will be using them. How can you design a site if you don’t know who’s going to be seeing it?
Some people think an audience is defined by the technology it uses to access the site. This, too, is missing the point. That a user visiting the site uses a 28.8 modem is only a small part of the audience definition. A true audience definition consists of who the users are and their goals and objectives. Scenarios, or stories, are useful in visualizing the audience.
Oftentimes, a single department or group in a company takes the lead in putting together a Web site. The result is usually a site focused on that group’s needs, which ignores the needs of everyone else. For a long time, MIS departments were responsible for putting together their corporate sites. These sites were utilitarian, and neglected important departments, like marketing. It is your job to prevent this from happening on your site.
Defining beforehand the user experience you seek establishes a clear, well-documented definition of your audience, and it helps in understanding how users will react to the site.
To get started on this stage of the IA process, just as with defining the goals, you need to figure out who will be involved and how much time you will have. Generally, the same people will be involved. However, you probably will change how you weigh each person’s opinion. For example, the marketing department should have a good idea of who your audience is. If that is the case, you’ll want to listen to them more than to others.
Defining the audience takes less time than defining the goals, because you have already established how you will be working with people – whether formally or informally – and you are more familiar with asking them questions and getting responses.