August 12th, 2008
The design process is filled with tradeoffs. We have to decide what functions are in and what functions are left on the cutting room floor. We have to decide how we’re going to present the functions to the user and what we’re going to hide from them. And we have to decide what problems we’re going to fix and what we’re going to simply patch up.
The problem comes when the patches become, in our minds, mainstream functionality. We call these design cop-outs — when designers patch the symptoms instead of addressing the core problems.
Design cop-outs come in many different flavors. For example, you might let users choose options instead of designing it for them. Sure, some personalization is probably OK, but why should the user decide between a “minimized database” or “maximized for search”? How would the user know any better than the design team what is appropriate?
This is the cop-out: instead of doing the research to determine what will best serve the users, the team opted to leave the finishing touches to the user. In turn, the user is wholly unequipped to make the right decision and becomes frustrated because they are being asked.
In this issue of UIEtips, we explore another common cop-out: the site map. Sure, site maps seem like a useful tool. (After all, the site map is an invaluable developer tool for tracking the entirety of the site.) But, for users, it can become a catch-all for content the team doesn’t know how to organize.
Read the article: Site Maps: An Information Architecture Cop-Out
Thinking about organizing your site’s content is the domain of information architecture. At this October’s User Interface 13 Conference, we’ve invited Donna (Maurer) Spencer — world renowned expert in information architecture — to give a full-day, in-depth seminar to get you started on this all important topic.
What has your team done about your site map? Have you discovered it’s an essential part of your site? Or are you trying to reduce it? Share your thoughts and experiences below.Tweet