Course Outline for “Foundational Skills for Information Design”

Audience & Approach

This material is aimed at professionals involved in the analysis and design of information rich software products who need to become comfortable that they are building solutions with a high degree of user and enterprise acceptance. These include business analysts, user experience specialists, web site and portal designers, and corporate librarians, as well as project sponsors.

It provides competencies in recognizing, structuring and organizing information. It is highly experiential, presenting commonly encountered examples and design challenges, and exploring how an experienced information architect would approach them.

Attendees will leave the course with the ability to identify and model the information inherent in a variety of scenarios, understand how information can be packaged differently based on audience needs, know how to use mockups, and be able to design metadata schemes that allow information to be used, managed and recombined in useful ways.

Course Outline

Topic Activities
The need for information design Discussing desire for better sharing, using and finding of information; approaches such as adding structure and organization, trends such as content strategy, cross channel design, etc.
Surface and underlying structure Introducing the distinction between surface and underlying information structures, and implications for design resilience, flexibility and cross-channel solutions
Information analysis Identifying underlying information structures given a surface structure; application in a variety of channels
Information modelling Learning a lightweight visual notation for information components, their attributes and relationships, and how to use it as a communications tool
Design Exercise: microsite for  a consulting group’s practices and projects Brainstorming and documenting a realistic information model for a microsite;  producing mockups of user interfaces; contrasting this approach with the common “brochureware” approach, and the additional benefits it provides to both user and client
Complexity and scalability Qualitatively and quantitatively comparing the above microsite with a much larger site (BBC Food); identifying sources of complexity, and how they are managed
Designing organizational schemes and metadata Deconstructing BBC Food’s organizational schemes;  discussing structural and usability characteristics; developing multiple organizational schemes for a set of News articles
Metadata and presentation Using News metadata, presenting common usage patterns: pre-built views, subsets for special purposes, faceted search; using mockups for eliciting and clarifying user requirements
Complexity and scalability Still with News articles, discussing how well the metadata schemes and usage patterns hold up if the volume of news articles is hundreds of times larger; demonstration of how a global news search service handles its user interface and metadata
Taxonomies Describing taxonomies and their structural and usability characteristics; explaining various ways of obtaining them (creating by hand, adopting from an authority, purchasing from a taxonomy provider)
Families of information components Introducing the notion of families of information components, their benefits, and how to model them;  working through extended example of different types of learning resource (hard copy, digital, courses) and their stability against changes in requirements
Aggregation and standards Introducing the notion of information aggregation, and what is required at the information level to facilitate this; discussing examples of published standards (Dublin Core, Digitized Cultural Icons) and how they could have helped in previous examples; content strategy examples
Curated content Discussing when to pull together content manually rather than with metadata; devising highly focussed solutions for special audiences
Design Exercise: small intranet makeover Applying the above concepts to design an intranet for a small organization; identifying and modelling information components; grouping into families; large scale organizational considerations


Copyright Martin Stares 2014

Leave a Reply