7 Posts about
Information Architecture

Historic Royal Palaces

Recently we worked with Historic Royal Palaces to refine the organisation of their website and also provide input into the visitor experience at their six palaces. In particular, they wanted to grow their UK-based audience outside of London, provide more user-centred programmes for schools, families and young people and engage more overall through film, television and modern online media. Naturally we agreed that an audience-first approach was the key to increasing the visit count and achieving their aims.


Optimise Accessibility, Optimise Search

January 6, 2011 - This post has 1 comment
Posted by in Brain feasts: longer reads
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I’ve been watching with interest as the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) era has helped to naturally help make the web more accessible. I have attempted here to strip back the WCAG guidelines and the technicalities of SEO and give you the basics of how to use both to make both the web more accessible and your web presence more visible.
cartoon: stickman gives blind stickman directions by pointing


Age of the Avatar (Part II)

This is Part II of a two part blog on avatars. If you haven’t already you can read Part I below.

So what’s the point? How can this technology be applied to provide us with something useful?

For online businesses, developing a virtual sales agent that is capable of motivating the sites visitors into investigating the company or product further by engaging them in a conversation is powerful. This interaction should make a connection with the visitor and provide them with information regarding products and services, in turn creating the opportunity to convert investigating visitors into customers. At Bunnyfoot we have undertaken numerous testing projects involving the use of agents to support the sales journey. The most successful agents support a wide variety of user enquiries and provide the company with valuable information about customer likes, dislikes and behaviour.


Information visualisation: When it’s good to lie to your audience.

The key to good communication is to know exactly what to communicate to your audience so you can help them do whatever they are doing. This focus on audience needs is more important than being squeaky clean with reality. When backed by clear insight into the needs of your audience this means you aren’t really lying at all (that would be dishonest and despicable) – rather you are ‘enhancing the truth’ and communicating well according to your audiences goals.

Lessons from the London Underground

Geographical and the iconic London tube maps

Last week on University Challenge a set of questions for the students was to identify London underground stations on a map which was drawn with geographic accuracy rather than in the iconic Harry Beck 1931 style.


Edinburgh Zoo flyer

One of the great attractions in Edinburgh is the Zoo, my kids love it. We have been members for five years and spend many days of the summer holidays wandering around. Over the last few years I’ve seen the Zoo marketing develop and on my last visit was particularly impressed by their recent flyers. They have successfully combined maps, plans for the future, members information and all manner of other info into one neat, slick and usable handout.Edinburgh Zoo Flyer

The flyer is a standard DL sized concertina folded affair but what nicely sets it apart is that it has a built in information architecture and is really easy to use.

The concertina has an offset fold that exposes a small border. The borders show the title of that section and make it easy to find and fold to that section. The borders act in the same way as tabs do within a webpage. Tabs are used to show off sections within the flyerThey conceal a large amount of information in a small space and provide the user with a quick introduction to the contents.

Having these tabs makes it easy to find the section you are interested in and avoids the problem of either having to open up the entire concertina or folding it up in some weird way to expose the bit that you are interested in.

If the zoo were not a fantastic trip in and of itself, I would heartily recommend popping along just to pick up one of these flyers.

If you’re aware of any similar excellent examples we’d love to hear about them.

Flyer opens out to display lots of information about what's going on

Lots of information becomes easily accessible


Understanding Local AND Global Differences


Cob, bap, muffin, barm cake… what do you call it? Chances are it depends on your social background, where you were brought up, and a myriad of other influences over the past years. If you haven’t got a clue what I am talking about by the way they are all terms for things you might stick some cheese or a sausage in to make a snack. Other terms include ‘bread rolls’ or ‘buns’ and there are about 30 or so others in common use in the UK.

If something as innocent as baker’s doughy product has the potential for confusion, misinterpretation, class associations and heated argument (yes disputes are rife – raise the issue with your colleagues and wait for the fallback) then imagine the potential for chaos and bewilderment when communicating more complex propositions across national and international markets…. …this is where good customer research with a reach beyond the confines of London can help

Bunnyfoot has been performing customer research and customer usability testing for the last 10 years. We noticed very early on that there were distinct UK regional differences (over and above other demographic influencers) in people’s responses to the same website – and these differences have profound consequences on the websites’ ability to communicate, persuade and convert. Knowing and acting upon the geographical differences (cultural, social, language, attitudinal etc.) dramatically increases the effectiveness of the end result. This is one of the reasons why we set up 5 offices with usability labs running the length of the UK and why we encourage our clients to look beyond the myopia of London when researching with their customers (it works better if you do – simple as that).

But you don’t have to be locked to physical labs, getting out there in the field and observing what real people do in their own environments is a valuable thing to be doing that can reveal key insights. One problem with this is that it can be expensive. One way of getting there without so much cost is to perform ‘remote usability testing’. This typically relies on screen-sharing over the internet, and with recent advances in broadband penetration it is now possible to run usability tests and observe people in their own homes or places of work (with consent!!) from practically anywhere.

Beyond the UK

When your product or service reaches beyond national boundaries then geographical and cultural differences become even more pronounced. HSBC clearly know this and you will know doubt have seen some of their adverts revealing the different cultural, geographical and socio-economic meanings associated with things like colour, gestures, symbols and language.

It goes beyond this too – we have recently been working extensively across Europe, the Middle East and Asia (and a little bit in Africa) we have uncovered challenges associated with extending online communications across these regions. This includes:

  • the need for flexible or even completely different interfaces to cope with different languages (e.g. German = long words and phrases, Arabic and Chinese = right to left)
  • the fact that in some regions the preferred or only way people engage online is via mobile (Africa and Japan in particular)
  • display advertising and contextual advertising is far more effective than search engine marketing in some regions (e.g. Middle East) because of not just language differences but also cultural differences
  • ‘western style’ minimalist aesthetic design doesn’t work well in China – and again this is cultural and not just because of the character sets used

We, as an agency, need to take our own advice on board to adopt local knowledge to get the best results. Bunnyfoot employs consultants from across cultures and have recently opened an office in Hong Kong to get closer to international differences. When we test abroad we use a network of quality agencies, it just brings that edge of local knowledge that makes the testing run much smoother.


20 Minutes to a Better Website Structure

For World Usability Day, Bunnyfoot have been working with sustainable charities across the country to perform free expert evaluations of their websites. The charity sector is a sector where budgets are typically tight (if non-existent) yet there is great expectation on web managers to increase donations and maximise the performance of their sites.

We’ve spent the last month working with a number of charities (gratis) to help guide improvements on their sites and we’d like to share a quick process for generating ideas for your website quickly and cheaply.

Time required: 20-30 mins
What you get: Ideas for prioritizing content and page layout to maximize engagement with customers.

Overview

To provide an example we’ve used www.bunnyfoot.com to show how you can use this activity to enhance the design of your site. Remember, this is a top exercise if you have NO research budget and aren’t exactly sure how to start prioritizing content for your customer groups. This exercise is relevant for any type of site, and we find it a great starting point when thinking about initial designs and improvements.

Disclaimer:

This is a kick starter activity; it’s not a complete high performance engine and shouldn’t be used as one. This is no substitute for engaging with your customers, but rather a great starting point in helping you to create customer journeys and prioritise your site content. Use this activity as a means for generating some good ideas quickly.

1. Think about the content your customers need

2. Sketch the layout according to content priority

3. Try some detailed pages using the same method

1. Think about the content your customers need

Your customers are getting to your site, somehow. Step 1 is to think about who they are (in the case of Bunnyfoot these could be a prospective customer, an existing customer, a competitor, a job seeker, a journalist and so on). List all the potential customers and then next to each customer type ask yourself, “What are they looking for?” (to continue our example with Bunnyfoot, information needs of our customer groups could be Case studies, Contact details, Company History, Services, etc).

2. Sketch the layout according to content priority

Once you have identified the needs of each audience group, you can start to count the number of instances where customers are looking for the same content (e.g. a prospective customer, existing customer, competitor and job seeker could all be looking for more information about services; this would result in 4 counts). Once you have counted up the instances of cross over, a pattern for content priority will emerge.
Once you have the counted priority, pick up a pen and paper and start to sketch out your content according to priority. ANYONE can do this, you don’t need to be a designer, and your sketches certainly don’t have to be pretty. The purpose is to think about how you’re going to give your customers the information they need.

Sidenote: We often undertake usability testing of hand-drawn screens; it’s a low cost and effective technique we use with our clients. With a limited budget, there’s nothing to stop you taking these initial designs to representative customer groups and getting some feedback.

3. Try some detailed pages using the same method

After you’ve finished with the homepage, go on to explore other key pages. We’ve shown an example of what our new case study page could look like. To create this we thought of what the story of a case study was and what are the most interesting aspects people need to find out about. For our site ROI was top priority followed by a summary of the brief the services used, the team involved, the process/services used, example output and a client quote. It’s natural for other ideas to be generated at this point, for example we’d like to add the feature for people to comment on our case studies and the approach taken on the original brief.

Conclusion

Going through the exercise helps with the content and layout, and will also aid insight into navigation and user journeys to tie different content together.
 After 20 mins we have a good idea about the customer groups and their information needs, and we have some initial sketches to take to our customer groups. Ultimately, many of these sketches will be thrown out – we don’t expect our new site to end up looking like it’s been drawn on a flip chart. However, many of the ideas generated during the process will be included in the end design for some low budget but effective quick-wins.


Read enough? Get in touch...

Contact Clare Lambert to discuss your needs:
0207 608 1670 more@bunnyfoot.com

Or come visit us, we have offices in Oxford, Sheffield and London.