[Theforum] Re: Sub-categories

Ben Dyer bendyer at swbell.net
Sun Dec 16 01:25:00 CST 2001

>(when I've been quiet for a while, you know something's brewing. :D 
>This a fairly long message that you shouldn't skim. So put it aside 
>until you have to time to read it all.)

Okee dokee, here we go.

[snip, snip]
>I've written something on my weblog about categories and IA.
>"Do users appreciate good IA on large sites?" - 
>(It was just a thought. Don't take it as an article on IA.)

I see your point, but I think we're comparing apples to oranges...see below.

>Typically, classification ala Yahoo becomes necessary when you have 
>far too much content to place in one category. Putting 300 articles 
>into one category becomes unwieldy.

Agreed...*but*, Yahoo! has how many items in its database?  How many 
does evolt have (or will ever have)?  If you don't know where Yahoo! 
classified something, you're in deep poop if you can't find it after 
a few tries.  With evolt, there are far fewer choices.

But this is not my point.

>There are also problems with classifying everything in detail:
>1) It can actually make something *harder* to find.
>Yes, you read that right. The problem arises when people's own 
>mental models don't match that of the Information Architect. For 
>example, if you wanted to find articles on ColdFusion on evolt, 
>would you go to "Backend" or "Code"?

[snip an example]

This is true, *but*, this is based on the thought that this is how 
users will search for articles on the site.

And I guess this is where the IA guru part needs to come in.

I think that one-level-deeper categories may be more useful in the 
following capacity:

Say you read a great article on ColdFusion (I'm more comfortable 
there than ASP. ;) and you think to yourself, "That was a great 
ColdFusion article, I wonder what other information is here on 

So, then what?

Well, the most logical method would be to try to back up to the 
category page of the article you just read.  Now, which is more 
useful in this case, a category page of "Code" or "Code > ColdFusion"?

If they back up to "Code", it's hit or miss in finding what they're 
looking for, but "Code > ColdFusion", they get exactly that.

Let me try it as it is right now:

If I go into the ColdFusion article I wrote last month and back up to 
the "Code" category page, I get CSS articles, Make Your URLs Search 
Engine Friendly (PHP and Apache only), several JavaScript 
articles...nothing else regarding ColdFusion...not even after a 
couple of pages.

But, then again, others may not be using the site in this way, I'm 
just describing how I might use it.  Regardless, how users use the 
site is the first thing we should find out, and the survey will help 
some with that.

>2) You need to have content for all categories.
>If you create subcategories, you also need to have content to put 
>into those categories. On a volunteer site with no editorial 
>calendar and no schedule, this may be difficult. If you don't have 
>content for a particular sub-category, you either have to leave it 
>out of the site structure (ugh! bad idea) or put a "there are no 
>articles in this category" message, which disappoints users.

Now, this is exactly right.  Maybe we should try to setup vertical 
categories that contain not just articles on ColdFusion but also tips 
on ColdFusion, links to ColdFusion, the directory category of 
ColdFusion, etc.  Between all of the sections, there *should* be 
something for everything, no?

>I'm just putting forward some of the IA issues we have to consider. 
>I'm not making recommendations yet, but my gut tells me that:
>a) Any more than one subcategory will not work (i.e., stop at 
>"Backend > ASP"), unless evolt gets acquired by someone like 
>Internet.com tomorrow ;)

I agree.  But, because of our limited scope (compared to Yahoo!, 
let's say), the need probably isn't there.

>b) We need to identify articles by target audience i.e., 

Definitely.  The question is how do we define the criteria for B/I/A/E?

>c) We *may* need to add an "article type" like ASPToday has (see above)

Uh...maybe.  Again, depends on how users use the site.

>d) We need to take another look at our existing categories.


>e) If we change the structure of the site, moving articles to the 
>appropriate category is going to be a hard, and interesting. :)

Also definitely.

>Incidentally, one of the best ways to understand user mental models 
>is to analyse the search queries on the site. What are people 
>searching for? Nothing else is quite as valuable given our wide user 
>base. And if we were CNET, we'd even track which link people clicked 
>in the search results.

Very true.  But again, there is also a difference between how users 
act versus how they want to act.  The only way to find out that is to 
ask them.

So, bottom line is, I guess I'm saying that everything keeps coming 
back to the survey results.  Once we pore through those, then we'll 
have our answers.

And...I'm spent.


Site: http://www.thesfst.com/
Blog: http://members.evolt.org/OKolzig37/blog/
Work: http://www.imaginuity.com/
List: http://www.evolt.org/

More information about the theforum mailing list