[Theforum] Re: Sub-categories

aardvark roselli at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 16 02:06:22 CST 2001

> From: Madhu Menon <webguru at vsnl.net>

i'm gonna take a step here, madhu, and state first off that your 
insight is valuable... i also want to say that much (all) of what you 
detail below has actually been discussed in painful detail in the 
past, so we *are* familiar with these issues... it may be hard to 
believe based on what you see on the site, but we have actually 
spent a lot of time going over this stuff...  i also didn't

> 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.

that's a given... and we're not proposing that...

> There are also problems with classifying everything in detail:
> 1) It can actually make something *harder* to find.

that's part of the reason why we have left our categories general... 
it's also one of the reasons we've always wanted to add the one-to-
many article-to-category relationship... after all, after three years, a 
lot of articles come in that could belong equally in more than one 
category (like my browser window size logging, which uses both 
JS and ASP to do its work)...

i've trimmed your example because, well, we've seen it before... 
quite often, in fact...

> Now, assume that evolt had the same subcategories under "Backend >
> ASP". So we have:
> Backend > ASP >  .NET Framework
> Backend > ASP >  Components
> Backend > ASP >  Data Access
> Backend > ASP >  DNA 2000
> Backend > ASP >  E-commerce
> Backend > ASP >  Performance
> Backend > ASP >  Security/Admin
> Backend > ASP >  Site Design
> Backend > ASP >  Scripting
> Backend > ASP >  XML/Data Transfer
> Backend > ASP >  Other Technologies

i don't think anyone wants to get any more granular than that 
second level... it's a no-brainer to know that an article about an 
online store and catalog site will have elements that belong in 
nearly every sub-sub-category...

> Of course, the information architect would say that you should put an
> article into more than one category to prevent this problem. Indeed,
> that's what ASPToday has done. But our CMS won't permit that.

erm, i'll defer to others on that, but i know the framework was at 
least worked on... and it's been our radar since before there was a 
site... again, volunteers using their free time...

> They have another method of classification - by article type:
> Article Types
>    Cutting Edge
>    In Depth
>    Overview
>    Tutorial

we've also talked about that... one of our original ideas involved this 
two-axis approach... one left-brained, on right-brained (so to 
speak)... again, in order to launch the site and get it running 
(especially as volunteers), we've often moved something out to see 
how it's received and because it would be another 8 months to 
build it fully...

> In my weblog entry linked above, I've shown how it takes seven clicks
> to get to the Yahoo category for "Weblogs". How many people will do
> that? More importantly, how many people will do it *correctly*. Many
> will click on at least one wrong subcategory along the way, and they
> will then reach nowhere.

most people would search it, because yahoo is so dense and 
deep... i don't consider yahoo a valid analog here...

as for your article, i don't want to get into a critique of it, but some 
of the conclusions you make are based on a much different user 
perspective than many users have... if you restrict a user to *one* 
method of finding info on a site known for another method 
altogether, you're going to absolutely have that kind of hassle... 
and without a suggested fix, it's really nothing more than an 
observation of the obvious... nor does it answer the title of the 
article... so, yeah, it's an interesting read, but i don't see a bearing 

> 2) You need to have content for all categories.

don't worry about that... we've never launched a new cat without 
creating some content, and the couple times we've split a cat, 
we've waited until we had enough articles to move over to make it 

> I'm just putting forward some of the IA issues we have to consider.

i understand, but don't forget that there are some IA guys here 
already... while i don't call myself an IA expert (i don't even use the 
term to describe myself), i spend a *lot* time doing UI testing and 
research... and there are enough others here, too, who've been 
considering these issues since day one...

(in fact, what does it take to call yourself an IA expert?  is there a 
guideline?  can i start calling myself one because i've worked on UI 
development for almost ten years now?  or that my own assertions 
always bear out in user testing?  or just because i can quote Fitt's 
Law and know Tog isn't a drink?)

part of the reason i'm saying this is to establish that:

- we're not IA-deficient...

- i'm not going to agree with you on everything you're saying, and 
given your matter-of-fact statements about what's good or bad in 
IA, i want to make sure that you know you'll get challenged (so you 
don't think i'm ambushing you or just waving my wanker)...

- we've been through this before, and the right answers aren't 
always that clear to us before *or* after...

- we have a survey out there that's going to help us with *some* of 
these decisions, so your suggestions may be jumping the gun...

> 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

don't worry about that, it was shot down in general three years ago 
with the knowledge that we would only do it if we had a *crapload* 
of stuff and a one-to-many cat setup...

> tomorrow ;) b) We need to identify articles by target audience i.e.,
> Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced/Expert

i don't think we need to... and you can be darn sure i'll disagree 
with people on what's intermediate and what's advanced... only 
because *so* many other sites list articles as advanced that leave 
me laughing at how simple they are (on topics i don't specialize 
in)... no, i say we consider skipping that because it sets an 
expectation that we can't control because level is *purely* 
subjective for each person... i'm going to *strongly* resist this 
because as a user, it's let me down nearly every time...

> [...] c) We *may* need to add an
> "article type" like ASPToday has (see above) d) We need to take
> another look at our existing categories. e) If we change the structure

c, see other comments...

d is a given, however, i think you know just changing cats we've 
had for three years without a *damn* good reason is a very bad 
idea... so, barring an overriding reason, i don't see us changing, 
just refining... you have already made this point in other posts, so i 
expect you know where i'm coming from...

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

yep... we've been there both en mass (for cat changes) and for 
every individual article that gets submitted... good thing we've done 
pretty well at that so far, that should make us qualified to guide the 
process next time out...

> Are the search queries logged somewhere? Dan? Jeff? Rudy? Is there
> some way the IAs (Javier and I so far. Any other volunteers?) could
> take a look at this?

yes, read dan's monthly log reports... he usually tells us the top 
search terms, and if you check the logs (i sent you the URLs for 
the last 6 months a few weeks ago), they are probably in there...

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