Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture* Davide Potente – University for Foreigners of Perugia, Italy Erika Salvini – University for Foreigners of Perugia, Italy 1 Introduction The design of a physical space can and should take advantage of information architecture (IA) deliverables, in particular when designing an integrated model of IA. The user must be able to easily-consult […] technology-dependent environments, e.g. digital medium or printed paper catalogue, in line with the information flow conveyed through the website. Conveying the relevance of information to the user/consumer by means of applying information architecture principles with a view to designing a crisscross-connecting model of human-information interaction is the focus of this work. 2 Bridge Experience and contexts of interaction Information-sharing experiences span various technology-dependent environments and these are not self-limiting. Let’s reflect on the experience of buying a product: it could start by browsing a particular website or otherwise by leafing through a printed product catalogue, similarly, the experience can come about via a handheld device and/or software interface and could end inside the physical retail space of a large high street chain store or specialty shop. Regardless of where the experience begins and ends, it is imperative that the consumer is permitted to interact in a seamless manner and no information flow fractures are apparent, thus continuity is provided by this structured, bridge-like experience: users must keep the same mental model along the steps of experience to provide always a homogeneous model of interaction (Rosati 2006). Bridge experiences synthesise this process by identifying continuous passages of information: from the web or a software environment to another from the web to a software environment from software to a hardware environment from the web to a physical environment. In his article, “Design for Bridge Experience”, Joel Grossman asserts ‘Bridge Experience’ involve situations in which people must traverse different domains in order to communicate successfully, complete a task, or elicit a desired physical, mental, or emotional response. * Though this paper is the result of a collaborative effort, D. Potente wrote paragraphs 1-5.3 and 7-8; E. Salvini paragraphs 6-6.5.
The design of a physical space can and should take advantage of information architecture (IA) deliverables, in particular when designing an integrated model of IA. The user must be able to easily-consult any of the above-mentioned technology- dependent environments, e.g. digital medium or printed paper catalogue, in line with the information flow conveyed through the website. The evolution of IA leads to a crossing and integrated information architecture, a component of the bridge between various user experiences. This passage is highlighted by the definition of IA in the third edition of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (Morville, Rosenfeld 2006): The structural design of shared information environments. The combination of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems within web sites and intranets. The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability and findability. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape. 3 Related works 3.1 firstname.lastname@example.org Annalisa Falcinelli, student at University for Foreigners of Perugia, discussed a thesis about the project email@example.com. It highlights the relevance of a crossing model for the information seeking process inside the University for Foreigners of Perugia meant as physical and digital space. The integrated information architecture is based on two levels model: the first level uses a hierarchical-enumerative classification to organise activities inside the university by these categories: prospectus communication services these are based on the same classification principle used on the website that can be considered as one of the contexts involved in the project. The second level is based on a faceted classification, obtained by Ranganathan PMEST scheme (Personality, Matter, Energy, Time) (Gnoli, 2000) , for each category at the first level, is possible to notice the following facets: people, activities, space, time. First level categories are used from digital to physical spaces. Inside and outside the university, each category is followed by a specific colour: prospectus light blue communications pink services green.
3.1.1 Directions and breadcrumbs Information point areas can be considered as breadcrumbs of various paths that lead towards the university. Information point areas are placed near main squares, railway stations, metro stations and university’s buildings. They are useful to provide directions to reach the university and they work as wi-fi access point too. Figure 18.104.22.168 Paths can be followed through consistent directions Figure 22.214.171.124 Information point area works as a breadcrumb in Perugia’s city centre Other types of information point works as “Landmark”1 by showing names of buildings and services and their placement inside the area people are exploring. 1 Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Boston: MIT Press, 1960.
Figure 126.96.36.199 Internal signage shows information design and colour consistency Figure 188.8.131.52 Information point (“Landmark”) showing contextual directions In the same way information point areas inside the university, directions showing names of buildings and classrooms, are designed following a consistent information design, colours, symbols and fonts. Figure 184.108.40.206 Directions designed following project’s consistency Digital interfaces show the same categories “prospectus”, “communications” and “services” to organise main contents, followed by specific links to lessons’ timetable, events, deadlines, index of contents.
Figure 220.127.116.11 Information point digital interface shows consistency with other signage and interfaces. The integrated model of information architecture features a mobile system that allows users to get access to a large amount of information that ordinary signage can’t convey. The system feature the common hierarchical-enumerative scheme at the first level of classification and a faceted classification at the second level, like on iPods2. At the first level is possible to find the mentioned categories: prospectus services communication followed by some utilities: people hot topics most visited index A-Z At the second level, for each category, is possible to notice these facets: People: (Who?) o Students o Teachers o Administrative staff. Activities: (What?) o Lessons o Office hours o Tests. Space: (Where?) o Buildings o Classrooms 2 Candido, Maria Giovanna. Architettura dell’informazione e trovabilità nell’iPod. Trovabile.org. January 14th, 2007. .
o Areas. Time: (When?) o Dates o Days o Timetable. Figure 18.104.22.168 Mobile system interface. Facets allow users to browse contents by various information-seeking approaches, information are always available at every stage of the research thanks to circularity of information. This project shows the importance of an integrated model of information architecture that crosses physical space inside the city, university’s areas and facilities, digital interfaces on information points, mobile systems and the web. The same organization of contents and tasks across these contexts and the consistency of information design, colours, fonts, icons and symbols convey a crossing information scent that leads people across environments by making use of a unique model of human-information interaction. 3.2 The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh shows a model of integrated Information Architecture that crosses the library’s physical space, the website and all systems of classification. This case is of great interest because it leads to the development of a model of human – information interaction. Maya Design, who was involved in this project, first investigated the mental models of users and the organizational schemes of the library. After sessions of interviews and observations one of the first thing they discovered was information overload conveyed by library jargon and ad hoc solutions, which produced a disjointed system over years. The library jargon issue is related to a typical labeling system issue on the Web: designing effective labels means considering the content, users and context, this is even more important considering an integrated model of Information Architecture like the Carnegie Library. In this case, labels cross different contexts and must be
consistent and understandable between these contexts: library jargon badly affects labeling systems neglecting the users’ vocabulary and a given information on the website (words, wayfinding signals, …) could not find an equivalent information in the phisycal space because it was replaced by the library jargon. The redesign project identified an integrated model of Information Architecture involving all systems (computers, classification schemes, buildings) and interfaces (computers, posters, librarians) in order to convey consistent human – information interactions. This result was achieved identifying four major components of the library experience: Customers: people who use the library. Organizers: what organizes assets and materials: the physicals space, categorization schemes, and librarians. Materials and activities: what customers want. Use and participation: customer interaction with materials and activities. Customers go through Organizers to get to Materials / Activities in order to Use / Participate3. Comparing the contextual inquiry and the information architecture, Maya Design team, librarians and building architects found that the focus was on: Wayfinding Website Catalogue Comparing wayfinding strategies in other libraries they found adding signals was considered by people as a mean to improve wayfinding, that is totally wrong instead. Maya designed a new wayfinding system that would: Work system-wide in all facilities for our client. Use little or no jargon. Offer librarians easy-to-use and consistent tools for making signs. MAYA created a classification scheme and lexicon that organized library messages (not just signs) into five broad categories: Orient/Direct: displays the cope of physical spaces and time-based events, and provides directions to major areas. Identify: identifies areas, objects, and actions. Educate: instructs, explains, and informs customers as a means of encouraging self-sufficiency and helping them to become expert users. Connect: reveals serendipitous connections between internal and external activities and resources. MAYA created a web-based content management and publishing system for static and dynamic (plasma, LCD, and LED) signs. Librarians can now maintain system- wide visual continuity. […] 3 More details on this Maya Design project can be found at .
The Carnegie Library continues to use this entire customer-focused framework to improve the library experience. Although they've not yet begun exploring improvements to the catalogue, their revised Web site has become a customer-centred map to the library experience. The words customers see on the site match those inside the library buildings so that customers have a consistent experience no matter how they engage the library (Maya Design 2005). 4 Apple integrated Information Architecture 4.1 Apple bridge experiences and crossing IA Close analysis of the Apple website and, in particular, the Apple Retail Store highlights the role of information architecture in building bridge experiences. IA can cross various contexts of experience with the objective of defining a unique human- information interaction model by means of proper organisation of information flows and tasks. The website and the store share a common information organisation - outside of their obvious and necessary interface differences.
Figure 4.1.1 Map of correspondences between Apple website taxonomy and products’ placement inside the Apple Retail Store The navigation bar in the menu shows the following tabs: Home (logo Apple) Store Mac iPod+iTunes iPhone Download Support. Product organisation follows standard guidelines throughout the world-wide network of Apple stores. On entering a store this consistency is noticed in the following specifically-organised areas: Mac computers iPod and Apple TV iPhone accessories (iPod cases, bags, headphones, …) applications Genius Bar (support).
Website Store Home Hoardings on the walls as products’ preview Store All tables showing products with related details Mac Area showing Mac computers iPod+iTunes Area showing iPod, iTunes and Apple TV iPhone Area showing iPhone Downloads Area showing applications Support Genius Bar for products’ support Table 4.1.1 Comparison between Apple website IA and Apple Retail Store IA This organisational solution is a good example of efficiently and effectively crisscrossing information architecture between two environments, the Web and the physical retail space. Figure 4.1.2 Area showing Mac computers Figure 4.1.3 Area showing iPod, iTunes and related to “Mac” section on the Apple website Apple TV related to “iPod + iTunes” section on the Apple website Figure 4.1.4 Area showing software solutions Figure 4.1.5 Genius Bar related to “Support” related to “Download” section on the Apple section on the Apple website website Inside the store, lcd video screens might be provided in the particular area to demonstrate the products on sale, its specifications and any related accessories - highlighting products corresponding to the visited area of the store. While inside the dedicated Mac area (Figure 4.1.2), computers will be displayed. Likewise, within the confines of the iPod area (Figure 4.1.3), iPods and the Apple TV are on display. The
same holds true for the iPhone with a specific physical space allotted to bring attention to the similarity and compatibility of the iPod, in particular the iPod Touch. This further highlights the accessories and applications available to both the iPhone and iPod. Accessories (which are not clearly noted on the webpage) could be displayed and contextually included within the related Mac and iPod areas by means of the lcd video screens. In addition, the retail store could promote the most requested line of accessories on the website, so that popular selections/purchases made by online users can also be offered in the physical retail space. Figure 4.1.6 Visual design of menu on lcd screen should reflect the website visual design menu for information-seeking processes, in order to convey consistency and continuity The location of a particular product within the retail space can be clearly indicated and displayed on the lcd video screens. Such information is helpful to the client in that it provides a clear idea of how to reach the product sought within the retail space: this is an example of how to effectively and efficiently incorporate wayfinding strategies in the information-seeking process. When a product is viewed on the lcd video screen, other co-related products can be suggested using the following purchase-related associations: People who looked for this product also looked for: People who bought this product also bought:
These type of suggestions favour a circular flow of information and improve the information-seeking process by leading customers to evaluate needs to which they were previously oblivious. A specific product or service can be suggested as contextual content on the lcd video screens with the aim of encouraging the customer to deepen his/her research. In this way the same information can be retrieved following various information paths through a multidimensional approach. Customers can identify various paths to follow a specific information-need. These paths cross the web, lcd video screen interfaces and physical retail spaces: the information-seeking process can be considered as an example of evolving transversal research. Satisfied only by a final set of conclusive information in relation to a specific topic, rather by various references and information gathered step by step (berrypicking process). Users may thus refine and deepen the process at every stage of their research (Bates 1989). 4.2 Information scent and coloured t-shirt Staff-worn coloured t-shirts have recently been introduced in all Apple Retail Stores. Each colour is representative of a specific competence: light blue t-shirt: specialist dark blue t-shirt: creative and genius orange t-shirt: concierge polo shirt: business partner black t-shirt: stockroom staff. Incorporating a strategy of coloured t- shirts can be considered an effective way to convey the crisscrossing of information: If we visit the Apple Store webpage suggestions to improve our shopping experience can be found. For example, we can find answers to our queries by Figure 4.2.1 Staff wears coloured t-shirts, each colour is representative of a specific duty and addressing our questions to the staff in department the orange (concierge) t-shirt. This type of cue emanates from the website but it will also prove useful in the physical retail space, as it crosses two different contexts, the Web and the real world and it allows us to perceive the simplest path to follow to access the information we need. Similar cues can also be introduced for other competencies so as to ensure that the user easily-recognises the right staff member inside the physical retail space to satisfy an information need emanating from the web. This is a powerful example of bridge experience. On the Apple website every product could be followed by replicating the colour
combination used for the staff: in this way purchasers know who to address their questions to, in order to have further information about a product, how to use it and suggestions about other products. A key or legend explaining the colour combination should be shown at the bottom of the product’s page to avoid information overload. Colours are an efficient and effective mechanism for conveying a circular and linear flow of information between different conceptual contexts. 5.3 Content as a component of Bridge Experience Bridge experience is defined by a unique mental model the user can keep through a range of concepts, thus ensuring homogeneous interaction . To convey this homogeneity, people need signals and cues connecting the digital world to the physical space: textual contents can offer a great help to obtain this consistency. Textual labels, icons and symbols, work as signals both in the realm of the web and within physical retail space. The way these signals communicate with people can show consistency through contexts of experience: the box “Shopping Tips from the Apple Store” , shows a particular style of communication - warm and close to its users yet not overly confidential. Content design determines the creation of a closely-linked connection between the experience encountered via the web and that of the physical: web-posted suggestions aim to always provide the user with a high-level browsing experience, as close as possible to the one that the customer finds in the physical retail space. This attention to detail means that the communication mode (electronic for the web or on printed paper for the physical retail space) and communication style (advertisement offers and/or posters) together with its content (fonts, titles, short paragraphs, labels) must always be consistent to facilitate and promote clarity in the eyes of the user/ consumer. Micro-content design (titles, paragraphs, labels) must reflect the people’s point of view. It is very important to offer clear content that, with symbols and icons, convey that type of crisscrossing of information between contexts of experience. These elements perform an important function for wayfinding strategies between the Web and the physical retail space. 6 Ikea integrated Information Architecture This case study allows an easier understanding on how bridge experiences help individuals to get access to the information. The analysis focuses on Ikea’s catalogue and retail store4. The main goal is to develop an unique organizational scheme for the entire system, starting from the products’ catalogue redesign. 4 We have considered the Florence retail store, but the results can be globally valid.
Ikea offers a wide range of products at affordable prices. Customers are actively involved in the shopping experience. They begin by choosing their products at home on the website or on the paper catalogue, then they collect their products at the store, and the final step would be to assemble the items by themselves following the instructions. This idea of collaboration has been resumed with the following slogan: “You do your part. We do our part. Together we save money”. Ikea’s strategy towards emotional buyers aims to induce them to feel part of a whole evolutionary process: we call it experiential shopping. In order to reinforce this strategy, Ikea shows hundreds of inspirational displays providing fresh ideas with product combinations, contemporary interior design suggestions and the possibility of products’ testing. In this way, customers perceive a strong emotional experience. The choice of single model displaying for each product in order to optimise products’ placing and customer experience is definitely a strong point. Moreover, the interaction between physical and digital world is already provided by the website and virtual interior design facilities access. The website allows to consult products’ range, to be aware of periodic offers and extra services. The virtual design planning allows customers to act as interior designers. 6.1 Project’s targets Ikea’s actual approach to information is managed in different ways, according to the context: either the products’ catalogue, the website or the retail stores. There is not a unique and coherent human-information interaction model; our aim is to better this weakness reorganising information in a crossing way. According to the Ikea concept, the shopping experience can be considered as a circular process, it starts and ends at home. For this reason, it is even more important to create bridge-experiences, which facilitate the passage from one domain to another. 6.2 The catalogue The annual catalogue shows the range of products for sale, related technical guides and the extra services information. It is built on a hierarchic-enumerating classification: 15 classes highlighted by different colours and relative subclasses.
Figure 6.2.1 Ikea catalogue’s categories From this taxonomy’s analysis we can notice several division’s criteria used for each hierarchical level: 1. rooms linked to products’ allocation 2. customers to whom products are addressed 3. products’ material 4. use of products 5. sort of furnishings 6. other The interference of different categories causes product’s repetitions displays. Moreover, some subclasses have no hierarchical relation with related classes (for example flooring is catalogued under “Textiles”). Labelling imprecision, found in the Italian catalogue, causes confusion and doubts as well. 6.3 The matter of coherence After the previous analysis, we can affirm that the catalogue’s information architecture is theoretically incoherent and chaotic, from a scientific point of view. Beyond this consideration, it is important to check if this classification works anyway for Ikea customers and if it is suitable for Ikea context. The main catalogue’s classes are created on customer’s demands and human cognitive models. For examples: A potential buyer looking for a double bed will normally refer to the class “Bedroom”. But if the same customer wants to buy a cot for his baby, the same category wouldn’t be so obvious. The class “Children’s IKEA”, in this case, is a more appropriate reference. The “Textiles” class has been created to help a reader to find certain items as kitchen’s curtains, which may be difficult to be located because potentially linked to different categories. The categories’ order follows the degree of importance: the first ones are the most marketable according to business strategies and sales.
These new considerations enable us to notice that, even if theoretically incoherent, the taxonomy is perfectly coherent from the empiric-pragmatic point of view, which is the most important issue to make the information retrieval easier. 6.4 The catalogue redesign In order to overcome the hierarchical relations’ infraction and ambiguous labelling problems, it’s important: to create clear and suitable labels in appropriate language to establish subclasses for each class in order to respect human mental associations to avoid classes’ crossover. The improvements to redesign the catalogue should be placed at both hierarchical levels: principal classes and subclasses. Concerning the first level: “Kitchen” and “Dining” categories can be combined, as it happens inside the retail store. The same criterion can be used for “Wardrobes” and “Beds”5: people usually associate them because of a matter of space. Someone who decides to buy furniture at Ikea, probably is not the owner of a big, luxury house. Bigger attention to imprecise labels translation (found in the Italian catalogue) which may lead to misunderstandings and wrong interpretation. Elimination of “Buying guides” category at the end of the catalogue. The technical information would be better consultable if attached at the end of each category. Considering the second level, subclasses relocation in different categories would help to respect human mental associations and hierarchical relation. LIVING ROOM - Sofas, sofa-beds, coffee tables, TV solutions and storage KITCHEN and DINING - Units, door styles and handles, interior fittings, planning and pricing, freestanding kitchens, storage and accessories, tables, chairs, stools, cabinets and dining sets BEDROOM - Beds, collections, wardrobes and chests, mattresses, pillows and quilts YOUTH ROOM - Beds, storage and solutions CHILDREN’S IKEA - Furniture, toys, nursery, baby, children’s rooms, textiles and storage HOME ORGANISATION - Heavy-duty storage systems, boxes and small organizers WORKSPACES - Desks, chairs, drawer units and storage BATHROOM - Units, cabinets, freestanding designs, organisers and accessories TEXTILES - Bed and bath, design collections, curtains and blinds and rugs COOKING AND EATING - Tableware, food storage, pots and pans and cooking accessories LIGHTING - Table lamps, floor lamps, ceiling lamps, shades, bases and cords DECORATION - Vases, plant pots, candles, wall decorations, mirrors and flooring INFORMATION - Guarantees, special offers, IKEA FAMILY, financial services, shopping at the store, services, stores and maps, INDEX, restaurant 5 Ikea catalogue 2009 already takes in this suggestion.
Table 6.4.1 Ikea catalalogue categories (in English) modified following our reccomendations SOGGIORNO – soluzioni d’arredamento, divani, poltrone, tavolini, scaffali e mobili TV CUCINA e SALA DA PRANZO – soluzioni d’arredamento, cucine, tavoli, sedie e sgabelli, buffet e vetrine, carrelli, ante CAMERA DA LETTO – soluzioni d’arredamento, coordinati camera da letto, armadi e guardaroba, cassettiere, letti, materassi, cuscini e imbottiti YOUTH ROOM - Beds, storage and solutions IKEA DEI PICCOLI – neonato, coordinati cameretta, mobili gioco, tessuti, contenitori, giochi. TUTTO IN ORDINE – scaffali, scatole, contenitori, mensole e staffe. STUDIO e UFFICIO – tavoli computer, scrivanie, sedie, scaffali, cassettiere BAGNO – combinazioni lavabo, mobili e scaffali, accessori, pensili TESSILI – tende, tappeti, stoffe, asciugamani, copripiumini e federe TUTTO PER TAVOLA E CUCINA – piatti, posate, bicchieri, contenitori per alimenti, pentole e padelle, complementi interni della cucina LAMPADE – lampade da tavolo, da soffitto, da terra, da parete DECORAZIONI – candele e candelieri, vasi, piante, decorazioni per la parete, specchi, pavimenti. TUTTO SU IKEA – garanzie, politica ambientale, sito internet, come acquistare, orari e cartine, servizi, finanziamenti, IKEA family, ristorante Table 6.4.2 Ikea catalalogue categories (in Italian) modified following our reccomendations 6.5 Towards a crossing and integrated information architecture To obtain an integrated model of information’s architecture we need: to use the same product’s classification in the three domains (paper catalogue, website and retail store) to set the same distinctive colour proper of each category in all three domains. The website has several menus with different categories from the ones on the catalogue. The main navigation menu displays only the most popular classes and some of them have different labels. Hierarchical relations are not observed: classes and subclasses are shown at the same level. Though each product can be reached from different paths, links that provides these accesses are imprecise. As a result we have a chaotic heap of information which may confuse someone who has consulted the paper catalogue. In the same way the retail store does not observe a common products’ classification, a crossing information architecture is important to improve the customers’ shopping experience. For this reason, the use of the same distinctive colour in each environment helps customers to recognize immediately the class of product they are looking for. In order to highlight a crossing reference between contexts, colours can be used for the main menu’s buttons on the website and also for the admittance walls and floors of each department of the retail store. Interior walls and partitions of the store must be kept in white because they are frequently used as background of realistic room settings. Moreover, to realise an information architecture even more transversal, web
advantages can be transferred to the retail store. We suggest three interventions: more accesses to departments, following a sort of faceted classification maps’ collection and information points to make customers’ mobility easier, to make them aware of their position inside the store (wayfinding) and to let them be aware of the way they’ve walked through (breadcrumbs); installation of LCD screens in the central area, showing products and offers with relative characteristics and giving information on the items pick up point area (findability). The actual internal path within the store is obligatory. Customers are obliged to begin their tour from the first floor, going through all departments towards the storehouse to finally reach the cashier desks on the ground floor: no possibility of detouring. This path creates a delimited running flow which may prevent visitors to go back to look over a product. Obviously, this kind of interior space design is based on a market strategy frequently used in furnishings stores. It is based on time spent by customers inside the store: the possibility to have a look at the whole range of products would induce clients to buy more. It may be partially true, but it is not scientifically proved. An obligatory path could be too long and boring. Usually IKEA stores are crowded especially at weekends, when shopping experience becomes quite stressful. To avoid this problem it is possible to provide separate access to floors and direct access to departments, still maintaining the possibility of a whole explorative route for people who like spending some hours inside the store. Moreover the aim of the market strategy could be reached anyway maintaining low cost products display closed to the storehouse and in front of cashier desks. In this way, even hurried or distracted customers could be tempted to buy those items. Figure 6.5.1 Map that shows the obliged path inside the store
Figure 6.5.2 Ikea’s map redesign to provide a crossing wayfinding strategy by the use of the same colours. Pocket maps are available at Ikea’s entrance. They are very useful because they concretely help customers to find their way inside the store. Information panels could be located at the entrance to indicate the departments found on each floor. Each department will be pointed out by specific colour used on the web, on the catalogue, on leaflets. Furthermore, we suggest installing LCD screen in the central area of the store to improve the product’s findability. On the homepage offers would be highlighted and catalogue’s categories would be displayed using their respective colours. Figure 6.5.3 Example of LCD screen homepage.
7 Redrawing the map 7.1 From page description diagram to area description diagram Page description diagram allows for the description of content areas of a web page in prose, as in a functional specification. Specifications are arranged following an order of priority and can be followed by mini-layouts to give more details about a specific feature on the page. A page description diagram is useful in showing priorities and defining a context by providing useful information on content and functionality for the visual design of every single page. An example is the following: Figure 7.1.1 Example of page description diagram for Apple homepage On this PDD, high fidelity mini-layouts are shown in order to provide a clear document. By using existing parts of the web pages to obtain mini-layouts; in an ordinary design project pdd are developed before wireframes are drawn, we are able to replace these layouts with those of a lower fidelity. The purpose of the area description diagram is to establish an environment for content and functionalities in a physical retail space. It is a useful deliverable for bringing information architecture from digital to physical environments.
Figure 7.1.2 An example of area description diagram for Apple Retail Store This is an example of area description diagram for Apple Retail Store. It shows suggestions conveying information architecture principles to provide a retail design that is part of the crisscrossing model of human-information interaction. On the ADD we can show information about product placement inside the store. In the same way it is possible to highlight relevant areas where specific support services are provided like help-related information , electronic product catalogues and customer services. This deliverable is not only relevant to the physical retail space, rather it is closely related to designing user-friendly content and functions inside the physical retail space. It can highlight connections between different contexts:
navigational menu related to wayfinding cues posters that work as product previews on the website support areas coherent with related website sections. 7.2 Crossing Area Description Diagram The area description diagram could be considered as a sort of tool for verifying IA coherence. It can highlight the conceptual model underlying a new kind of design: the process design defined by organizational and interaction models. Considering other sections of the Apple website like the one related to Mac computers it becomes possible to analyse further connections between digital and physical environments.
Figure 7.2.1 Mac computers on Apple website This webpage can be divided into three sections. At the top of the page a horizontal scrolling bar can be used to browse between Mac computers, accessories, applications, servers and Wi-Fi devices. This solution provides an immediate overview regarding the main content material available in this section and recalls the product’s physical location within the Apple Retail Store6. 6 According to store’s features, the connexion between digital and phisycal environments, is provided using different types of shelves’ placing.
Apple Retail Store Figure 7.2.2 Connexion between Mac’s section on and Apple Retail Store This model shows two relevant connections between digital and physical environments: users can visualize products using the scroll bar, and by the same means they can look for Mac computers, accessories and applications grouped together in contiguous areas inside the Store information design used within the Mac webpage is identifiable within the Apple Retail Store, as shown in this figure, each area finds its equivalent on the Web and vice versa: - grey area (overview): an overview on the website relates to shelves showing Mac computers within the Store - purple area (what I can do?): the section “Find out how to get more out of your Mac”, showing software solutions and tutorials on the Web relating to a specific area where software solutions are shown on display racks - orange area (help): learning activities and support are provided on the website and within the store. The staff can be considered as part of a specific area, by providing their competences and offering content to customers in the same way contents are provided on the website. The experience with personal training, workshops and support starts on the Web to end at Apple Retail Store. The same model could be applied to the iPod+iTunes webpage and corresponding physical space inside the Apple Store. There is a strong level of coherence when compared to the previously-mentioned analysis. iPod+iTunes webpage replicates the information design from the Mac webpage. Adapting the model shown therein it is possible to identify the same human-
information interaction model: users can visualize products using the scroll bar, and by the same means they can look for iPods, Apple TV and accessories grouped together in contiguous areas within the Store information design used in the iPod+iTunes section is identifiable within the Apple Retail Store (figure 7.2.2), each area finds its equivalent on the Web and vice versa: - grey area: an overview of the website relates to the display shelves showing iPods, Apple TV, inside the Store - purple area: the section “Featured on iTunes” together with “Tutorial+Tips”, “Accessories” on the Web, relates to a specific area where accessories are shown on the display racks - orange area: within the iPod+iTunes webpage links are not provided to learning activities and support. The staff offers advice and information on products provided in this area of the Store, so it could be useful to provide information about workshops and support on the web in order to convey a bridge experience between these environments. Organizational and human-interaction models are merged in a unique process conveyed through a clear bridge experience. Users therefore receive a seamless and continuous experience between the digital and the physical environments. Each individual webpage like “Mac” and “iPod+iTunes”, each with their related physical areas, reiterate the organizational system noticed for the homepage and the overall design within the Store. The corresponding ADD could be superimposed on Mac’s ADD or on that of iPod+iTunes’, this means there is a continuous, reciprocal recall mechanism between the macro-architecture and the micro-architecture both on the website and within the retail store.
Figure 7.2.3 Area description diagram for Apple Retail Store: it shows connexions between Mac area inside the Store and the related webpage
Figure 7.2.4 Area description diagram for Apple Retail Store: it shows connexions between iPod+iTunes area inside the Store and the related webpage This adaptability to different conceptual contexts is proof and further testifies to the integrated information architecture and organization of information flows and tasks by crossing digital and physical space and thus conveying a unique human- information interaction model. Through these area description diagrams it is possible
to verify that the Apple Retail Store is representative of the entire Apple website and vice versa. 8. Conclusions “Too often as designers, we think about users as “static” entities… rather, today users always move “across” something…”7 As shown in the case studies users collect information on the web and use them in the real world and vice versa: the Ikea case study focuses on how to organise and design information to allow its users to easily locate what they are looking for leading them from the web to the store, while the Apple case study focuses on the possibility of charting information within their related areas in a physical space and on web pages, with a view to highlighting interconnections between them and to highlight how people interact with information and across these environments. These considerations emphasise the role of users and their evolving needs: people can improve the design process making suggestions of what they need in terms of functions and contents, also the way they recognise the information and interact with them. From websites to retail stores, from digital interfaces to physical ones, why would not users play a more proactive role in the overall design and the consequential bridge experiences they create and crisscross in everyday life? Participatory design strategy is the answer because it offers an approach to design that attempts to proactively involve the end users in the design process and help ensure that the product designed meets their needs and is usable. 7 These lines are taken from a chat with Chiara Ferrigno on 13th of August 2008.
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