Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture

 
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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.
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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 find@unistrapg.it
        Annalisa Falcinelli, student at University for Foreigners of Perugia, discussed
a thesis about the project find@unistrapg.it. 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.
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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 3.1.1.2 Paths can be
                                                                       followed through consistent
                                                                       directions

Figure 3.1.1.1 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.
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
Figure 3.1.1.4 Internal signage shows
                                                                 information design and colour
                                                                 consistency

Figure 3.1.1.3 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 3.1.1.5 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.
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
Figure 3.1.1.6 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. .
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
o Areas.

     Time: (When?)
          o Dates
          o Days
          o Timetable.

Figure 3.1.1.7 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
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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 .
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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.
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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).
Apple, Ikea and their integrated Information Architecture
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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