Given the response from the last post I’m going to take the educational publishing example a bit further, if I have time before my next contract I will also create an investment banking example. I am also being asked for diagrams that explain these relationships, again if I have time I will do these also.
Educational publishing Information Architecture (IA)
The last point in the previous post was describing multiple audiences looking at the same content from different perspectives. The example in educational publishing the audiences often include;
Each one of these groups will have a very specific context of use, when looking for content, the descriptions they use and understand to find it and their underlying purpose in doing so. In this case they will each require a separate structure around an entity and may require their own version of the taxonomy.
Additionally there are criteria that operated as informational facets (now commonly associated with faceted search) which act as secondary entities;
- Bulk price
- Unit price
- Country standards
- Regional standards
- Education level
- Education target
- Education skills
- Education method
- Exam board
- Exam year
- Pupil/student age
- Content subject
- Content brand
- Content group
- Content purpose
- Language Tone of Voice
- Media type
- Media format
The above entities enable the audiences to find the content assets that meet their specific needs. It is very important at this stage not to confuse entities with hierarchies. Hierarchies are the structuring of entities in a direct or indirect relationship that are above or below (immediate superior or subordinate) this also includes cross related relationships. As previously mentioned (in the last post) there may already be standard hierarchies in the domain in question that should be observed.
But how do you find these entities in any domain?
Taking the above example the standard hierarchy in publishing is ISBN a review of several entities within a single ISBN item will reveal many of entities above. To get the rest research is required (it cannot be done any other way);
- Find out who the audience is and what is their objective?
- Find out what are the rules, laws and governance?
- Find out who buys, distributes, delivers, services, resells and what their relationship is to the originator?
- Find out specifically who the audience is currently, competitor and target audience?
Define ‘What is the smallest component of viable (useful) information?’ and use that to model the information system. I have worked with several huge education providers and universities and the questions I ask is ‘What is a course?’;
- A course has a title
- A course has duration, with a start and an end
- A course has a subject
- A course has a level
- A course has prerequisites
- A course has an outcome, which leads to options
- A course has a delivery mechanism
I also ask, ‘Who is a student?’, ‘Who is a tutor?’, ‘What is an outcome?’ even ‘What is a college?’, if a course has a regular location then this creates a secondary set of entities.
- A location has an address, telephone number, email address
- A location has facilities
- A location has transportation links
- A location has a community
- A location has accommodation
And it goes on and on, this is Information Architecture 101.