Moving Large Documents to the Web | 2 | WebReference

Moving Large Documents to the Web | 2

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Moving Large Documents to the Web

Information Design

If you're like most Web developers, you would rather spend ten hours fixing code, learning new JavaScript or designing interfaces rather than mapping information flow and usability. But a Web site that has excellent information architecture is like driving a car with great road handling and controls at your fingertips. Sites with poor information design are like cars with the coffee cup holder in front of the radio/tape controls and jacks in inaccessible compartments. The 51/49 rule states, "You should spend just over half of your development time in content design and UI design." Information design prevents Web developers from getting distracted by technology glitches that draw valuable time away from projects.

Prioritize information into categories of critical, useful and useless. Don't convert useless material.

The principles taught by Dr. Robert Horn and Information Mapping, Inc. of Waltham Mass are proven methodologies for attacking large amounts of information. Some of their key principles that apply to large document conversions are as follows:

(Information Mapping, Inc. 1998)


Navigational design arises out of informational design. Once information is chunked or divided by user preferences, navigational schemes and data models are needed. Larger chunks of information are named and become navigational elements.

When faced with varied user groups, consider multiple tracks using multiple tables of content for the same HTML content. Utilizing user-based TOCs, indexes, search functionality and conceptual/image maps prevent the creation of multiple sites. Basically, you surround the same content with a variety of user options for accessing it. This accommodates differences in user preferences, learning styles, computer proficiency and time constraints. Some users don't mind typing a Boolean search, while others prefer to click a conceptual image map that gives a bird's eye view of the entire site. Don't be afraid of pages filled with categorized links ( and Yahoo use them quite effectively). Cascading or hierarchical menus in JavaScript make great navigational features for large document sites.

Site flow maps and storyboards pay for themselves when you can hand off an approved design to a proficient HTML programmer who does not have to research information flow while trying to meet deadlines. Site navigation schemes should be predetermined before writing code. When Web developers use rapid prototyping instead of storyboards, site flow diagrams become even more crucial. Sites that fail to diagram flow suffer from user paths that do not connect to each other; sites appear disjointed to end-users.

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Created: February 2, 2001
Revised: February 5, 2001