Modules and Wholes: task oriented information architecture
Michael Andrews has blogged about how IA for task oriented sites have different issues than IA relating primarily to assisting users to find objects.
He raises some interesting points:
When experimenting with task-oriented IA, here are some issues to keep in mind:
* Activity structure. Are tasks batched around a group of items, or around a sequence of events? Interestingly, the same mix of objects and processes may be done in different ways, depending on who is doing the work, and what the context is. How a customer representative processes a form will be different depending if the customer dropped in his local branch to deliver it, or whether it was mailed in and is sitting on a stack with other people's forms.
* Inputs. How is information received and entered? Does it come in a clump, or in dribbles? Are inputs calendar-driven, so you can predict when you will receive them, or can they arrive at any time?
* Time dimension. Are tasks done in parallel on the same timeline, or do they go on divergent timelines? Are sequences of activities fixed or flexible? Sometimes activities start at the same time, and get processes concurrently, though the services themselves involve different durations.
I have not personally done much in this realm, but I had guessed that structuring a task oriented site would be different. It appears that developing the taxonomy of terms to be used is complicated by the variety of tasks to perform and the number of paths one needs to accomodate throughout the process. I try to perform alternative paths to information to accommodate a variety of scenerios in my place of work. Workers who are processing applications, those who are in the customer contact center and writers each have very different information needs. In this way, one does have to consider a variety of audiences and scenarios within an information driven environment.
I have found that a taxonomy needs to be more elastic when a site is public facing, for the very fact that your site will be visited by a greater variety of users in a wide variety of situations. Thus, it is similar in that one must account for more possibilities of use. However, it appears that in a task oriented environment a larger number of scenarios exist no matter if it is an internal or external facing site.
However, the other two items of time and inputs are at the heart of the need for differing approaches. These are items that we do not need to account for in an information driven IA. I wonder if user profiles and shadowing would take the place of various card-sorting excersises? Not that card-sorting is always effective in a information-driven environment! Most excercises that are done in an information IA context are varients of card-sorting to obtain user focused taxonomy terms.
I do hope Michael blogs some more about this topic! I found his post via Column Two.