Idea Formation Structure

September 11 2021

When you design a website, it is important to map out the structure that someone would take through it, were they not already to understand the domain. Actually, what is necessary is to understand or map out the information according to a common sense map of the knowledge acquisition in this domain, subject, etc., and anticipate the lowest common denominator facts that will then orient to other facts, etc.

Obviously you must assume a baseline of knowledge, elementary school level at least, and cultural understanding. But the way we tend to think about information is like a tree that you build over time. Once you have built the tree for yourself, it becomes extremely hard to imagine the experience for someone who has not built this tree yet. The very fact that you have built up your tree, makes it super hard to imagine the tree of someone who has not arrived. Example that inspired this: Going to the UCSC Alumni Association website. It’s full of all kinds of information such as how to get a lifetime membership, events, etc. But it is very hard to find the 101: what is the alumni association? How do I become a member? What are the benefits? Those things were so much a part of the knowledge tree already for the people working on the site that it never occurred to them to map this out.

Of course you should also map out expert paths, etc., but it only makes sense to have the entry points to a domain, a building, etc., provides the 101. Then, give the experts channels to allow them to bypass the main entry points. For example, something that I have almost never seen in a website, but should exist: Using cookies to see whether or not someone is likely to require the 101 introductory information, based upon their visitor status. Of course when someone is logged in, versus not logged in, in this way the function is done a little bit better.

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© Alexander Feller 2018