Impact of Information Architecture
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In recent years, as the technology is changing to our society, people are more relying on Internet to find out the solutions for their everyday needs. As some instances, online shopping, learning, processing transactions, watching movies and making easy communications are usual activities today for most of the modern people. In between, there is no doubt about that government related issues are important for the residents or locals and foreigners of the country. There is no way to avoid those transactions if the person is visiting or living in a country and those transactions are also time consuming if try to process manually, for the reasons of travel time, waiting time and other unexpected matters (forgetting of important document and etc).
So, governments try to provide the most of the transactions to be able to process via online partly for some of the transactions and some completely. But, there are some difficulties for the expect and the persons who are not familiar with internet so, it is really important to be user friendly and having simple layout in order to be able to use easily by both novice and expert user. In this paper, the studies regarding Information Architecture and Design required to consider when we are to going to develop a user-friendly and good-quality website. I chose the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) e-government website 'ww.ica.gov.sg' and made justification the site according to my studies regarding information architecture and design concepts especially usability views.
There are many different views on information architecture with many different areas. Information architecture is the practice of structuring information (knowledge or data) which are structured according to their context in user interaction or larger databases. Rosenfeld expresses the basic concept of IA as the interlinking of three major components: users (who they are, what their information-seeking behaviors and needs are), content (metadata, volume, formats, structure, and organization), and context (business value, business model, culture, politics, resources and resource constraints).
Most of the website are developed emphasize on the user's requirements and goal. It is essential to consider the information architecture concepts in most of the website in order to let the user with usefulness, usability, efficiency and effectiveness when using the site. While designing the portal site, the first things to think about the target user and user groups and should consider what the user needs, what kind of task are user perform. Moreover, the mental/cognitive aspects should think such as attention (structuring information, use of alert mechanisms and colors,), memory (short-term memory, iconic memory, long-term memory), and the behavioral aspects such as information needs should be well thought-out to match with the usability concepts for the portal website. Furthermore, the interaction design are need to consider in order to let the site is attractive and well-designed especially navigation, search system.
Case studies based on ICA website
The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), e-government site, provides many services and functions including issuing of travel documents and identity cards to Singapore citizens and issuing various immigration passes and permits to foreigners. In this site, e-appointment, registration the IC online, applying the student's pass for the foreign student via electronically and more services can be performed via this site.
Figure-1 ICA website
1. Focus user group
This ICA website targets different user groups such as citizens, permanent residents and visitors of the country (Singapore) and information are placed under the different user groups.
2. User Mental/ Cognitive Aspects
2.1 Perception and Attention
In this site, the developer uses the alert mechanisms to grab reader attention for example; there is a flash image in the middle centre of the home page to be attractive to user. As information is presented with ample spaces, and text is legible and distinguishable from the background, so the website can be perceived easier by user. (According to the type of users, patterns are used with consistent text size and different colors to attract the user's focus).
In this portal, the images and icons are used in terms of improvement of iconic memory.
Short term memory (working memory) & mental processing
Information is well categorized to support the user short-term memory. So, the user can emphasize on relevant information and do not need to confuse with non-related information.
Long term memory & knowledge
The design supports the long term memory by the recognition of user with using consistent menus, navigation.
3. Interaction design
The navigation system is consistent and the global navigation system, persistent navigation, is provided in the whole transaction process. In figure-2, it helps the user navigate the site to find the areas of interest to them and shows users where they are within the site and how to get other page. Furthermore, local navigation uses the within a specific site section, for example,' visitors service, entry visa, visit pass, student's pass and birth pass'. This portal support, breadcrumbs, horizontal list of labels which shows current site location and the path the user go through within this site, and helps user where on website they are and enable user to go back previous page throughout the hierarchical navigation.
This site provides the powerful search feature for the user to find the information which is more desired information of the users. In figure-3, there is search box to find the information and also provide advanced search with the drop down list lets the user chooses 'within this site' or 'within all government site'. Choosing the latter option will help the user to be able to search among all of the Singapore's government websites such as Ministry of Health and Ministry of Manpower.
In ICA site, there are different categorization for user group and the information and services are categorized for each user group. As an example, a permanent resident can find the related information and services under the category of Permanent Residents.
4. Suggestion for improving site
Although the ICA website is nice and user-friendly, still there are some features and technologies to comment perfect. I believe the transactions will be more easier if the website support the user account control feature because a user will only need to fill in their personal information for very first time only and will be stored in the database and later the information will be retrieved when the user login and that data will be able to use for the transactions need.
Getting updated is really important in the Information Technology. In addition, very latest technologies will not only help the web-site to be looked well but also provides the new and convenient features such as auto-complete function and real-time announcements. Moreover, the network navigation links which are useful other government site's links that may be related to this site should be support in this site.
The features described above are not the vital features. However, it is really better to have those features than doesn't have. I believe that implementing those will make the web-site become more and more perfect.
In conclusion, the government related issues are essential for every country and the government and people turn into use the e-government website for processing their transaction vial online. In between, those websites should have usability and usefulness for both expect and novice user (e.g. ICA website). So, it should be aware to consider the information architecture in designing and developing the website. According to my literature review, I studied a case, ICA website, in the point of usability concepts especially users, the interaction design between user and the system. According to my studies, user can get more satisfaction when using this ICA website than going physically to ICA building and process the transactions manually. I realize that the website will be more usability, effectiveness and efficiency by focusing on my suggestion base on information architecture issues.
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