blue waterfallIn Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make  Me Think (2005), he highlights the most important aspects of the user experience when visiting a site. As one could guess from the book’s title, the most important element of a site’s usability is its capacity to comfort the user with overt simplicity.

If a user encounters a site and finds jumbled content areas and confusing navigational hyperlinks, the user will become frustrated or intimidated. Knowing that the next site with similar content is a click away in a google results page, the user won’t spend too long feeling frustrated. So establishing user satisfaction is probably an information architect’s biggest priority.

Testing

Usability testing is a scary thing for an information architect. After hours planning the site’s hierarchy, layout, and navigational scheme, the architect must turn over the site to end users who know nothing about the site’s intent, scope, or navigation. In analyzing what a user does when faced with the task of navigating an unfamiliar site, strange things may come to light. Initial conceptions the architect may have had regarding the organization of content areas and the site’s overall ease of use may be crushed.

According to Krug, the best advice for usability testing is to do it early and do it often. An architect could easily avert a crisis before publishing a site by doing sufficient user investigation and testing prospective users. Or the architect could launch the site, field complaints from users, and find a new line of work.