In the process of designing the structure for a web site and the navigation to disclose that information, I often find there’s lots of changing around in unexpected moments. I have this ideal where the design process is a linear thing, and through experience, learning from others and listening to the people involved I can get to the perfect method. In practice though the steps just do not bend themselves to my rules.
What would be ideal is: going from the larger view and tunneling to the detail. I know that when getting to the detail, this also gives us a different view of the structure overhead. And in understanding the words we understand the whole. This is what known as the hermeneutic circle. I’m a bit rusty on my Gadamer though, and it’s showing.
One of the elements which makes the process difficult in information architecture for a web site, is the different people involved and the moments in time they are involved. There are people on the agency side, and people on the clients side. Not everyone starts together. So the opinions they have might come into play at a later moment and disrupt a carefully staged vision. Which in a way, of course, is a good thing: the more people have their say, the more representative the IA will be for a larger user group, barring any user testing. But on the other hand, developing a vision and a clear structure is more difficult when lots of voices are trying to outdo each other.
One of my colleagues made the perfect case yesterday, in her argument that navigation for a site should always be visible ‘because that’s just how I use it’. At least she was honest about this being a personal preference; more often, especially at a higher level, choices are made for users for their own good. Hey, I’m no stranger to the sentiment.
So at the moment it just seems to me the people involved have to be involved at the right moment. Timing is critical. As for the perspective of speaking on behalf of the user, I guess I need some better tools to validate what this means, so I can make myself and others be aware of the pitfalls in thinking for others.