University of Padova

User Centred Information Architecture

The purpose of this project is to restore the Social Politic Service web site of the “Provincia Autonoma di Trento” in a user centred perspective, building an easy-to-navigate and attractive portal ( able to provide helpful informations and services to users, encouraging their return visits. The user centred Information Architecture (IA) allows us to investigate users’ expectations about contents and organizational structures of the web site.
The Information Architeture Institute defines the Information Architecture (IA) as “the art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability”.

The redesigning process of the IA develops in four main phases, following the model suggested by Caprio and Ghiglione (2003):

1. Discovery: contest analysis through interviews, affinity diagram and focus group;
2. Analysis: competitive analysis, inventory of the contents, free listing, importance evaluation;
3. Architecture: card sorting, heuristical categorization of the contents, Faceted Classification labeling;
4. Development.

Provincia Autonoma di Trento website

In a world of informations as this, Information Architecture takes up one of the most important challenge: organize, communicate and present usable and coherent informations. IA provides a strategy for labeling contents and allows managing information in a simpler way for the user.
Visciola (2002) belives a web site is usable if it satisfies the information needs of the final user who is visiting it; these aspects are partially related to access and navigation facility.
So the organizational structure of a web site can have a deep impact on the easiness in using it (Martin, 1999). In a user centred view the informative structure should be based on the mental models of the final user (Norman, 1990).
IA often utilizes a user-centered design (UCD), focusing on the needs and capabilities of the audience.
According to the characteristics just mentioned, this approach results the best for redesigning; using either card sorting technique or free-listing or affinity diagram or focus group in a synergic way, we have been able to design the organizational structure of the web site.
During the first period of research, we performed two types of analysis at the same time:

* Free-listing: users had to indicate ten examples about contents they would like to find in the new web site,

* affinity diagram and focus group with the executive involved in social policy.

In the second phase we codified data collected during these activities and users produced an items estimate according to the importance level. Finally, we asked users to categorize the most relevant items through card sorting.
In the Human Computer Interaction (HCI), the most quoted and used technique of knowledge elicitation to make emerge users’ mental models, is card sorting (Nielsen and Sano, 1994; Rugg and McGeorge, 1997; Maurer and Warfel, 2004; Fincher and Tenenberg, 2005).
Card sorting technique allows us to detect (Bussolon and Del Missier, 2006):
– the criterion used by users to look for and to categorize the information
– the informative structure that users implicitly expect to find
– the possible differences among the groups of users
– the categories expressed by the users syntax
These elements permit to organize the contents in the best way in order to optimize the findability of the system.


The combined use of bottom-up (free listing, importance evaluation and card sorting) and top-down (heuristic categorization of the contents) methodologies for IA has concurred to generate an information architecture that satisfies the expectations of the various typologies of final users.
Using card sorting, various modalities to categorize contents are emerged; the two main classification systems are based on both service typology and final user typology.
The faceted classification technique, applied by Luca Rosati (Rosati, 2007), allows to product an organizational structure of the contents that reflects the various classifications of the customers. Actually, the new web site is in progress; through faceted classification, implementation of the web site will follow the guide-lines that card sorting analysis has drawn.


– Bussolon, S. & Del Missier, F. (2006). Netsorting. User Centered Information Architecture. In HTLab Day. Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università degli studi di Padova. Padova, 26 maggio 2006.
– Caprio, L. and Ghiglione, B. (2003). Information Architecture. Tecniche nuove, Milano.
– Fincher, S. & Tenenberg, J. (2005). Making sense of card sorting data. Expert System, 22(3): 89-93.
– Martin, S. (1999) Cluster Analysis for Web Site Organization. Using cluster analysis to help meet users’ expectations in site structure. Technical report, World Wide Web.
– Maurer, D. & Warfel, T. (2004). Card sorting: a definitive guide. Technical report, World Wide Web.
– Nielsen, J. & Sano, D. (1994). SunWeb: User interface design for sun microsystem’s internal web. In Proceedings of the 2nd World Wide Web Conference ’94: Mosaic and the Web, pages 547-557.
– Norman, D. A. (1990) La caffettiera del masochista, Giunti, Milano.
– Rosati, L. (2007). L’architettura dell’informazione fatta dai cittadini. Retrieved 8/10/2007, from website:
– Rugg, G. & McGeorge, P. (1997). The sorting techniques: a tutorial paper on card sorts, picture sorts anditem sorts. Expert Systems, 14(2): 80-93.
– Visciola, M. (2000). Usabilità dei siti web. Apogeo, Milano.

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