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									Information Organisation

1. Information Organisation                                 strategies, it is evident that when the materials aim to
                                                            provide initial knowledge, for example, facts,
Information can be organised in Web formats in many         procedures and rules of discourse, linear linking is an
more ways than in print-based documents. One of the         appropriate hypermedia form. For this type of
identifying characteristics of the Web is its ability to    knowledge acquisition, it is appropriate to create
present information in a hypertext mode. A problem          materials with a strong structure that present
facing the Web designer is the best way to organise         information in a planned and considered fashion.
material so that it can be easily discovered and
accessed.                                                   For higher levels of knowledge, for example,
                                                            developing an understanding of concepts and
Hypermedia Forms                                            principles, the less structured hierarchical and
                                                            referential linking are more appropriate. In these
The different forms of hypermedia can be represented        instances, readers are guided by such factors as their
by a continuum describing the nature of the linking         prior knowledge and readiness to assimilate new
involved.                                                   material. When building on an existing knowledge
• At one end of the continuum, the links are minimal        base, readers can benefit from the freedom to browse
   and simply act to connect nodes in a specified           and explore, to inquire and seek responses to their own
   sequence. This form of hypermedia closely                questions rather than following a pre-determined path
   resembles conventional text and is referred to as        of instruction.
   linear. In its use, the reader is encouraged and in
   most cases compelled to follow a set presentation        a. Linear Organisation
   sequence. In hypermedia environments, there is           When information is organised in a linear fashion,
   potential to create materials with varying degrees of    readers are expected to move through the information
   linearity.                                               base in a sequential fashion. Many textbooks are based
• Further along the continuum, the links tend to form       on a linear organisation with chapters and sections.
   a hierarchical structure, giving readers more            The sequence of the information is decided by an
   freedom in the choice of path through the materials.     author/instructional designer who judges the order in
• At the extreme, hypermedia can provide a totally          which the material should be covered to facilitate
   free information environment with multiple links         learning. But this doesn't prevent readers from
   between associated nodes. In such environments,          accessing the information in non-linear ways, for
   readers are free to move between associated nodes        example, though use of an index.
   through referential links and very little structure is
   imposed on them.                                         The way information is organised plays strong parts in
                                                            helping the reader retain what has being read. When
                                                            the information is presented in an organised and
                                                            structured fashion, the organisation helps the reader in
                                                            developing an understanding and overview of the
                                                            information. Information that has no structure is much
                                                            more difficult to retain.

      linear       hierarchical      referential

Figure 1 A continuum describing information
organisation in hypermedia.

The choice of information organisation for Web
materials depends on the nature of the intended
audience. For example, different organisation               Figure 2A Web document with a linear organisation
                                                            strategy. The pages are accessed by clicking next or
strategies are needed for novices and experts.
                                                            back buttons
When the instructional forms of hypermedia are              It is difficult to find Web materials that have a totally
matched against the continuum describing instructional      linear organisation. While many are created as linear

Information Organisation                                                                                            1
files, most have indices and links enabling readers to     are usually constrained to follow the tree structure and
move freely within them. For example, the image            to move back to the previous index in order to make a
below shows a Web document whose first section             new selection.
comprises an index with links to the various sections in
the document. The document can be browsed in a             Such an organisation has several advantages:
linear fashion by scrolling or through the links placed    • readers view the information base in its modular
at the head of the document.                                  form as a structured set of pages;
                                                           • readers can freely access any of the sections in the
When designing Web documents of this form, it is              site by appropriate index choices;
important to be aware of the following and to take         • readers are encouraged to use the documents in a
them into consideration:                                      structured fashion;
• readers usually like to be able to scan and browse,      • in any section, readers have a strong sense of their
   linear organisation prevents this;                         place in the overall structure of the information
• linear organisation can overwhelm readers with the          base; and
   amount of material provided in one place;               • this structure enables strong orientation support, an
• readers are not normally aware of how much                  aspect discussed in detail in the next section.
   information exists below what can be seen on the
   screen;                                                 There is perhaps only one weakness in this
• clearly mark the beginning and end of the various        organisation structure. There is no overall indication
   sections to alert the reader when the section is        of the scope and size of the information base, and
   complete.                                               readers must visit each page in turn to view the number
• it is helpful include links at the end of each section   of sections each contains. In all other respects it serves
   to take the user back to the index.                     its purpose very well.

b. Hierarchical Organisation                               A common feature of most Web materials and
Most Web documents tend to have a hierarchical form        documents is links to related documents. In
due to the nature and scope of the information that they   hierarchical structures, links to related documents can
contain. The information necessitates the use of           diminish the hierarchical barriers. Once a reader has
discrete pages and an organisation format to enable        linked to an external document, there is no constraint
readers to access the different pages. If there is a       on other links that can be made. If external linking is
significant body of information, there can be a large      to be used in materials designed around a hierarchical
number of pages organised in this way.                     form, readers must be made aware of strategies that can
                                                           be used to return to the original document structure.
Figure 3 shows a Web page with a hierarchical              Perhaps the most common solution is to have readers
organisation structure. Various pages can be accessed      store the bookmark of the main index. This will
at will through an index. In this structure, to select a   always enable them to return to a known position at
new section or a new page requires the reader to move      any time.
back through the hierarchy to the index documents.
                                                           c. Referential Organisation
                                                           Information bases which use referential linking as an
                                                           organisation strategy are usually quite easy to create.
                                                           In most instances, designers search the WWW for sites
                                                           where related information is stored and then create a
                                                           document with a series of links to these sites. The
                                                           document shown below is of this type. It contains a
                                                           series of links to external sites and represents a vast
                                                           information base in which a reader can explore.

                                                           In a system using a referential organisation scheme,
                                                           backtracking and relocating visited sites can become
                                                           problematic. Once a user has linked to an external site
                                                           and linked again from this external site, he or she is
                                                           effectively browsing in hyperspace. There is no
                                                           constraint on which links can be made and millions of
                                                           potential paths can be followed.
Figure 3
Web page with a hierarchical organisation strategy

The use of the hierarchical organisation in the course
shown above restricts the movement of students in the
information base. Once within a section, users cannot
always move freely from one section to the next. They

Information Organisation                                                                                         2
                                                             There are many options available to the Web designer
                                                             to assist readers with orientation and travel through
                                                             information systems just as there are many different
                                                             procedures in subway systems throughout the world. If
                                                             you think of potential users of any information systems
                                                             you design as foreign travellers, you will begin to
                                                             consider the necessary elements for a navigable

                                                             a. Metaphors
                                                             Some Web sites use metaphorical interface to assist the
                                                             user to navigate. In such settings, a virtual setting is
                                                             used to organise the resources. Users access resources
                                                             by electing the most likely place (based on their real
                                                             life experiences).
Figure 4
A Web document with a referential organisation
strategy an online library of earth
science resources.

Experienced users can store bookmarks and use the
back and forward options provided by the browser as a
navigation aid. As mentioned in the discussion of
hierarchical organisation, having readers store the
bookmark of a main document is one way to provide a
permanent link back to the main document.

Due to the extensive amount of information available
on the Web, referential mediabases in almost any
subject can be developed quite quickly. The Web              Figure 5 A metaphorical interface
                                                             Navigation is aided by the use of a virtual setting which
contains information on almost any topic known to
                                                             helps users to identify the location of resources.
man and there are powerful search engines available to
locate relevant sites from which more focused inquires       b. Indices
can begin.                                                   Most Web pages use indices of some form to assist the
                                                             readers to discover where resources might be located
2. Navigation Elements                                       within the site. An index is usually place on the left of
                                                             the screen or sometimes in the headers and footers of
                                                             the screen.
The term navigation is used in the context of electronic
information systems to describe the processes and
means by which readers can move between
information nodes and gain some sense of their
orientation within the overall structure. Thus there are
two main aspects to navigation, one deals with having
a sense of location, orientation, and the other a sense of
how to change to a specific location, travel.

A good analogy to describe these two terms is to
consider a traveller using a subway system in a foreign
city. Once in the subway system, the traveller needs to
have some sense of where he or she is in relation to the
overall system. Once the traveller has this orientation,
there is also a need to be able to know how to move to
certain places. This involves such knowledge as where
lines intersect, how transfers are affected, how tickets
are purchased and how much they cost. A map                  Figure 6 A Page Index
provides a means for orientation, (if it is in the right     The index provides access to the various pages in this
                                                             Web site.
language). Knowledge of local subway rules are
needed to know how to travel throughout the system.
                                                             c. site map
                                                             Most Web pages will provide a site map as a fallback
                                                             strategy to assist readers to find the page they are

Information Organisation                                                                                           3
seeking. The site map can be supplied as a series of       Such images are created as graphical elements and are
organised links or as a concept map which displays the     interspersed within documents to provide visual cues.
organisation across subjects and topics.
                                                           b. breadcrumbs
                                                           Breadcrumbs describe the use of link descriptions that
                                                           show the pages which haven accessed in a hierarchical
                                                           fashion to arrive at the current page. They typically
                                                           show at the top of a Web page in an inconspicuous
                                                           fashion as an orientation aid. Normally the elements
                                                           within the breadcrumb are clickable and this aids
                                                           navigation within the site as well as orientation.

Figure 7 A Site Map
A page to aid navigation showing site pages and their      Fig 8 Breadcrumbs
organisation.                                              An orientation strategy showing the trail used within a
                                                           Web site to arrive at the current page

3. Orientation Elements                                    c. Home Page
                                                            Most sites use a Home Page as a referent point and aid
One of the major problems reported with the use of the     to orientation. A link on every page to return the user
Web as an information source, is the orientation of the    to the Home Page can assist in orientation in that it
reader within the information system. Orientation          helps users to orient themselves when needed.
describes the means by which users are able to identify    Unfortunately this system does not always guarantee
their current position in a system in relation to the      the user will remain oriented.
overall system.
                                                           d. Search Option
Disorientation is a problem which is frequently            Some sites find it very hard to ensure user orientation
observed in studies of Web users. Disorientation           and ease of navigation. The use of a site map provides
describes the state of users who have travelled within a   a strong navigation support in that it enables the user to
system and have no sense of place, position or the path    locate pages, based not only on their titles and
taken. Disorientation can have a number of associated      placements but also through keyword searches on their
problems:                                                  content. Search engines like Google support large
• disoriented users often have no sense of the scope       Web site design by enabling developers to include a
    and extent of the information system and much of       local Google search as a page element.
    the information is concealed from them;
• disoriented users cannot search and browse
    purposefully and can end up wandering aimlessly;
• disoriented users spend much of their time on tasks
    which have little learning prospect.

A number of strategies are available to the Web
developer to aid the user‘s orientation within a Web

a. Placement cues
In linear sequences, the use of bars or graphs can be      Fig 9 Search Option
used to indicate the distance and placement of the         A Home Page with a search option enables users to
learner within an information system or document.          discover pages within the local Web site through
                                                           keyword searches.

Information Organisation                                                                                         4
4. Copyright                                                   separate from the copyright in the films, music and
                                                               other material which they broadcast; and
Copyright is a form of legal protection for people who     •   published editions: publishers have copyright in
express ideas and information in certain forms. The            their typographical arrangements, which is separate
most common forms are: writing, visual images, music           from the copyright in works reproduced in the
and moving images.                                             edition (such as poems or illustrations or music).

                                                           There are a lot of materials not protected by copyright
In Australia, there are a number of important aspects to
                                                           in Australia, but these may have other forms of
our copyright rules and regulations:
                                                           protection. For example:
• Copyright protection is free and applies
                                                           • Names, titles and slogans are not copyright
   automatically when material is created.
                                                               protected but often have Trade Mark protection eg.
• There is no registration system in Australia under
                                                               Coca Cola, Nike, McDonalds;
   the Australian Copyright Act.
                                                           • People themselves are not protected. Someone can
• Copyright applies only to specific categories of
                                                               take your photograph and reproduce it without
                                                               breaching copyright. Copyright prevents others
• Copyright does not protect ideas, information,
                                                               from using existing photographs without
   styles or techniques.
                                                               permission but not new photographs. There are
• Copyright doesn‘t last forever.
                                                               however privacy laws that work in these instances.
• There are no general exemptions from copyright
   law for non-profit organisations or for personal use.

One important issue about copyright that needs to be
understood is that copyright only protects the materials
themselves and not the ideas they contain. For
example, a person breaches copyright when he or she
reproduces using a photocopier or scanner or camera a
musical score. Copyright is not breached if the musical
score if reproduced by a hand copy. The reason is that
be handcopying, the music, the actual copy has not         Fig 9 Copyright
                                                           Using a computer music program to copy a musical
been violated (even though the ideas it contains have).
                                                           score does not infringe copyright. What is being copied
                                                           is not the image but the ideas.
a. Copyright Protection
                                                           b. Copyright Ownership
Copyright protects:
• textual material (―literary works‖) such as journal      Copyright is considered to last from the time the
  articles, novels, screenplays, poems, song lyrics and    material is created until 70 years after the creator‘s
  reports;                                                 death. This rule has exceptions though, and often the
• computer programs (a sub-category of ―literary           copyright is extended by new legal owners of the copy.
• compilations (another sub-category of ―literary          Copyright is usually owned by the person who has
  works‖) such as anthologies, directories and             created the materials, eg an artist, a printing company,
  databases—the selection and arrangement of               a record company, a film studio. Often however these
  material may be protected separately from the            people negotiate ownership of copyright with partners
  individual items contained in the compilation;           etc. There are some interesting exceptions to this
• artistic works such as paintings, drawings,              general rule in the following cases.
  cartoons, sculpture, craft work, photographs, maps
  and plans;                                               •   Employees. Where a work is made by an employee
• dramatic works such as choreography,                         (rather than a freelancer) as part of that person‘s
  screenplays, plays and mime pieces;                          job, the employer will usually own copyright. For
• musical works: that is, the music itself, separately         staff journalists and photo-journalists, however,
  from any lyrics or recording;                                while the employee will own most of the copyright,
• cinematograph films: the visual images and                   the employee will usually own copyright for some
  sounds in a film, video or DVD are protected                 purposes (photocopying and publication in books).
  separately from any copyright in works recorded on       •   Freelancers generally. Freelance creators will
  the film or video, such as scripts and music;                usually own copyright in what they create.
• sound recordings: the particular recording itself is         Someone who pays for the work to be made can
  protected by copyright, in addition to, for example,         generally use the work for the purposes for which it
  the music or story that is recorded;                         was created, but may not be entitled to use it for
• broadcasts: TV and radio broadcasters have a                 other purposes.
  copyright in their broadcast signals, which is           •   Freelance photographers, engravers and people
                                                               doing portraits. There are a number of rules for

Information Organisation                                                                                        5
    commissioned photographs, and which rule applies       deep linking cases before the courts that will establish
    depends on when the photo was taken, but if a          precedents in the area of Internet linking and deep
    photograph was taken on or since 30 July 1998, the     linking. Deep linking occurs when a link in a Web site
    photographer will own copyright unless the photo       is to a page deep within the Web site of another. The
    was commissioned for a private or domestic             potential problem with deep linking is that the link
    purpose. Someone who pays for the making of an         avoids the Front Page, any advertising it contains and
    engraving or portrait will usually own copyright.      any description of the page and its context.
•   Films and sound recordings. The first owner of
    copyright in a film is usually the person who          Copyright law surrounding Web linking is not definite
    arranges for it to be made, or the person who paid     yet and linking is not specifically stated within the
    for it to be made. The first owner of copyright in a   Copyright Act. Some court litigation in the area in the
    sound recording is usually the person who paid for     United States is beginning to develop precedents that
    the recording to be made.                              suggest deep linking can be seen as a violation of
•   A State, Territory or Federal Government will          copyright. One big problem is that if the site is a
    usually own copyright in material created, or first    commercial site, deep linking can create costs as well
    published by it or under its direction or control.     as denying the provider of legitimate income because
                                                           the advertising material and hit counters have been
c. Infringing Copyright                                    passed over.

There are many ways to infringe copyright and to be        The majority of sites on the Internet carry copyright
liable for prosecution. Some infringements don‘t even      and usage statements outlining what forms of use are
involve copying. For example, copyright is infringed       permitted. Such statements are usually contained
when someone:                                              within the site through a link in the footer of the Web
• Imports copyright materials eg. bringing home            page labeled ‗terms and conditions‘, ‗copyright‘ or
    cheap (and copied) DVDs from overseas;                 similar. Generally speaking, permission should be
• Making, selling or renting devices that are used to      sought to deep link in to the content of an external
    hack, crack or mod chip. The law makes it illegal      website.
    for people to act in ways that can lead to
    circumventing the digital protection on electronic     (ii) Framing
    materials eg. MP3s, CDs etc. (a mod chip is a piece    The use of frames enables a developer to create a Web
    of hardware used to circumvent the protection of       page with a number of separate windows with a
    the digital source).                                   different page displayed within a frame. When frames
                                                           are used, it can give a user the impression the material
Copyright protects only one aspect of intellectual         contained within the frames originates from the host
property. Other protections exist though:                  site. When this is the case, the page can contravene the
• Trademarks; names and symbols registered for             Copyright Act.
   trade and commercial purposes
• Design laws; laws that protect basic design issues       Framing of pages and other sites can also be seen as a
   eg. the shape of the Porsche 911;                       violation of Moral Rights law as it can lead to false
• Confidential information; it is illegal to copy and      attribution of ownership of the materials. When a page
   deal wit confidential information usually through       opens in a frame, the impression that is given is that
   privacy law,                                            owner of the frame is the owner of all the content being
• Patents; patents protect ideas to protect them from      displayed, which is often not the case. It is important
   being copied. Patents must be registered for the        to ensure clarity of ownership in the materials between
   protection to be afforded.                              the two sites. For this reason, links to other sites are
                                                           best made into new blank windows.
Copyright is an international issue and Australian
copyright is recognised in most overseas countries (and
Australia recognises the copyright of materials from
most overseas countries).

d. Copyright and the Web

The Web is one form of intellectual property and the
copyright rules apply to the Web and the underlying
materials as it does to others. One grey area of Web
copyright activity that is currently a copyright issue
relates to linking.
                                                           Fig 10 Frames
(i) Linking                                                External pages opening in a frame can give the wrong
Currently, particularly within the US, there are several   impression as to whom they belong.

Information Organisation                                                                                        6
Links of Interest                                       Information Organisation: Revision
Suggestions for how to organise content on your
website.                                                1. Describe the three strategies that can be used for                    organising information in a hypermedia setting.

Guidelines from human-computer interface design         2. What do you think would be the best strategy to
research                                                   organise information for an online learning course?
summary.htm                                             3. What do you think would be the best strategy for
                                                           organising the information contained in an online
Tips on designing accessible navigation.                   library?
y_no1.htm                                               4. Describe three strategies that can be used in Web
                                                           page design to aid the navigation of the user.
Information on navigational elements so as to reach a
balance between aesthetics and functionality.           5. Describe three strategies that can be used in Web                            site design to assist the user to orient him/herself
                                                           within a Web site. .
Explores Website Architecture - Website Navigation        6. In a Web site, is a site map a navigation aid or an
                                                           orientation aid? Explain your answer.
Tips on web-site navigation.         7. Describe the concept of copyright and to what it
navigation.shtml                                           applies?

Ideas on how to navigate your website and not loose     8. If a person uses a logo from a Web site he has
your audience.                                             found on the Web, is he/she infringing copyright?         Explain your answer
                                                        9. What is meant by the term deep-linking in Web site
12 Website Design Decisions Your Business or               design? How can deep-linking contravene
Organization Will Need to Make                             copyright?
                                                        10. Why should frames be used with care when linking
A visual and useful document showing the process of         to external Web sites?
redesigning a website for a digital magazine.

A useful website with numerous links to understanding
Information Architecture of websites.

A website helping designers understand what design
practices are currently in use on the Web and
commonly-employed design practices.

What is copyright?

Australian Copyright Council's Online Information

Frames are a picnic – a basic step-by-step guide to
understanding frames in web design.

Information Organisation                                                                                        7

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