The role of the TOC in a bottom-up information architecture

Is there still a place for a TOC in a bottom-up information architecture? Yes, but its role is different.

This is another in my series following up on the questions asked in my TC Dojo webinar on bottom-up information architecture.

Q: Is the TOC dead then? I’m used to structuring content based on an analysis of user tasks, presenting the product secondarily. That becomes the structure? Where do you put the topics?

A: In a very real sense, it is top-down architecture that has killed the TOC. Bottom-up architecture might actually save it, but in a different form and playing a different role. read more

FAQs are Still Useful

One of the most enduring and most maligned topic patterns in tech comm and on the Web is the FAQ. Writers and Information Architects frequently regard the FAQ as a sign of poor organization. For best and most consistent access, they argue, information should be in its proper place in the overall site or help system.

If the logic of top-down content organization worked, they would have a point. But the logic of top-down content organization generally only works for those who do the organizing, and then not always, as we can tell from the many sites, manuals, and help systems where any sense of organization peters out as soon as you get any depth into the content. read more

On the Web, Context is Vital

Supply subject area context; avoid institutional context.

In a recent blog post, On the Web, context kills, speed saves, Gerry McGovern states:

A key difference between web writing and writing for print is that on the Web you need to avoid context and instead focus on instructional, how-to, task-based content.

Since one of my seven principles of Every Page is Page One is that an EPPO topic establishes its context, this quote made me think that either Gerry McGovern had gone bonkers or he was using the word context in a very different way than I use it. Turns out that it is the latter. (Sorry if you were hoping for fight here.) I actually agree with almost everything that McGovern says (I’ll get to the part I don’t agree with a little later). In fact, I have said many of the same things before, but in a different way. read more