The internet is well into its second wave of growth, powered by the popularity and effectiveness of search engines, the widespread adoption of broadband, burgeoning e-commerce, social networks and the like. But no Web site can succeed on the strength of Google searches alone. To keep viewers coming back, Web sites still need well-organized information and superior visual design. But how best to achieve these elusive goals?
Answering that question is the purview of information architecture: the art and science of designing Web sites to make them as usable as possible. Among the pioneers in the field is Peter Morville, president and founder of Semantic Studios, an Ann Arbor, Mich., consultancy, and author of Ambient Findability and (with Louis Rosenfeld) Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Morville received an M.S. from the University of Michigan’s School of Information, in 1993, just as the World Wide Web was getting on its feet. That led him into site design—he helped create Borders Group Inc.’s first corporate Web site—and then into his primary interest: the design of information systems.
Morville, who now serves on the faculty of Michigan’s School of Information, spends much of his time consulting and writing about the experience of Internet users. He recently spoke with Editor Edward Baker about how such Web-focused concepts as findability, credibility and authority can improve that experience. An edited version of their conversation follows: