Information architecture: what do all these electronic gizmos do?

Arduino information architecture analysis

Summary

“Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for anyone making interactive projects.”

That’s what the home page says, and it’s probably true for engineers. A good start for everyone else would be to make the Arduino web site “easier-to-use.”

It’s not easy to understand exactly what Arduino is, and what a person could do with these products. But, those are the first questions that will come to a first-time visitor’s mind.

This short study looks at those first questions in hte mind of a visitor, and what might happen when they dive deeper to answer them.

 

What exactly is an Arduino?

It takes a little work to find out. You have to click down two levels from the home page or the FAQ section to read your first explanation.

That’s one of the problems throughout the site: it takes a bit of work to find out what each thingamajig, gizmo, widget, or doohickey does.

site map
The Arduino site blueprint with notations, drawn by Paul Mirocha to evaluate the different parts of the site’s information structure.

The visual design of Arduino.com is beautiful, but complicated to navigate. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform. As such, it has a large, ever growing community developing new hardware boards and software to run them. They want to communicate that anyone can learn to use Arduino to create anything they can think of. But the usability of the site itself does not reflect this important goal.

Besides the enormity of the task of organizing all of this content, the open-source framework means that many people are working on the site, probably developers, each with their own way of categorizing things. this creates design inconsistencies.

In addition, the site looks like it’s grown beyond its original organizational structure. Because the site is so deep, it’s easy to get lost down there. Perhaps the original design didn’t anticipate this growth. A more horizontal, broad navigation structure might have helped a large site like this.

Subsites seceding from the site

Large sites like Arduino that have many contributors belonging to different groups often evolve into a collection of subsites. This pattern can cause confusion when the global navigation dissapears, losing connection to the main site. The deeper they go, the more lost a visitor gets.

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