Menu IA tools

27 Nov 2008 - 4:59am
7 years ago
5 replies
370 reads
Mike Padgett

Well, I'd be interested to hear the opinion of others since I'm doing the
same thing as you right now and sometimes I wonder if there's a better way
to do it. I was thinking about writing something on this for my site but
I'll tell you the story here.

It's important to remember that navigation is not the same as a content
structure because the former often looks different to the latter. I have
about 2000 units of content to remodel and since this is a policy/publishing
environment, the decisionmaking process is especially involved! Firstly we
hammered out labels for the new themes and categories to be used using a
card sorting exercise. One task after that has been to migrate existing
content over to the new structure, which sounds similar to what you're

We had some page crawler software (no idea what that was, sorry) create an
Excel spreadsheet which I converted to a flat XML file. Using a web page
interface that I wrote (it uses a Javascript library to enable drag-and-drop
functionality), I drag and drop each unit into the correct section and flag
it with a fixed set of options including things like [REDISTRIBUTE],
[DELETE], [DISCUSS]. Then I sort the results to create a report which can be
put in front of the business.



-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at
[mailto:discuss-bounces at] On Behalf Of Alinta
Sent: 27 November 2008 03:19
To: IxDA
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Menu IA tools

I'm wondering what tools people use to create large scale menu structures.
For instance, if you were asked to work with a hierarchical menu for a 10000
page site, how would you manipulate the menu?

Currently, I use Word's outlining feature, which lets me see structure
easily, expand and contract categories, promote and demote, and so on. I use
a style called "Note" to write notes to myself about a particular section or
item, which I can later delete or keep to show in the documentation later.

To create pages I either type them in myself (sigh) or (brightens!) import
them after creating a sitemap list with a spider or client sitemap.

Does anyone have something better? I've seen people working in Excel but I
find that clunky. Axure has a sitemapping tool which seems to be more about
linking to pages inside Axure, ditto Visio. Intuitect has something but I'm
not familiar with it, and it seemed when I looked at the demo that you
couldn't export it out afterwards or import pages in, forcing you to create
each one yourself.

Alinta Thornton
User Experience Lead

independent digital media
web publishing | marketing+technology services | publisher solutions
Westside, Level 2 Suite C, 83 O'Riordan Street, Alexandria NSW Australia
PO Box 7160, Alexandria, NSW 2015


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30 Nov 2008 - 3:21pm
Paul Eisen

For large volumes of content I prefer to use Excel, indenting the
children of each node by a column, and using the group feature to
expand or contract branches. It's not the easiest thing to build or
maintain, but it's the best thing I've found for keeping the
structure organized and presenting it at varying levels of
granularity. Although frankly in that regard I'm not sure if it's
any better than the outline feature of Word.

This is a great question...hoping others have found some techniques
or software that makes this task easier.


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30 Nov 2008 - 5:56pm

Why, pray tell, do people think that a hierarchical organization is
appropriate for some 10,000 items.

Would something search, or at least tag, based be better?

I realize this isn't what the thread is about, but I think it is
linked. Clearly, if you have trouble creating a hierarchical list is
word, it might not be the best choice in your menu either.


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30 Nov 2008 - 9:10pm

I have to agree with you. Just look at the numbers and you realize that,
evenly distributed with 10 items per tier in the hierarchy with all items at
the 4th tier means 5 clicks to get to a detail screen (huge assumption
there), with cognitive load at every level to determine under which sub
category an item might be classified, assuming only 1, introduce
poly-hierarchy, and you make it almost completely impossible to find any one
item in the hierarchy. This is a least optimum solution bordering on an
NP-complete cognitive computational problem.
Better - in fact, best base is to introduce faceted navigation (with strong,
complete metadata) which in the case of a catalog of 10,000 items, many
users could combine search + faceted navigation and (according to my
extensive experience), find a single item in less than 3 clicks, with a
significant reduction in cognitive load. Look into search+faceted navigation
research, then look at implementations of engines like solr and endeca.

my 2 cents (having designed solutions using solr and endeca as well as
creating/designing 2 custom ones:, and

- W

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1 Dec 2008 - 10:59am
Paul Eisen

I agree strongly with the catalog- or directory-based faceted
navigation; I've also used it with success in the past few years.
However, I don't think that negates a hierarchy. Depending on their
permanence, the records or content in the directory can be treated as
children of the directory and shown explicitly through the
breadcrumbs.This assigns them an unambiguous place in the information


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