Category Archives: Information architecture

Information Architecture topics address organizing large amounts of data, navigation, labelling & search.

Designing and Developing the NAV I/O Client


Satellite communication test engineers need a NAV I/O (Navigational Input/Output system) to monitor large quantities of data, in real-time, from multiple sources such as; ship antennas, shore antennas, a ship simulation roll tower and communication terminals on both ship and shore.  The challenge is to present this information to the test engineers in a way it could be easily viewed and recorded.


Realtime Microsystems built a brand new system with the following aspects:

Paper Prototype

Paper Prototype

Modular Client/Server Design: Client/Server architecture that separates the data from the presentation and allows the GUI to be updated without changing any of the hardware or software on the server sub-system.

Interactive Graphic User Interface: The client sub-system runs on standard PC and Windows environment user interface.  The users are all currently familiar with this computing environment.  The NAV I/O users will be able to control the display and recording of the data through this window.

Operating Systems: The server used the Microsoft Windows CE Operating System which allows the software to be developed in languages C++ and Visual Basic rather than obscure real-time languages.

Software: A structured software engineering process was followed and clear documentation provided.  The software was developed using Microsoft  C++ and Visual Basic.

Hardware: The new NAV I/O would maximize the use of commercially off the shelf (COTS) components which would lower up front engineering cost and ensure replacement parts be available in a reasonable time frame at a reasonable price.

Ellen was responsible for all project phases of the client software such as requirements, test plan, design, test procedures and the user’s guide.    Paper prototypes were used early in the project lifecycle.


The NAV I/O  software displays Antenna and Roll Tower Angles & Attitudes via analog display, digital display, recorded data.

NAV I/O Screen

NAV I/O Screen

Satellite engineers can control many display and recording intervals, modes & more.  Graphical display tools used: Gauges, Stripcharts (roll tower angle plotted over time).  Status Bar shows what’s on & off.

save screen

save screen


Ordering Items in a List

Here’s a list of common ordering schemes:

Task order
Numerical (font size)
De facto standard
Legal order
Complexity (simple to hard)
Semantic similarity
First-in, first out

I just found this list in an IXDA post by Chauncey Wilson’s which cites Deborah Mayhew’s book “Principles and Guidelines in Software User Interface Design“.

Labeling Consistently

Designing consistent labels will take you a long way in creating a consistent user experience. There’s more to consistent labels than visual presentation factors like fonts, colors and white space. Syntax is a key issue to consider. Here’s a list of some types of label syntax from Morville & Rosenfeld’s awesome book, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web:

1. Verb-based labels – “grooming your dog”

2. Noun-based labels – “diets for dogs”

3. Question-based labels – “how do you paper-train your dog”

Morville and Rosenfeld recommend choosing a single syntactical approach and sticking with it.

In addition to using consistent syntax, consider these areas when creating consistent lables: Style, Presentation,  Granularity, Comprehensiveness and audience.

Monitoring Business at a Glance

A business dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more goals.  The information is arranged on one screen (or in a related set of screens) so it can be monitored at a glance.

Colorful Dashboard

This one’s really cool to look at,  but it takes up lots of screen space and it could be using graphics that get its point across faster.

Dashboard with Sparklines and Bullet Graphs
Dashboard with Sparklines and Bullet Graphs

Here’s an example of a dashboard that can adapt itself easily to mobile access: