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L571 CourseWork Brooks

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L571 Resources:

Syllabus

Oncourse


Assignments:

Introduce Yourself

Coursequest 1

1. Hutmate 1: Website Evaluation

2. SBA 1: Basic XHTML

3. SBA 2: Advanced XHTML

4. Project 1: LITEhouse Award Nomination

5. Hutmate 2: Awards Discussion

Coursequest 2

Hutmate 3: Webmaster Interview

Hutmate 4: Project Plan

Project 2: Teddy Bear Daycare

Coursequest 3

SBA 3: Scripting and Usability

Hutmate 7: Content Analysis

Project 3: Action Plan


L571 CourseWork Brooks

Hutmate 7: Content Analysis
Internet Movie Database
kevin e. brooks

Organization & Navigation

For as much content as IMDB has (over 400,000 titles alone plus loads of other kind of content), their website has surprisingly few problems with organization. The main page offers entertainment news, lists of newly released and soon-to-be-released movies and DVDs, navigational tabs along the top to take you to pages with more specific content, and much more. Even so, as I said initially, the site remains uncluttered and easy to navigate.

Basically, IMDB organizes its content by category (eg now playing, dvd/video, showtimes/tickets, etc.). Selecting the browse link from just beneath the tabbed navigation brings up another page with further categories. To get to actual content (ie photos of celebrities or movie posters, movie information, etc.) takes going through several layers of pages- unless you know the title or actor and do a search.

Searches & Findability

IMDB searches really work. They can search alternative titles and usually bring up a fairly lengthy list of possible titles with the most likely candidate at the top. Clicking on that title (all titles are hyperlinked as are most names) brings you to the content page about that movie or television show. From there, hyperlinked cast and crew members names can take you to their individual pages which then contain filmographies of their work along with mini-biographies. Each content page has a list of links to supplemental content along the left-hand side of the page- reviews, official websites, international theatrical release dates, etc. IMDB also offers an online forum to discuss each movie in depth. It requires you to register and login but itęs free. IMDB does have a subscription service called IMDB Pro that costs a few dollars each month but affords access to slightly different content.

Again, even though the amount of information contained in IMDB can seem daunting, IMDB does an excellent job with findability. We have talked a lot about usability in this class as it seems everyone remotely connected to web design and information architecture. But usability refers only to the fact that the website works as it should, it makes sense to the user to navigate and see whatęs there. Findability, on the other hand, has to do with whether users can actually find what they need and represents one of the more important facet of a user experience model (Morville). IMDB does a fairly good job with this- but only in the realm of searching. I could find no site map or master A-Z list of content. But, just because I could not find it, does not mean it does not exist.

The title of Steve Krugęs book Donęt make me think! says it all. But chapter 2 deals with the differences between design and actual use. Krug makes the point that people most often satisfice (ie choose the quickest, most reasonable option rather than taking time to figure out the best options). People browsing the internet or doing pointed research would rather guess than spend time formulating complex decision trees to find their information. IMDB seems to understand this principle at least in some fashion but the central content they offer- information about movies- resides behind layers of categories or searches.

One of the most difficult pieces of information to find in IMDB is DVD release dates. ĜWhen will the new War of the Worlds come out on DVD?ĝ Clicking on the DVD/TV navigation tab at the top yields a modicum of results: about a weekęs worth. Going deeper to find out more future releases sends you to Amzon.comęs site of DVD Ĝfuture bestsellersĝ which is ordered in some esoteric fashion unfathomable by me. The safest bet in finding DVD release information is to go to the individual titles you are curious about and look for that information in the links on the left-hand side of the page.

Usability Feedback & The User Experience

To combat some of these problems, Keith Robinson would suggest setting up meetings with their user base and conducting surveys. Given the nature of IMDB and that users of the database do not represent a captive audience as in an office setting, IMDB cannot hope to set up meetings with users. However, IMDB compensates for this in a couple of ways.

For example, IMDB functions much like a wiki in that it encourages its users to add comments and information about movies and actors. IMDB also maintains massive discussion boards where users debate and discuss movies and actors and other topics. This compromises another facet of the user experience: credibility. IMBD staff do review content before posting and attempt to verify it but they do not always do so. I noticed in the goofs page for 2001: A Space Odyssey an error: someone had posted a mistake that said the men in the moon shuttle flying out to TMA-1 should not have been able to pour coffee in zero-g. I snorted and sent a correction reminding IMDB staff that while the moon has less gravity than Earth, it still has enough to allow the pouring of coffee. Within two weeks, the fallacious comment had been stricken. In other words, IMDB pays attention to what its users say about the site and whether they can find anything. Nevertheless, while most IMDB content represents authoritative information, users must be wary. Caveat usor.

Conclusion

Internet Movie Database does an impressive job with the amount of information it manages- with vast quantities being generated anew all the time. The problems it has with findability are more than compensated for by its top-notch search engine, categorized browsing, and the availability of IMDB staff for help.


References

Krug, Steve. 2000. Donęt make me think! A common sense approach to web usability. Indianapolis: New Riders. Excerpt from chapter 2 online at http://www.sensible.com/chapter.html

Morville, Peter. 2004. User experience design. Semantic Studios. Online at http://semanticstudios.com/publications/semantics/000029.php

Robinson, Keith. 2002. Gorilla usability. Online at http://evolt.org/trackback/51076


created by: kevin e. brooks
date: 2 September 2005
email: kbrooks2@bsu.edu

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