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Reasons for building a task-based information architecture

In 2014, following its own research and having examined findings from external experts and national public sector implementations, Europa Web Communication at DG Communication adopted a task-based approach to the architecture for the European Commission's web presence.

The principal reasons for adopting a task-based approach are as follows

  • it offers significant advantages for both external and internal colleagues working on content
  • it avoids making users think and potentially, hesitate
  • basing site architecture on content is more efficient as it avoids content duplication and unnecessary maintenance costs

The case for a task-based architecture is reinforced by findings from Europa Web Communication's own research and analysis on the task 'Funding, tenders' (see below) which show a very strong consistency in users' top tasks, regardless of audience grouping across criteria.

  • 'employment status'

  • 'workplace'

  • 'occupation'

  • 'country of residence'


Background

Additional reasons why DTT supported a task-based approach over an audience-based approach are outlined below.

Users find it difficult to identify clearly with pre-defined audience groupings - causing them to hesitate or be confused

  • not all users will interpret the groupings in the same way
  • some users will feel they belong to different groups
  • there may be a difference between who I think I am, and who the site or organisation thinks I am
  • my audience profile is not the reason I am on your website - having to identify as belonging to one of your possible audiences causes ‘cognitive effort and user anxiety’ - see NNG's Audience-based navigation)
  • users’ needs change between visits - depending on their current situation and task: i.e., Today, I have a question as a private citizen, tomorrow as a business owner, …
  • users may miss or ignore relevant information if it is identified as “only for a specific audience” - they may even conclude that the information they need is not available if it is not in the audience they identify with
  • users may be confused if content is identified under an audience grouping, does this mean it is FOR or ABOUT this audience?
  • users may get the feeling that they are not getting the complete information about a certain subject
  • “forcing people to self-identify creates an additional step and takes people out of their task mindset" 


Problems with audience-based approach for editors and other internal teams:

  • trouble in defining the right groupings 

  • creating duplicate and overlapping content, if the same content is needed or useful for different groups 

  • which leads to the need to create and maintain larger volumes of content, creating increased risks and reduced efficiencies in managing the content 

References

  • Why audience navigation usually doesn't work

          Gerry McGovern, 29.01.12
          http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/new-thinking/why-audience-navigation-usually- doesn%E2%80%99t-work


Contact and support

If you require further assistance, please contact:

Comm Europa Management

European Commission
DG Communication 
Unit B.3 
Europa Web Communication 

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The Europa Web Guide is the official rulebook for the European Commission's web presence, covering editorial, legal, technical, visual and contractual aspects.
All European Commission web sites must observe the rules and guidelines it contains.
Web practitioners are invited to observe its contents and keep abreast of updates. More information about the web guide.