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My primary interest is understanding it in the context of information architecture, e.g.:

... you should group and structure information at the page level and enforce rigorous user testing.

In an information architecture, isn't every level essentially made up of pages? What does this mean?

But of course, "page level" is also used beyond IA. From previous Stack Exchange questions and answers: page-level design changes, page-level interactions, page-level blocks and elements and tasks and prototypes. Can someone shed a little light on this? Page-level as opposed to ... what other levels?

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    Where is that quote from, and at what contextual level is it provided? – Roger Attrill Jan 22 '14 at 13:37
  • It's a reference to "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" from this answer from a question about breadth and depth regarding IA. – in_flight Jan 22 '14 at 16:54
  • I extended my answer with that in mind. – Roger Attrill Jan 22 '14 at 17:40
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No, every level is not made up of pages.

The page level is one contextual level at which you can deal with content, but your information (and knowledge) hierarchy may contain levels at finer or coarser levels than the page, and may in fact not even include the page if it's not relevant to the scenario in question.

For example - the structure may include areas above the page - such as general topics, collections, knowledge bases, and other broad information domains. Or it may include sub-page areas which connect together like lego to make the page itself.

In particular with displays being so diverse in size, it's very important to think about content at the sub-page level in order to determine priority, relative location, dimensions and copy/microcopy depending on the available resources.

As Eliel Saarinen said:

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.

And that very much applies to information architecture, content strategy and many other ux disciplines.

As a consumer of information, you do typically see pages because that's how your browser or screen appears to present the information, but behind the scenes, that is not how the information is really organized. Much thought goes into content organisation and how entities are linked together.

Consider a book - a real one! It has pages, sure. But it has sections and chapters and indices and appendices and paragraphs and sentences and words and footnotes... It has an author who's written other books and a publisher who has many authors... The page-level is just one layer in that structure at which you can design for.

Finally, Lee McIvor gave an interesting talk on the art and science of UX and responsive design at UX Cambridge recently in which he said of one large project that he had learned 3 things:

enter image description here

Putting the question into context

Looking at the statement:

you should group and structure information at the page level

This has been somewhat taken out of its context - ironically!

The phrase comes from Morville & Rosenfeld's classic book 'Information Architecture for the World Wide Web' when it's talking about how not to overwhelm the user with information and how to balance depth and breadth of navigational hierarchy.

It goes on to describe the website of the National Cancer Institute (US) below, as a well tested example.

The advice is not saying that you should take the information and "structure it at the page level". It is saying that at the page level, you should group and structure the information. Period. This is in order to chunk the information into manageable amounts.

That is equivalent to the "designing small interactions" from above. Each area on the page is carefully cultured for optimal use, but you could equally well extract and re-use these small components elsewhere.

By grouping the content into separate areas, and structuring it in a sensible fashion (on each page) you make that page more easily digestible, whether it's types of cancer, resources, news, statistics, or cancer topics, finding a cancer type, etc.

i.e. At the page level, it is grouped and structured.

enter image description here

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    palm to forehead Sweet Jesus, I get it now. Especially in the Morville context, it's the difference between reading it as at the page level VS. at page level. On the whole, though, an excellent all-around explanation. Thank you for taking the time! – in_flight Jan 22 '14 at 19:04
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This means that, just as users need to be able to understand the organizational model of your website at the site-level, they need the same attention to careful design in order to process each page cognitively.

Content "chunking" is a great way to do this. Group your information into digestible information chunks. Structure it with meaningful headers and subheaders. This is where the hierarchy comes in.

  • Don't subvert the hierarchy of H1, H2, H3 leaders by re-styling them to all look equal. Use them to give visual expression to the hierarchy of information.
  • Let something "win" the contest for attention. A graphic paired with a headline, a product shot, something important should be at the top of the information hierarchy, and it should be the thing you intend it to be, based on business needs. It should also make it clear that this thing or idea is what your page is about.

To enforce page-to-page consistency, use templates that enforce these standards, so that the information hierarchy is clear on each page (because that's how people read), just as it is on your overall site navigation and structure.

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May I present the definition of page levels from a layman’s perspective. Like a family or organisational tree. You have the top most point of origin. This being the index file, the first page a web surfer encounters, your intro page. On this front page there are links that take you off to another area. Simply put the next level down the family tree. This can be to any number of 2nd level pages. Then each of these may link to further pages which by order become 3rd levels, or by using my family tree example, the next layer down. A website usually splits at each [page] level any number of times - every website is unique.

And so, in answer to your Q, every level in IA is made up of pages? There are no other types of levels. We are just over thinking it at times. All good.

Hope this helps explain.

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