Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

Fragmented Practice: Creating and Maintaining Information-Rich Websites in SMEs

Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

Fragmented Practice: Creating and Maintaining Information-Rich Websites in SMEs

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In enterprises of all sizes, the organisation of online information and other aspects of website design are critical activities in creating an effective website. Designing and implementing optimal Web information structures support various enterprise goals and contribute to organisational success. Scholars such as Carree, van Stel, Thurik and Wennekers (2002) and Howcroft (2001) suggest that the development of the Internet and its pervasiveness in society provides an opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to flourish and to overcome, to some extent, the economies of scale that favour the larger enterprise. SMEs accommodate 69% of the Australian workforce and are situated in an ever-expanding digital economy (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2014). The attitudes and the capabilities of SMEs for online participation are crucial to a robust Australian economy.

However, the size and structure of an organisation can make website design, development and maintenance a challenging task. Lack of staff time and expertise, as well as infrastructure costs, may mean that many SMEs cannot approach Web design and development strategies in the same way as large organisations (Burgess, 2011a). In Australia, just 14% of SMEs report that they are fully engaged in the opportunities of online business (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2014).

This study was designed to examine the practice of information architecture (IA) in SMEs, within the overall endeavour of creating and maintaining an information-rich website. In a prior article that draws from this research data, Burford and Given (2013, p. 45) established that "the expertise of the professional information architect was not an ingredient in the creation of information structures for the websites of the studied SMEs". They concluded that "whilst the methodologies and profession of Web IA continue to develop and mature, they do not appear to be recognised and adopted in SMEs" (p. 47). Following these findings, this article draws attention to all of the contextual activity that surrounds the construction of an information-rich website in SMEs. The processes and practices that are revealed illuminate the complex relationship between IA and overall Web design, production and management in these particular organisational contexts.

THE LITERATURE

The importance of effective Web information structures to organisations has been recognised for almost two decades (Rosenfeld & Morville, 1998). Evernden and Evernden (2003) stressed the need for organisations to explicitly recognise that IA requires expertise and direct investment. In a large organisational context, Morville and Rosenfeld (2006) acknowledged the importance of the business circumstances in the practice of successful IA, and recommended the alignment of business goals, culture and resources with content and users. Orna (2005) suggested that those organisations in which information is more fully treated as an asset, are those in which the practice of IA is more likely to thrive.

Texts such as Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (Morville & Rosenfeld, 2006) have dispensed wisdom gained from extensive practical experience, and prove excellent detailed guides for practice. Morville and Rosenfeld (2006) invited the deconstruction of an IA into four systems. Organisational, labelling, navigation and search systems provide the building blocks of the IA of a website. Organising information includes adopting the most appropriate scheme or combination of schemes such as topic, task or audience, and selecting a suitable structure such as a taxonomy. Labelling systems aim to use the most understandable language to represent information on a website, and navigational systems provide global, local and embedded means to browse within the website. Search systems allow the user to find information based on keywords or queries, rather than browsing. …

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