#IAMondays Information Architecture Analysis

Messages for Japan Homepage

Website accessibility and ease of use are extremely important for authors and creators to understand. The more intuitive and easy-to-use your website is, the more successful it will be. It is valuable to consider what your website visitors are looking for in their online experience–and their needs are often based around the type of website being created. For example, the website http://www.messagesforjapan.com/  allows people to write to victims of the earthquake and tsunami that affected thousands of people. This website forms a community of understanding, hope, and relief for victims, and allows people all over the world to see how survivors are coping with their loses.

The goal of this website appears to drive its functionality. The homepage shows three columns that offer viewers a chance to see photos, read messages already written, or view the messages on a world map. This showcases the main purpose of the website up front–it is a messaged-based community that shares thoughts across the world. Each of the columns is interactive, and enlarges when hovered over. Because of the use of pictograms, it is easy to understand what each section means even if you are not extremely literate in English. There are also option along the bottom to change the language.

The “Read Messages” feed, which I was drawn to first, is constantly updating with new messages. I love that this feature shows the messages in both Japanese and English. I think it creates a more personal feel by showing the text in the language of the victims. When you click on the section it opens an interactive tree with message bubbles functioning as “leaves.” If you hover over the messages they display in Japanese and English, and some have a “From” section that allows you to see who sent the message and their country of origin. The bubbles, or leaves, also update automatically, but there is an option to refresh the entire tree when desired. The design is very functional and easy to understand. The color choices are soothing, and the leaf that allows visitors to write their own message is green rather than pink, making it stand out. Being able to sort through the messages by simply moving the cursor makes sense and seems extremely intuitive. Although this site is technologically advanced, it is not over complicated or showy.

In the photos column on the front page there are a few smaller sample photos that draw you in and make you want to see more. When you click the camera icon, the link brings you to a beautiful page filled with tags that move as you slide your mouse around. The description in the top left explains that tags with these messages were hung on trees, so the pictures on the website are displayed in a similar fashion. This creativity continues to add more connections between the Japanese people and those sending or viewing the messages. Like the messages page, you can sort through the pictures by simply moving your mouse from left to right. One of the only issues I found on this page was that the picture tags in the back row can be hard to see, but if you click on the pictures they do enlarge, and you can sort through all of the pictures easily. If I were to change anything, I would make it so that the back row of tags was visible in between the front row when the cursor is moved. I think that it what they were going for, it just didn’t work super well.

The last section I browsed through was the world map page. This page shows where in the world messages come from. I think it is fascinating and touching to see where the message of hope and support are being sent from, and I think this page does a very nice job of illustrating, with little dots, where messages are being sent. My only desire is that the color of the map was darker. It took me a long time to realize what color the ocean was and what color the continents were. This could just be my eyesight, but for people with visual disabilities this would definitely be a problem.

Overall, this website does a good job of illustrating creative design, intelligent use of space and color, and easy-to-use functions. Of course there are always places to improve, but each pages works well to grab people’s attention and help communicate the goal of the website. This is just one example of unique web design. Make sure to keep your eyes open for more functional designs and layouts as you browse the web!

Categories: #IAMondays | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “#IAMondays Information Architecture Analysis

  1. I think we could argue that any website is a chance to share thoughts across the world, except in this case the “text” allows the users to become creators. Actually, this website reminds me of a famous TED talk by Candy Chang (link here). She basically took an old abandoned house in New Orleans and created a giant writing space. She wrote the phrase “Before I die, I want to:” and let the people on the street fill in their own answers with chalk. This, to me, appears to be the same idea as Messages for Japan. It makes text interactive and allows the users, the viewers, to think and input their own ideas.
    As we’ve discussed in class, the overall “architecture” of a piece is just as important as the text in the piece. I think this website does a great job of incorporating a simple, yet also sophisticated design, with many different pieces of technology.

  2. While it is true that “any website” shares our thoughts across the world, I think it’s worth mentioning that this one is designed not only to share out thoughts, but to do so in a community fashion for the specific purpose of support. The design of the website affords quick, inspirational messages that aren’t intended for any particular person, but for the community as a whole. It constrains any attempt to personalize messages to a specific individual, or create longer messages (such as would be afforded by a wordpress blog like this one).

    A random message I clicked on simply reads “love!” and nothing else. The brevity of the message shows the purpose of this site: to allow brief, generic messages rather than long, detailed ones.

    I also think it’s worth noting that the “tree” design doesn’t seem to simply be any random tree. The layout looks like it’s meant to invoke images of cherry blossoms, which are a very significant type of tree in Japanese culture. Cherry blossoms bloom in round shapes similar to the circles that dot the website, and they “symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse, besides being an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life.” I doubt it was accidental that an image that symbolizes clouds and life was used for an internet message support community.

  3. Professor Wolff also teaches a coding class, and one thing I took away from it was how important layout was. Not only for effective and simple navigation on the site. This website is a perfect example of how one can influence the emotional impact of the site. There isn’t a lot going on, so our attention is entirely focused on what little is on the page, and all of it is meant to convey optimism. The world map and the English/Japanese translations make us more invested in the event. These are, of course, conscious decisions designed to have us make a connection. This is no accident. This is effective coding.

  4. I think this website exemplifies how, within the context of good design, digital technology can be a powerful catalyst to build relationships and bonds, and thus establish a greater sense of human connection globally.

    I thought @tomwink had an interesting point about ‘how little’ is on the homepage, which brings to mind the importance of ‘white space.’ In this case, with Japanese culture at its heart, the ‘zen’ type of aesthetic and minimalist design are effective in conveying an online identity to the user, as well as the site’s persona and intent. I was not bombarded with a visual overload of options in terms of navigation, and the way the menu options were structured into 3 vertical columns provided for a very fluid read. The slight movement that occurred when the columns were scrolled over was just enough to make the homepage have a degree of user-experience/interaction without becoming overstimulating.

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