As part of graduate coursework for a class on Information Users & Services, I was charged with planning, researching, and publishing a multimedia resource guide on an educational topic of my choosing using the Springshare LibGuide software tool.
The topic I chose was Natural Disaster Preparedness, which consisted of an overview of the topic, individual profiles and educational materials on eight of the most common and potentially destructive natural disasters, and a resource page on emergency preparedness best practices.
Information & Source Verification
My initial idea was to create a resource guide on notable historical disasters, which ultimately proved to be too broad a topic and with too few reliable academic sources and too many variables to adequately do the topic justice.
After a brief visit back to the drawing board, I decided to narrow my focus primarily to covering the different major types of disasters and the disaster response and preparedness process, a topic which, as a lifelong Girl Scout, was near and dear to my heart.
Information architecture: Navigation
As I began preliminary work on the information architecture, it became apparent that I would need to further define my scope or risk creating a resource guide too complex and unwieldy to be easily accessible to users.
I decided the guide would focus solely on acute natural disasters, such as seismic or intense atmospheric events. Narrowing the scope in this way meant my guide would exclude both man-made disasters such as bridge collapses or oil spills as well as chronic, longer-term environmental conditions such as famine or global temperature increases.
Once I had sufficiently narrowed the scope, I was able to proceed, first with determining the overall content categories for the navigation tabs, and then with researching and planning what subject areas and types of content needed to be represented on each page.
In addition to the initial overview page and a concluding page featuring general disaster preparedness resources and materials, eight clear categories of natural disaster began to emerge from my research:
I had considered including blizzards and/or avalanches in the guide, but despite their capacity to cause property damage or loss of life, I chose not to include them because they are not inherently destructive or devastating in the same way a catastrophic flood or a wildfire is.
Information architecture: page Content Categories
Initially, I proceeded with the idea that the guide would ultimately require three different primary page layouts: Overview, [Natural Disaster], and Be Prepared. After further research and testing, there was enough of an overlap in content categories that it made sense to match the Overview and [Natural Disasters] page layouts wherever possible for the sake of continuity and accessibility.
I developed an initial list of potential content categories that would be useful to a user seeking this type of information and solicited feedback from my classmates via the class discussion board. Based on their feedback, I was able to finalize my general content categories and begin the process of consolidating my research and locating and developing content to populate the categories.
Content Development & Representation
In addition to the content categories, I also requested feedback from my classmates and instructor about what the most optimal page layout might be for the content categories, information, and media types I was planning to represent within the guide.
At this point in the research process, I had plans to include the following types of content:
Links to useful online resources and tools + a brief description of the function/utility of the resource or tool
Embedded YouTube videos from reputable online sources regarding natural disasters or emergency preparedness
Reading lists featuring graphics + links + ISBN numbers for relevant printed materials
Useful graphics + links
Because of the high volume of links to list, as well as the high-quality video available, a three-column page layout was determined to be one of the most optimal ways to display the content in an accessible, user-friendly way.
The narrower sidebars to the left and right were ideal for featuring lists of links and text in a compact, easy-to-skim way, while the larger central content area provided plenty of space for an embedded video or larger graphic.
Content-wise, there were a lot of reputable resources to choose from. I followed a similar development plan for each page to try to maintain a similar standard of information and a similar ratio of government agencies and tools, non-governmental entities, and relevant media sources.
Many government agencies specializing in the study of the seismic or atmospheric phenomena that can cause these disasters had a lot of great information and resources, and even online tools. Agencies specializing in disaster relief were also great sources of information, as was the National Geographic and American Red Cross websites and YouTube accounts.