Restaurants have been around a long time and seem to have figured out a few things about information design. I say this because just this week I've been involved in two projects in which restaurants set a good example.

The first was working on a comparison tool for financial products, such as credit cards and bank accounts. I noticed that many bank websites let visitors compare features of their credit cards. Both CIBC and TD Canada Trust have reasonably helpful tools that let you line up and compare two or more credit cards.

But what is more apparent in the TD Canada example is unnecessary repetition in the lists; the same feature may be listed under four different cards. Restaurants do a much better job of this by stating up front, "All entrees come with fries, garlic mayo, and salad." Banks could save space and highlight differences by noting, "All credit cards come with cheque cashing privileges, 24-hour ATM access, etc").

The other project I'm working on in which restaurants set a good example is a corporate intranet. It's almost a given that when intranets have grown organically, department pages are a mix of information that needs to be communicated across the organization and information that is only relevant to people within the department. Imagine going into a restaurant and getting a menu that included food you could order all mixed up with the restaurant's produce delivery schedule and the cleaning and staff schedules.

Simply separating out corporate communication from internal department information is a great start to making your department page easier to use. You could also say that restaurants give you menus to let you browse and have servers to act as search engines if you want to ask for something you don't see. But maybe that's taking things too far.

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