I recently was in a conversation with a client who was not convinced that hiring an Information Architect will be any different from hiring an User Experience Designer. During the conversation, I came to realize how everyone tries to simplify all the sophisticated definitions around us. Web design is constantly expanding into much broader & complicated field. The ‘Oh building websites!’ attracts stares from the pros these days. If you are creating an app or a website for your next brilliant idea, you must definitely know the difference between Information Architecture and User Experience Design. I can tell that it won’t hurt knowing the difference.
IAs and UXDs both work towards the same goal of maximizing the user quality of engagement, but they are used in different stages of the design process and are driven by completely different motives. The process starts with IA communicating with the Business Analyst to establish the website or application business objective. After IA gets the idea of what the client needs, wireframes are the next deliverables.
Wireframes, as the name itself spells out, is boring & nothing which would get the client excited about. This is where UXD steps in, UXD along with a team of web developers make the wireframes come to life. From colors, icons, designs to everything else which will make the wireframes look like a final product.
If you are still scratching your head, this analogy might help. If IA and UX were in automotive industry, they would be on an assembly line, assembling the parts of the car, the customer wants. IA would chalk out the size of the doors, windows etc while UXD would pick what material, colors & patterns to use.
The groundwork is laid out by the IA, by considering the context as well the content. IA must ensure that the system designed must be appropriate for the intended purpose. Doesn’t matter how much the wireframes sounds and looks boring, they connect, conceptualize the idea into a seamless flow of information that an user might engage with.
Once the ground work is done, the User Experience Designer adds his flair and style to the wireframes. The structures & lines come to life as the UXD finesses the IA’s work. UXDs use design principles and translates the incoherent structures into a visual system, that is attractive & an easy to use interface.
The confusion between these two job roles is because the skills & responsibilities involved are quite similar. That lands them in a broad category of ‘web design’. This usually happens in small scale operations at large organizations. Even though UXDs can deliver what IAs can, but it is advisable to have highly specialized IAs & UXDs in the team.
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