In the digital world, and in a number of digital agencies today, the term
Information Architecture is being replaced with that of User Experience
consultant or expert. Despite the change in title, the work required to be done is
primarily the same but with one key difference – that being that the site/intranet
/application etc. being developed is designed from the users point of view i.e.
how we expect the user to interact with the product. In traditional IT software
development, the term Information Architect is still commonly used whereas in
digital agencies, and those focusing on the web, User Experience is now much
However, even a piece of software should be developed with the user in mind.
In fact, I believe this should be the case with any “product” – even a poorly
designed parking meter can have a big impact on a user and their impression of
In the early days of the internet, it seemed that every company that existed
wanted to have an online presence irrelevant of what their customers/users
wanted. As such, many organisations put up “brochureware” sites that did
nothing more than act as a marketing tool. As the internet has evolved, and
usage increased, customers are demanding that more be made available online –
and companies are responding.
This is where the user experience and architecture of your offering comes into
play. No longer are we pushing static content out to our customers – we are
inviting them to come and interact with us, in an online environment. Come and
do your shopping, come and play games, come and do your banking. By inviting
customers to come to our sites, we’re asking them not only to engage with our
brand but also to experience the brand, and therefore as a business, we need to
ensure this experience meets their expectations and needs – and indeed, that it
meets the expectations of internal stakeholders as a result.
Defining and understanding your customers/users needs, is key in information
architecture. You have to know what information your user needs and when.
This helps in defining the structure (architecture) of the information that you’re
providing to the user. You also need to know the “how” though i.e. how are you
going to provide the information in the best way possible, and this is where you
have to be more focused on the “user experience”.
I suspect that the need to have an informational structure and also present this
to the user in an engaging and usable way, is what has resulted in the terms
Information Architecture and User Experience being used interchangeably,
although they are actually slightly separate functions. Whether you are an IA
or UX by title though, I think its fair to say that you actually need to do both
functions to be sure the product or solution meets the end users needs… but I’d
be interested to hear what others have to say…