UX is not UI, and IA is not IxD: A No-Nonsense Look at Design Terms for the Digital Age

UX is not UI, and IA is not IxD: A No-Nonsense Look at Design Terms for the Digital Age on ctp.u

All 4 design roles are key to creating a successful website or app

What does the word “design” mean to you? Not too long ago, all it meant to most people was the subject of graphic design. Our digital world has changed all that.

Design hasn’t become more complicated, but it has become more complex. It’s also created new job opportunities. Here’s a summary on four primary kinds of design to help you understand their context.

UX Design (User Experience Design)

Most design subject-matter experts agree that User Experience Design (UXD, UED or XD) is the process of strengthening user satisfaction. A designer in this field will improve the usability, accessibility, and enjoyment conveyed by the interaction between user and product.

It doesn’t have to be a website or app, but this is mostly the case. User experience design starts with traditional human–computer interaction (HCI) design. Then it continues by looking at all aspects of a product or service. The point of view is that of the user.

A UX designer is the person in charge with creating the “logic” of this interaction. Their output usually is a wireframe or a prototype. The most valuable skill of a UX designer is his or her ability to communicate.

But it’s not all about artistic abilities. A UX designer must be just as comfortable with research. They’ll look at competitive analysis so they know what others in the field are doing. They’ll conduct A/B testing after the project has launched.

The main objective is to create how the product feels to users. If an app or website is difficult to use or navigate, customers will move on. On the other hand, if they have a good experience, they’ll return again. They’ll also likely tell others.

UI Design (User Interface Design)

UX is all about the experience but UI (User Interface) is all about elements that allow users to interact. A UI expert selects the text, buttons, and colors for the task a user will accomplish.

They know they’ve succeeded when the user is able to understand and accomplish what’s being asked on their computer or app screen. Simplicity and efficiency are the two goals.

IA (Information Architecture)

Simple, pleasing elements that are laid out to be used effectively is just the start. Today’s apps and websites are huge repositories of information. And how does the visitor find it all?

Information architecture (IA) determines the way a website or app is structured. It decides how content should be organized so it can be found.

Users must find information so they can complete tasks. The architecture or “structure” of this data either helps or hinders this. We need the services of IA to help us understand where we are on a website or in an app and gain access to information such as site maps, categories, and navigation.

In this case, design isn’t relegated to just visual elements. Deciding how to divide blog posts into categories is an example of information architecture.

This type of job appeals to individuals who enjoy creating detailed documentation. They need strong communication skills and the ability to think in the way that a typical user might when coming to use the product.

IxD (Interaction Design)

This one’s a bit difficult to put into perspective. Someone who practices IxD will define the structure and behavior of an interactive system. Huh?

Think of an animation on an app or website that caught your attention. Likely it was because it helped you understand what you needed to do to successfully interact with the portal. That’s the job of IxD.

Interaction Designers take huge, complex tasks and distill them into intuitive designs. You’ll understand what you need to do as a website visitor when you see it for the first time. Often, this means transcending language.

People who do well in this position have the ability to collaborate. They’ll talk to researchers and engineers, as well as artists and marketers. It’s their job to anticipate what users will need to intuit to complete what the app or website requires.

Putting it all together

• UX = How a user feels about an app or website
• UI = What, how, and where elements work
• IA = How an app or website is organized
• IxD = How the user and the website or app act and react to each other

These four design areas are not silos. The boundaries are fluid and often overlap. This might be why some people think that UI is actually UX, or that IxD is IA, but is just another way of saying it.

Four distinct things, to be sure. But they all contribute to the same result.

If you’d like to learn more about the disciplines of digital design, or have any questions about implementing adaptive, user-friendly web content, contact Creative Technology Partners.

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