IA vs UxD (a definition)

Is it just me or do lots of people confuse what Information Architecture is and how it relates to other disciplines in web and application design? In particular, how it relates to Interaction Design.
I found the misunderstanding so common that I was starting to wonder if it was me with the problem?! Had I simplified it too much?

Happily, today I happened upon someone far more authoratative than myself who has set down the following definition (which, thankfully, I wholeheartedly agree with).

IA means defining information structures to answer the question “how does a user find the information they want?” Thus navigation links for a big corporate Web site reflect IA: where can I find directions to the company’s main headquarters? When you talk about content, page hierarchy, and taxonomy, you probably have an IA problem.

On the other hand, IxD means defining system behaviors to answer the question “how does a user take the action they want?” Thus the pulldowns, buttons, and checkboxes in a Web email application reflect IxD: what must I do to reply to the sender of this email? When you talk about action, controls, and dynamic elements, you probably have in IxD problem. Some problems include both components: consider how Amazon includes both large amounts of static content and some very complex dynamic behaviors.

(thank you Jonathan Korman)

How’s that work for you?

I’ll be using it elsewhere, I can tell you that now.

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4 thoughts on “IA vs UxD (a definition)

  1. I’m constantly irked by the confusion of IA and usability.

    Jonathan Korman’s definitions are pretty good, although I’d say IA isn’t just for *finding* stuff … other purposes can be served by appropriate structuring too. Things like structuring for understanding, easier re-use of information, and even structuring for actual use. All conceptual structures of course, not the expressed manifestations which IxD and ID are the masters of.

  2. hey Eric :)

    yep, i completely agree. ‘Finding stuff’ is more of a by-product of content structuring, grouping and naming/describing tasks of the information architect.

    Good pickup.

  3. […] From time to time I have the pleasure of talking to others who do Information Architecture as a part of their work. Sometimes as *all* of their work, although usually as a part. (Of course, there’s lots of debate and confusion over where Information Architecture starts and ends, but I’ve posted about that already). […]

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