An IA designer, a UI designer and a UX designer walk into a bar. The bartender asks them what they do for a living. Twenty minutes later, he just smiles and pours them a drink, still not sure of what they said.
These three roles in digital product design get confused all the time. To add to the bewilderment, in most cases a single designer might wear the hats of all three, but that doesn’t mean all three aren’t important. Good IA, UI, and UX can mean the difference between a viral hit and a complete flop.
Information architecture: the bones
Amazeballs digital products all start with information architecture (IA), so let’s cover this first. Whether it’s a mobile app, a website or even a video, IA is where it begins. The Nielsen Norman Group defines information architecture as “the underlying organization, structure and nomenclature that define the relationships between a site’s content/functionality.” Clear as mud, right?
Basically, IA is the half-art-half-science process of deciding how the content of a digital project will be organized and labeled. Great IA comes from having a profound understanding of the project itself and its intended audience. An IA designer is tasked with organizing and labeling all of the content in a way that a customer can locate and access it easily.