Saturday was World IA Day both here in NYC and around the world. World IA Day is a day set aside for all of us to have a global conversation about Information Architecture, and this year’s theme focused on discussing the “Architecture” part of Information Architecture. It would be an understatement to say that the team who organized WIAD NYC did an amazing job. Instead you could say they put together one of the best conversational and educational days that I have been a part of! So before I get into this post, I’d like to thank them for stirring something within me. That something is the resurgence of Information Architecture in my career. You, WIAD organizers, have done a great job bringing me back to my roots, and for that I am grateful.
For the past several years, IA has taken a back seat in my career. It is not the discipline of IA that has taken a back seat for that is something that I still carry with me and something that I heavily practice (for example, every problem I solve is through the lens of users, context and content). It is the term IA that I have lost sight of. Instead, I have been focused on and tied myself solely to, User Experience or UX. UX is what I advocate for, it’s what I DO. And let’s be honest, as a consultant, it’s a buzzword that has gotten much more attention than IA. It’s glamorous, everyone is talking about it, and everyone wants a UX Designer. Therefore, I thought that calling myself an IA, well that would just be bad for business.
It’s a game of semantics, but UX and IA are two different, although related things. When asked by fellow WIAD attendee Nathan Gao what I thought the difference between the two were I responded “Well, IA is what defines and creates the construct, and UX is what occurs when someone moves through that construct.”. It was at this moment that it hit me. I may design for great user experiences, but I do that from an architect’s point of view. It is through the architecture of information that I set businesses up to be able to facilitate great user experience with their customers. How had I lost sight of that?
By focusing in solely on UX as a discipline and not as a result of disciplines working together, I haven’t seen the “forest through the trees”. UX, when defined as a discipline is so broad that without having a focus within it, I was starting to become confused and diluted in my own thinking. I asked myself questions like “Should I call myself a user researcher, a UI designer, a strategist?”… and so it goes. And, forget thinking about my future, and where that was headed! That was impossible to do when I didn’t have a clear view of my present.
Thus, I have been fighting this fight of defining what UX is and is not (a definition that hasn’t changed for me btw) for so long, that I have lost the focus of the discipline through which I facilitate great User Experiences, the discipline of Information Architecture. Being reminded of my IA roots, has helped to clear this perspective for me.
How did being reminded of my IA past help me to clarify who and what I am as a professional? The speakers there (both on the stage and in the crowd), helped me to reflect on what I really love about being a part of the UX Umbrella. Of course I love helping to facilitate great experiences for users, but I don’t so much enjoy doing that through designing interface, nor researching users. I enjoy understanding and creating a common language for a company and/or project and watching that language generate the structure of an experience. I enjoy defining the Whats and Whys and not the Hows. I enjoy making things good, not just making good things, and Information Architecture is the lens through which I do these tasks.
So that is what you will be seeing a lot more of here. I will be writing and talking much more for an architecture, and information architecture lens as opposed to solely speaking from a UX point of view. By owning this lens more, I’m assuming that my posts and thoughts will take a different turn, which may confuse some, and may help others, but it is something I need to explore, and vet, in order to find out more about how I can help make products, services and companies even better.
Hopefully you’ll join me for this ride. Because it is from you that I have learned more about my successes, my flaws, my interests and my abilities, and by having you here along the journey, we can all become “more good”.
Thank you, again, to the peeps at WIAD for helping to remember who I am, why I do what I do, and how I can do that better. Onward and upward!