Design Fundamentals – IA, UI and UX

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When you think of a ‘designer’ you are probably thinking of a graphic designer – the person who creates the visual designs. However, there are several other aspects to the design process that inform the final visuals – information architecture, user interface, and user experience. The lines are blurry between IA, UI and UX – and a bunch of other designer sub-specialties. Whether it’s one designer or a team of specialists performing these tasks, it’s helpful to understand the lingo and process to effectively communicate and structure ideas.

Here’s your Geek Speak guide to the alphabet soup of design jargon!

Information Architecture (IA)

Have you ever visited a website and couldn’t find what you’re looking for? Or conversely, you walk away from the experience thinking how smooth and efficient it was? This is in part the result of Information Architecture (IA) decisions. IA organizes, structures and labels all the content and elements on a website and determines how the pieces fit together and relate to each other. IA often employs tools like wire frames, site maps and diagrams [Look out for our upcoming post on wire frames!]. IA informs, but is not visual design.

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User Interface (UI):

User Interface (UI) design aims to make how you interact with a website or app easy (zero learning curve), efficient (no hunting around for what you need), and enjoyable (user friendly). As a general rule the user should input as little as possible to get the maximum value. Examples of UI components might be buttons, text fields, drop down menus, sliders, icons, progress bar, notifications, etc.

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User Experience (UX):

Simply put, user experience is how a person feels when interfacing with a system. How users feel about the whole experience on your website or app, how easy and efficient it is to use, and how useful and valuable they perceive it to be. UX reflects the quality of IA and UI as well as visual design.

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