What's the different between Information Architecture and Interaction Design?
As IA is short for for Information Architecture, what's the most common acronym for Interaction Design?
Thank you guys.
That's a difficult and dangerous question :-) But a good one too. As a
starting point for discussion, here are the definitions of IA we use in the
3rd edition of the polar bear book:
* The structural design of shared information environments.
* The combination of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems
in web sites and intranets.
* The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to
support usability and findability.
* An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing
principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.
President, Semantic Studios
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Sent: Friday, November 03, 2006 4:59 AM
To: ixda list
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Information Architecture or Interaction Design
What's the different between Information Architecture and Interaction
First the organizational answers:
IA Institute: http://iainstitute.org/pg/about_us.php
Interaction Design is abbreviated in this community as IxD
At Ideo it is IAD
At R/GA it is simply ID
Why add a letter? (or not?) ID in many situations means
Industrial Design (as in the case of Ideo)
Ok, to the meaty part of the puzzle:
Now the reality is that these are just names and in every context the
practice of IA or IxD can be the same or widely different.
In the advertising/interactive marketing agency IA and IxD are often just
synonyms depending on how that agency wants to be perceived.
But the choice of the term in all settings is just that, perception.
"Are we creating/managing/curating/consuming/structuring information?" - IA
"Are we designing the behavior of a system that a human will interact with
in a single context?" - IxD
Now IA can do the 2nd thing and IxD can do the first thing. But it is a
question of focus and to some extent expertise.
Since in practice IA and IxD are so flexibly used, it is hard to say as a
discipline where one begins and the other emerges and some would say that
the distinctions are really not worth the trouble.
I think of this quite differently as many people in both communities have
listened to me wax on and on about this.
These are disciplines distinct by their core focuses, and to some extent
IA's focus is on information structure for the purpose of consumption. It's
core influence is from information design (Wurman) and library science.
IxD's focus is on complex behaviors of products and systems where
information may be but one element of data transfer. Some have said that IxD
is about facilitating behaviors between two or more humans, but to me that
isn't quite right. It's influences are from HCI (Cog Psy & Comp Sci),
Product/Industrial Design (Moggridge), and general design practice.
But I would say to Antoinette, that the answer needs to really come from
your context as the User Experience (UX) Community has made an implicit
decision to not focus on separation and definition and rather look at our
contexts of practice. Most discussions about defining and differentiating
any of the UX fields from one another usually ends up in a rant around "this
is my space; and you keep away" -- thus very unhelpful.
I hope this at least gives you some guidance towards thinking about this
I always felt, at least in the early days of the web, it was all the
same thing... Maybe WE knew it wasn't but the people with budgets had
read some Jakob or Krug and were like "We need to get us some of those
It was common to see sort of a generic "usability, research, taxonomy,
prototyping, duct taping" machine that did all... Especially in the
agency space... Probably not so much for application development shops
who were more likely to have specialists.
I think later on, as it become more important to build usable products,
we see more specialization and IA seemed to be more about labeling,
navigation, taxonomy, site maps, content inventory etc. where as
Interaction design was more about how humans (or really smart animals
with web access) interact with an interface.
These days we have people just working on taxonomy all day (well I guess
there always was, but now it's even more common at smaller shops) and
people just working on "what happens if you push the red button" all
Just personally, I really liked those jack-of-all-trade days and don't
really mind if someone says "Oh you're an IA" when actually my work is
more centered around ID. Heck, considering the road it's been, I'm just
glad so many of us are working :)
User Experience Manager | Product Design
Factiva, a Dow Jones Company
I think we can imagine these as two circle which overlap.
Information Architecture in my view deals with:
1. Defining What information is relevant and must be a part of
solution (Content Strategy)
2. Making sense of this information (Meta data etc)
3. Organizing Information so it makes sense to users (Navigation etc.)
4. Vocabulary - What language should this e shared with users
Interaction Design in my view is about:
Defining how users will access the information - for e.g. should it be
a tabbed navigation, v/s left navigation, or flyout menus etc..
Similarly how they would conduct a transaction - so for e.g. we want
to allow users to print a word document, Interaction Design would
focus define should it be an icon or right click menu or File Print or
Ctrl+P etc.. or all of these.
Now one impacts the other.. if right click menu is being defined as
interaction mechanism, what kind of menu items should these e.. and
from perspectives IA and IxD would have a view on the same. One can
also argue that category labels define the nature of interaction one
would have with the system.. or the kind of interaction one wants
impacts how information should be organized.. So circles overlap..
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
> Antoinette Monthon
> Sent: Friday, November 03, 2006 4:59 AM
> To: ixda list
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Information Architecture or Interaction Design
> What's the different between Information Architecture and Interaction
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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User Experience Management Solutions
Satyam Computer Services Ltd. - Washington DC
I think Dave's explanation pretty well covers it. A lot of it does come
down to self-branding and turf. I was recently talking to someone who
was a "UI designer" in 2000 and who had been out of this job market for
a while. Coming back into it she wasn't sure what to call herself or
what jobs to apply for.
One other potentially useful schema to look at is Jesse James Garrett's
"elements of user experience" diagram
(http://jjg.net/elements/pdf/elements.pdf) in which, at least in the
context of the Web, he associates IA with hypertext systems and IxD with
We tend to use the terms somewhat interchangeable at Extractable, where
I work, but when pressed I will associate IA work with the
information-access driven websites we build and IxD with the interactive
applications we build. On the tactical plane, projects that require IA
tend to have some form of siteamp. Projects that require IxD tend to
have task flow diagrams. Both often have wireframes. All require
understanding users/customers/people/personas and the behaviors,
motivations, tasks, and goals the wish to accomplish. All require
understanding business or institutional needs, goals, and logic. All
require strategy and design.
Hope this helps.
Director of Strategic Services, Extractable
Director of IT/Web, IA Institute
> -----Original Message-----
> In the advertising/interactive marketing agency IA and IxD
> are often just synonyms depending on how that agency wants to
> be perceived.
> But I would say to Antoinette, that the answer needs to
> really come from your context as the User Experience (UX)
> Community has made an implicit decision to not focus on
> separation and definition and rather look at our contexts of
> practice. Most discussions about defining and differentiating
> any of the UX fields from one another usually ends up in a
> rant around "this is my space; and you keep away" -- thus
> very unhelpful.
A short and pithy explanation is,
Information Architecture is a question of Space.
Where is it? Where can I find it?
Interaction Design is a question of Time.
How do I do it? What are the steps involved?
To describe any movement through a process, you really need to address
both space and time. Similarly, most user experiences have contributions
from IA and IxD that heavily overlap because they are different angles on
the same problem. Thus, the perennial confusion.
On Fri, 3 Nov 2006, Antoinette Monthon wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
> What's the different between Information Architecture and Interaction Design?
> As IA is short for for Information Architecture, what's the most common acronym for Interaction Design?
> Thank you guys.
What about User Experience? Is IxD and IA part of UX?
And Industrial Design? Is it part of IxD? Or part of UX overlapping with
Hey now, if you are going to make a taxonomy of design, we're
going to have to ask you to move over to the IA list.
Esteban Barahona wrote: [Please voluntarily trim replies to include
only relevant quoted material.] What about User Experience? Is IxD and IA
part of UX? And Industrial Design? Is it part of IxD? Or part of UX
overlapping with IxD?
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> -----Original Message-----
> What about User Experience? Is IxD and IA part of UX?
> And Industrial Design? Is it part of IxD? Or part of UX
> overlapping with
UX is an umbrella of all the disciplines and practices required to design a
product, service, solution.
IxD, Usability Research, HCI, IA, Visual Design, Information Design,
Industrial Design, Ethnographic Research, etc. all fall under that umbrella.
Some may even say Informatics and Business Analysis fall under it as well.
It is a wide umbrella with a lot of room for everyone.
Just like IxD and IA have overlap so does IndDes and IxD; and for that
matter IA and IndDes.
> What about User Experience? Is IxD and IA part of UX?
I really like Jesse James Garrett diagram of UX:
It's not complete (where is usability testing/research?) and rather web-centric but it does a great job of capturing almost everything in a nutshell.
Noor Ali-Hasan | User Experience Researcher | Microsoft TV
noorali at microsoft.com | 650.693.1925
I like to think of User Experience Design as a 3-circle Venn diagram,
where the circles represent Form, Behavior, and Content design. The
circles each intersect with each other. IxD occupies the Behavior
circle, but overlaps with the Form and Content circles to some degree.
IA occupies the Content circle, but overlaps with Form and Behavior to
some degree. And Industrial Design (and Visual Design)
occupy the Form circle, but overlap with Content and Behavior to some
degree. As others have said, there are clearly overlaps in skill sets
in these design practices; it is (IMHO) more a matter of focus and
where the depth of expertise lies.
Manager, User Experience
> Esteban Barahona wrote:
> What about User Experience? Is IxD and IA
> part of UX? And Industrial Design? Is it part of IxD? Or part of UX
> overlapping with IxD?
[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
In our work with clients they often ask the same question.
The metaphor that draws parallels between Information Architecture/
Interaction Design and real "brick and mortar" architecture seems to
work very well for them.
– Information Architecture deals more with blueprints (overall
organization, "floor pan" structure, user flows etc)
– Interaction Design has something to do with how users interact with
the "building" - how they get from one room to another (types of
doors, what doorknobs used etc).
This metaphor also accommodates the visual design aspects nicely -
i.e "bulding's" visual form should adequately reflect its internal
hope this helps,
Studio Asterisk* Inc.
GUI Strategy | User Experience | Usability | Brand
v 415 374 7478
f 702 446 7840
On Nov 3, 2006, at 7:03 AM, Bill DeRouchey wrote:
>> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
>> What's the different between Information Architecture and
>> Interaction Design?
>> As IA is short for for Information Architecture, what's the most
>> common acronym for Interaction Design?
>> Thank you guys.
On Friday 03 November 2006 13:16, David Malouf wrote:
> UX is an umbrella of all the disciplines and practices required to design a
> product, service, solution.
> IxD, Usability Research, HCI, IA, Visual Design, Information Design,
> Industrial Design, Ethnographic Research, etc. all fall under that
> umbrella. Some may even say Informatics and Business Analysis fall under it
> as well. It is a wide umbrella with a lot of room for everyone.
> Just like IxD and IA have overlap so does IndDes and IxD; and for that
> matter IA and IndDes.
I think it is important to make the point that even though all of these
disciplines are related, no one person can do it all. Its a fine line
between the argument of "this is mine" and "i can do this", however it has to
be made. No one person can be an expert in everything, and that is why we
I think the more important question is: how do we describe our individual
skills as a professional (which may focus in several disciplines) without
being enveloped in the umbrella of UX?
For example, I am an "interaction architect" -- i design information
structures for use with interactive interfaces, from label to click. Sure, I
have skills in ethnography and visual design (we probably all do), but I
would never want to be the lead in that part of the project. I hesitate to
call myself just an information architect, or just an interaction designer
because there is a lot of both disciplines I do not practice or do not know.
A little Venn diagram of where I see myself:
( IxD ( me ) IA )
I try to leave the "usability" buzz word out until the end if the person
hasn't yet gotten what I do -- it is too loaded of a word, even though it is
a primary goal in any specification or design i create.
... and I havn't even gotten to where my technical skills come in to play for
acting as a bridge between designers and developers.
I guess the point that I am trying to make is that we should be careful about
umbrella terms such as UX, *and* we should be careful about claiming a piece
of the user experience by declaring ourselves an IA, IxD, VizD, UE, whatever.
Industry, who doesn't know any better, eats stuff like that up because it
fuels them with buzz words and arms them with a way to write job
postings/proposals and filter resumes.
(in the end, I realize I really have no answers)
Celeste 'seele' Paul