UX Strategy and Planning

Paul: A few years ago, at the IA Summit, someone gave a talk about User Experience superseding or eclipsing information architecture, with the suggestion that information architecture would become less relevant or, at most, a niche profession. I’m wondering, first of all, do you know what talk I’m referring to? Second, do you think this has happened as that speaker predicted? How do you view information architecture vis-à-vis User Experience?

Peter: I absolutely know what you’re talking about—and my answer is yes and no. It may be hard to believe, especially for Millennials, but there was a time, at the beginning of this century, when information architecture was sexy. Designers, writers, librarians, and even software developers all around the world were changing the titles on their business cards to Information Architect. From my perspective, all this attention was exciting and fun, but also a bit disturbing. We were starting to worry about the dumbing down and commodification of information architecture. Fortunately, the era of Peak IA was short lived. Soon afterward, it became even more fashionable to be a UX designer. People updated their business cards, and the world moved on.

So, while it’s fair to say that user experience eclipsed information architecture, sadly, that’s creating real problems today because in no way has information architecture become less relevant. In my consulting work, I often encounter UX teams that lack the experience and expertise to tackle big information-architecture challenges. I often work with them to fix Web sites and applications that have grown into findability nightmares. Many designers are great at shaping individual user interfaces, but are unable to take the holistic ecosystem perspective that’s central to information architecture.

Paul: A few years ago, at the IA Summit, someone gave a talk about User Experience superseding or eclipsing information architecture, with the suggestion that information architecture would become less relevant or, at most, a niche profession. I’m wondering, first of all, do you know what talk I’m referring to? Second, do you think this has happened as that speaker predicted? How do you view information architecture vis-à-vis User Experience?

Peter: I absolutely know what you’re talking about—and my answer is yes and no. It may be hard to believe, especially for Millennials, but there was a time, at the beginning of this century, when information architecture was sexy. Designers, writers, librarians, and even software developers all around the world were changing the titles on their business cards to Information Architect. From my perspective, all this attention was exciting and fun, but also a bit disturbing. We were starting to worry about the dumbing down and commodification of information architecture. Fortunately, the era of Peak IA was short lived. Soon afterward, it became even more fashionable to be a UX designer. People updated their business cards, and the world moved on.

So, while it’s fair to say that user experience eclipsed information architecture, sadly, that’s creating real problems today because in no way has information architecture become less relevant. In my consulting work, I often encounter UX teams that lack the experience and expertise to tackle big information-architecture challenges. I often work with them to fix Web sites and applications that have grown into findability nightmares. Many designers are great at shaping individual user interfaces, but are unable to take the holistic ecosystem perspective that’s central to information architecture.

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