SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: IA and Interaction Design, was: Re:
Re: IA and Interaction Design, was: Re: SIGIA-L: RE: State of the Profession
From: David Heller (dave_at_vizooal.com)
Date: Sat Jun 23 2001 - 09:57:18 EDT
I think that Samantha's breakdown of the tasks into two (IA & Inter D)
doesn't quite do it for me.
I want to refer people to Peter Morville's article entitled "Little
Architect, Big Architect", where he discusses the evolution of our position,
and how it has grown into a fuzzy definition, and then defends that
What really puts it all into perspective for me is this PDF file that Jesse
James Garnett created called "The Elements of User Experience" at
http://www.jjg.net/ia/elements.pdf. In it he makes the distinction of two
types of functions that web sites can have and thus require two types of
expertise (not people, but expertise). He separates Web as software
interface from web as hypertext system (which I call content). There are
those aspects of use experience development that cross both systems and thos
that are either for the former or for the latter only.
e.g. Software has functional specification, and a hypertext system has
The obvious breakdown is also at the next level which is Interaction Design
vs. Information Architecture, where he defines Interaction Design as the
development of application flows to facilitate user tasks defining how the
user interacts with site functionality. Whereas, Information Architecture is
the structureal design of an information space to facilitate intuitive
access to content.
Obviously there is a lot more, and his graphic and explanations go a long
way to explaining these differences very well.
I can tell you that the term IA for me has not been accurrate for me. But I
also think the term has been taken from us. Wurman thought of an IA as what
all writers & graphic designers would have to become if they were truly
interested in their work being successful, and this I still agree with. I
would say though that multimedia designers also need to be IAs too. However,
when you look at the fact that IA isn't taught in HCI programs but in
Library Science programs, there has been an evolution toward the serious IA
becoming a data modeler. In fact in my search for work lately I have seen
the term "data modeler" quite often as the first line of a description of
This is very different from the position that the agencies and consultancies
have been brewing. One where an IA facilitates requirements definition
sessions, documents requirements, and translates those requirements into
functional specification, information organizations, and finally interaction
& interface design. Everything just short of the actual visual design.
Now, in my search I also noticed that the last paragraph is more of an East
Coast definition, while on the west coast Interaction Designers work with
Interaction Design Communicators to build the above.
JJG has another interesting 1 pg. PDF at
http://www.jjg.net/ia/iadoes0700.pdf describing a survey result of what an
IA does. Its a survey of 19 agencies. I found it interesting how there is so
few tasks that are above 3/4 agreement among them.
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