Almost every design today involves organizing information, whether it’s an online policies-and-procedures library, product information, or user-generated content. Information architecture helps UXers organize that content in a way that makes it easy for users to hone in to the specific content they’re seeking. Skills include understanding methods for organizing information, such as taxonomies, folksonomies, facets. We examine the content that needs to be delivered to users. We organize information and establish content hierarchy based on the user’s conceptual model, and how the information influences the user’s thought process and behaviors.
Information Design, Data Visualization and/or Mini IA—Presenting complex information for easy interpretation is key for a successful user interface. Knowing when to use specific table or graph types and using novel approaches for exploring detailed data sets, whether it’s pricing information, product comparison tables, or trend charts, makes solid information design a core component of the design process. Skills include knowing when to apply the variety of chart and table formats, such as pie charts, hi-low diagrams, and cluster treemaps; how to create interactive data explorers, such as star fields and drill-down pivot tables; and working with combining multiple data sources, such as data-mining techniques.
Focus: How do users search, find and explore content?
Toolkit: Grouping information clusters, card sorting, content hierarchy, sitemaps, data visualization, content layout
Modern applications have moved past filling out a one-page form and pressing the submit button. Instead, they are now complex interactions, combining business requirements with a easy-to-follow user flow. Interaction design skills include knowing when to utilize different application structures, such as hub-and-spoke designs versus interview flows; which design elements are best for certain types of information, such as when to use radio buttons versus drop-down menus. We map how users can easily move through a product to achieve their goals. We define clear pathways and establish consistent behaviors to help point users in the direction of success. We introduce animations as feedback indicators as the user travels down a product’s pathways.
Focus: How do users move through a product or application?
Toolkit: Workflows, wireframes, whiteboard sessions, task flow diagrams, development lingo, animations
One hallmark of good design is having a strong visual appearance. This is more than just aesthetic goodness, stretching into ensuring the priority of information is communicated visually — the most important information jumps off the screen while more subtle details are visible, yet not demanding unwarranted attention. Visual design skills include page layout, form design, color selection, and icon design. (While not directly “visual”, we consider designing for accessibility to fall into this skillset, as it focuses on much the same issues.) We build upon the initial design theories established by an interaction designer and apply typographical hierarchy, color, material patterns, and iconography. We establish how the smaller components or microinteractions fit together to formulate the overall visual appeal of a product.
Focus: What is visually appealing to our users?
Toolkit: overall layout, typography, patterns, iconography, microInteractions, color palettes
Prototypers may be disguised as UXers, engineers/developers, or data scientists. We create a variety of interactive workflows with coded or non-coded prototypes to provide a proof of concept. They help the team understand if an interactive pattern effectively solves a problem or needs to be modified.
Focus: How do we capture design ideas, bring them to life, and test their interactivity?
UXers investigate whether a product’s pathways make sense to users. We identify where users get lost or confused via testing and provide feedback to the team to make necessary adjustments. Our findings help influence product revisions and future ideation.
Focus: Is our product easy to use? Will customers use our product?
Toolkit: test plans, proof of concept, testing debriefs, guerrilla testing, A/B testing
UXers analyze the user’s language and understand how to speak to users in their own terms. We decide which content will be created, when it will be published, and how it will be exposed to the user. We set the product’s voice and determine the tone that will be used when addressing users in various situations.
Copywriting—Nobody likes using a design whose on-screen text reads like a 1950’s Army instruction manual. The best user experiences have copy that excites and compels, making the user feel comfortable and secure about the design. Copywriting skills include identifying the style of voice and tone that matches the organization’s brand, creating persuasive copy that motivates users to explore the design, and clearly stating benefit statements, to help the user understand the value of using new capabilities and functions.
Editing—What’s not in a design is as important as what’s included. Editing is not just about correcting bad grammar, but about creating a cohesive experience that doesn’t have extraneous distractions. Skills include using techniques such as alignment maps to match the users’ needs to the available functionality.
Focus: What language do our users speak? How can we talk to our users effectively?
Toolkit: content modeling, product voice, tone decisions, content guidelines