Three acronyms that may mean a lot, or nothing at all to you. Either way they are three highly important disciplines in front-end digital design.
For most of history when the word ‘design’ was used it inevitably meant ‘graphic design’, be that a Neolithic cave painting or a French cabaret poster. But with the advent of the digital world and its complexity there's a raft of new design arenas to master. Don’t worry, you don’t need to master them. We have done that on your behalf. But here are the definitions and an explanation to help demystify them.
- UX = User Experience
- UI = User Interface
- IA = Information Architecture
In our modern world, interactions between humans and computers occur increasingly frequently. User Experience design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction during these interactions by improving the usability, accessibility, and relationship between the user and the computer.
We’ve all been frustrated by a poorly designed website, annoyed at a buggy software programme and/or enraged by a slow-loading system connection. These human emotional responses to completely emotionless machine actions are totally irrational. However they occur all the time and the default response to many of these frustrations is to walk away and look for a better experience elsewhere.
These actions (or importantly, inactions) have a direct effect on the system owner’s bank balance. Poor UX costs business billions of pounds in lost revenue every day.
That’s why it’s so critical to get UX right. Attracting a customer is expensive, losing one is even more costly.
The good news is that well considered UX design doesn’t have to be hard and there are lots of tricks that UX specialists use to help overcome the barriers that can exist between man and machine.
Some of the UX tools of the trade and deliverables are:
- Page Flows
When these tools are correctly applied the resulting outcomes can be the difference between a mobile device being thrown against the wall in anger, and a high-value purchase being ordered via a beautifully designed,mobile-responsive eCommerce website.
UI design is focused mainly on the graphic look and style of interfaces of software, websites and operating systems. UI primarily deals with GUI (Graphic User Interface)design but increasing it also includes other non-visual interfaces, such as voice-controlled devices.
Invariably UI design has to balance several conflicting influences. Translating existing brand guidelines, accommodating different usergroup requirements, and even constants within different back-end coding languages and/or CMS’s (Content Management Systems).
There can be an infinite number of elements to design for,including screen layouts, transitions, animations, and micro-interactions. Any sort of visual element has to be inspected, reviewed and decided upon.
Some of the main UI designer’s deliverables are:
- Navigational Components
- Input Controls
- Informational Components
- Functional Specifications
- Overall cohesive visual style and language
UI visual language can be a key factor in a website/software’s success. Like with almost anything in the man-made or natural world, the more ingenious, instinctive and insightful something is, the more likely it is to succeed.
Put simply,Information Architecture is how content is organised in a way that makes the most sense to the most people. It’s the interplay between competing and contrasting elements; user, content and context.
Information Architecture solves the most fundamental problems of categorising and displaying relevant information to a user at any given point in an intuitive and agreeable way.
Three main considerations for IA specialists include:
- Ontology (labelling systems)
- Taxonomy (organisational system)
- Choreography (sequenced content presentation)
A good analogy for the OTC methodology is a passenger trying to navigate their way through a foreign airport. They require different information at different points throughout their journey; information on car parking on arrival, on flight delays at check-in, on restrictions at passport control, and even what restaurants are available in the departure lounge. All this information also has different levels of importance: arguably it’s more important to know what immigration documentation you require than whether the restaurant you visit serves vegan food. How all this information is presented is equally as important, semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) plays a core role in this, different types of visual language dictate different levels of importance. For example, a red flashing warning light above an emergency exit displaying ‘Danger’ appears immediately more deliberate and enthralling than a handwritten ‘New Flavour Iced Lattes’ scribbled on a chalkboard outside a Starbucks in the terminal building.
All of this decoding and categorisation happens at an almost subconscious level as if by magic; Information Architectural magic!
How we can help
At SONDR® we have a proven track record in all three disciplines of digital design. We regularly partner with our development eCommerce agency, Iconography,to provide clients with front and back-end design and development solutions that result in the very best in User Experience.
To find out more about our UX, UI & IA services, contact us today.
Are you still confused? Then take a look at one of our recent case studies for the Elbec website and the Triathlon Guard Ironman campaign that showcase examples of the type of work involved.