UX, UI, IA… What is That Designer Talking About?

UX / CX | October 30, 2018

When beginning a major project like a website redesign, it can be hard to know where to start. Working with a team that has a vast knowledge of design will get you on the right track. Here at iCiDIGITAL, we have a team of User Experience (UX) Researchers and Designers who can use a variety of techniques to understand who your customers are. We then take that information and translate it into actionable insights for your redesign process.

When you understand a site’s users by taking their goals and preferences into account, the website will be easier to use and more successful. Websites are just like anything in life that people have correspondence with. If the interaction is difficult and unpleasant, they won’t return. Your website is competing not only with your direct competitors but with search engines, news aggregators, social media sites, video sites, photo gallery sites, etc.

Image of whiteboard from design workshop

One way we can get lots of ideas/information about who the customers are and what they need as a result of visiting a site is through a design workshop. Check out this image, which shows iCiDIGITAL’s outcome of these workshops.

In short, you’ve got approximately 6 seconds to prove to your site’s visitors that it is easy to use and will help achieve their end-goal with a minimum number of resources. The resources in question are usually your user’s time and attention. But what does making this easy-to-use website involve?

Demystifying Design

User Experience design is like many disciplines, filled with acronyms. Making a good user experience involves several pieces; such as user goals, organization, content, visual appeal, usability, and business/marketing goals.

Some terms you might hear when discussing Experience Design with iCIDIGITAL:

User Experience (UX)

In a nutshell, people have an experience when they use something. Whether that “something” is a physical artifact, a software application, or a website. User experience design is the art and science of making that experience both effective and satisfying. Can you think of a time when you tried to do something on a website and it just wasn’t working? That website had a poor user experience.

User Interface (UI)

User interface refers to the “something” the person is interacting with. In our case, this is a website. The site’s pages, components, and features will be identified during the design process by the Digital Experience team and then built by the Digital Solutions team. At the end, we aim to create user interfaces that “just work” because of their predictability, reusability, expandability, and natural flow.

Information Architecture (IA)

Information architecture refers to the overall organization of navigation and content on a website or software interface. Organizing static content pieces, actions, and any other content in a logical, non-overwhelming way is the end-goal of information architecture. Some information architecture examples are navigation menus, sidebars, breadcrumbs, and bulleted lists.

When defining your website’s information architecture, iCIDIGITAL’s Information Architects will work with you to understand your content as it’s currently structured The team will then suggest ways to improve the structure so that it’s simpler and in alignment with your customers’ goals.

Sitemap

A sitemap is a document that lists out all the pages and sections of a website, and how they relate to each other. The lines between boxes represent which items are linked to another.

Near the beginning of a website redesign, iCIDIGITAL’s Digital Experience team will conduct a content audit, and organize the content to be more closely aligned with the user’s goals.

Interaction Design (IxD)

Interaction design refers to the overall experience of moving through a series of actions on a website or in a software system. For example, completing a task that requires a user to input information and then post that information to a database. The process of getting that user to perform the task is Interaction Design. It’s the process of creating a path that guides someone through a series of tasks.

Basically, anything that you interact with on a site requires interaction design. If it’s clickable, scrollable, type-able, or involves an action word like ‘Submit’, it’s an interaction.

Visual Design

Visual design refers to colors, fonts, branding… the overall look and feel. This is the very last thing to happen in the design process. The Digital Experience team will use a tool called a wireframe to identify layout, content, and page structure before adding any colors and images. Visual design is very important too, especially when it comes to accessibility. Visual design is a key way that we can offer affordance; or cues as to what an element is capable of doing. Such as a doorknob offers twisting, a button offers clicking.

If this seems like a lot, don’t worry! The Digital Experience team are experts in the design process, from beginning to end. We take projects all the way from customer research to beautiful, useful websites that help your customers reach their goals!

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Sarah Kahn is the Sr. Manager of Digital Experience for iCIDIGITAL. She's a rogue librarian turned UX Designer and loves saving people time by designing things that are easy to use. Sarah believes empathy builds empires and loves participating in community initiatives. She's been a chapter leader for Girl Develop It, Refresh the Triangle, and is an alumna of Leadership Raleigh. She's also into Krav Maga, running, woodworking, and arguing with her cat.