All the fuss over findability resulting from Peter’s article and the many insightful comments led me to think […]

All the fuss over findability resulting from Peter’s article and the many insightful comments led me to think about this new concept until I saw this diagram in a dream.
Structural Design Components

Unfortunately my skills fall mostly in two of the three circles, so this draft is pretty rough looking. This one is a bit fancier. I’ll be browsing Information Graphics for inspiration later…

The key concepts should be apparent, though. An IA strives toward the goal of findability, an interaction designer toward the goal of usability and the information designer toward understandability.

Obviously there are overlapping points. I had originally thought to put something in them, but then realized many items could go there. Between IA and InD, browse structures, between IfD and IA you get navigation design, between InD and IfD you get interface (GUI) design and so on. Most websites (and most software) fall neatly in the middle.

This is definitely a draft, so I’d love to get feedback from folks. Cheers!


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  1. 4
    dave p.

    Yes! That’s it exactly! I have always insisted that Information Architecture is about helping people find the information, and Information Design is about helping them understand it. I was going to ask what could go in the other overlapped areas between each pair of circles, but I see it is spelled out in the goals-disciplines document. Those are also Web-related; certainly other things could go in there. Some kinds of infographic, for example, could fit in the overlap between information design and interaction design.

  2. 8

    Let me see if I get this. Here are some illustrations of each of the categories.

    * Information Architecture: meta modeling and tagging, DTD development, data structures

    * Information Design: charts, graphs, maps, content element design (e.g., headline v. story)

    * Interaction Design: use case scenarios

    These are the parts I’m still fuzzy on —

    * IA/InfoD: arrangements of dynamically generated content that utilize categories, classifications, data structures, etc. from the IA work — e.g., dynamically generated maps that employ user-defined parameters.

    * IA/IntD: navigation schemes, tools for finding content, — i.e., the functionality without the GUI

    * InfoD/IntD: GUI designs, spatial metaphors

    * All three: what we commonly find in complex web sites.

  3. 9

    Exactly: the metacategories are grouped skillsets with their applications, the cross over is where skillsets much be combined to be effective. Can we really do only one when designing a website?

    I’m thinking of how it fits into a still larger grouping consiting of structural design, graphic design and user research to make user experience design.

    next rev….

  4. 10

    My head hurts 🙂

    I hope we move towards that kind of understanding. As a step, I like to reflect on the point that spaces can be created spontaneously, and I like the idea of “Emergent IA” that I saw today on the Semantic Studios web site:
    “Emergent IA

    Kevin Kelly explains, “the only way to make a complex system that works is to begin with a simple system that works.”

    A flock of birds, a school of fish and the Game of Life all show how systems composed of many elements following simple rules can exhibit emergence or spontaneous self-organization.

    Can we combine simple elements of innovation architecture to create self-organizing web sites and intranets? Perhaps. But only if we relax control and encourage experimentation.”

    This fits in to the bigger idea of emergent phenomena, which I also find fascinating.

  5. 11

    P. S., One more thing I might add to your list is Product Design, bearing in mind that a product may take different forms in different contexts and thus invoke different user experiences.

  6. 12
    Adam Greenfield

    Ruth, I’d offer that “Product Design” (and maybe even “Service ~”) be considered as a large circle exterior to the three overlapping interior ones. I’m increasingly hard-pressed to think of an offering that doesn’t partake of these disciplines.

    I’m quite serious in suggesting that, say, a Venus 3 razor from Gillette shows an awareness. My g/f left one in my shower, and I’ve been fascinated with it for a week now. Its control surfaces (manipulation, blade replacement) are obvious (findable) and intuitive (usable); the spinal arc of the handle conveys perfectly (understandable) the ideal gesture to make with it.

    Yes, of course, we mean these specific terms to apply to informational artifacts – but I’ll beat this drum every chance I get if I live to be a hundred: information is everywhere. We live in it.

    Uh, before I launch on this rant: Christina, thanks a thousand for a crystalline summary. This should save us all some time and trouble.

  7. 13

    Adam, I agree that Product/Service Design contains all these disciplines, and more– business models and materials (or content), for example. What’s interesting to me is the relationship between a viable business model for a content-driven product and the design of the product. Without having given it too much deep thought, I contend that (and this may seem obvious…) there can be both harmony and tension in product design. I experience this regularly, although I haven’t discovered how to best articulate it. I’ll try to think of some examples.

  8. 14
    Austin Govella

    I agree with adding graphic design. I was trying to think of a nice term of concern. Perhaps “viewability”. That doesn’t accurately summarize the importance of what graphic designers do, but…

    Also, I’d like to suggest maybe adding something to account for the text. Writers, as text designers are concerned with readability, and like the rest of the designers in your diagram, they also add an important piece of the puzzle.

    Ideally, you’d have all of these people on your team for a project. I can’t even imagine the wonders a group like that could produce, egos checked at the door, working harmoniously.

    Maybe someone handy with flash could help come up with a 3D venn diagram to show how everything interacts.

  9. 15

    I think it’s a really inspiring diagram. It made me think more about the whole information sphere than just the “user experience with information” portion, though. Then I thought maybe two other -bilities, — If it’s all about information, then perhaps: Librarianship = accessibility and Museums/Archives/Preservation = durability

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