“ Why wouldn't IA have a seat at the table? They're the people who actually understand user behaviors, needs and motivation. They shape the fucking user experience. Why would anyone in their right minds exclude that when developing product strategies? ”
One of the problems with the "IA" title is that it came along back in the 90's, and it was pretty web-specific at the time. The discipline has grown to the point where it encompasses a lot more than just the web, and can be lumped under a lot of different titles:
User Experience Architect/Designer
It all depends on where you end up and how their HR department has decided to label you.
fUX Personas, requirements analysis, stakeholder interviews/design sessions, mental models, user/navigation/process flows, paper prototypes/sketches, wireframes, and specification documents take time. There's not a magic IA fairy wand that gets waved around to get Visio to spit out those pretty deliverables. User research (keep in mind that this is not the same thing as customer or market research), identifying user populations, determining and communicating user requirements, creating mental models, determining user flows, leading design/solution sessions, defining interaction models, performing content and functionality audits, participating in SEO strategies for structuring content, usability evaluations and recommendations... These are all ways IA adds value. What ?
fUX If there is a User Experience group, then that's a pretty logical place for an IA. The problem with putting IA within a larger UX or Design group is that an IA should never report to a designer. IA establishes the fences inside which design is allowed to play, and it never goes well when someone tells their boss what they can and can not do. So, in this case, IA needs to be its own discipline within UX/Design. IA should never live within development--at least, I've never seen that arrangement work out for anyone. Recently, I've begun to suspect that the best place for IA is within product planning/strategy/management--these are the people that IAs work most closely with, and the place where IA input is simultaneously the most needed and the most overlooked. Where ?
fUX Ironically, user perspective is the most overlooked part of any software development process. Product managers are concerned with profit and marketability. Developers and development managers are interested in code. Decisions about process are generally made that are good for Dev as an organization, and anything that is user-centric is just expected to somehow mold itself to fit into that. Except, without users, your product is dead so who the fuck cares how happy your developers are . IAs come up with solutions and make sure those are able to be communicated in a clear way to designers and developers. Why ?
fUX IAs should be involved from the outset of any project. The biggest battle IA fights on a day-to-day basis in most organizations is getting the room to talk to who they actually need to be talking to, and to do their jobs. It's why, for the most part, we're all a bunch of bitter assholes who drink heavily after work. Everyone else wants to, and thinks they're capable of, doing our jobs. They fight us constantly, often override our recommendations, and then place the blame at our feet when things go bad and shit doesn't work. If you've already written a creative brief or put together requirements, and you haven't yet talked to your IA, you've already missed out on half the value that IA brings to the table. When ?
fUX The biggest reason why product managers and IAs clash is because over separation of responsibilities. What should be a partnership turns into a hot mess. PMs and IAs should be working in tandem. PMs should be concerned with identifying needs within the market, figuring out how this thing is going to be positioned and sold, and making sure that the solutions are actually addressing the opportunities they identified. Design/Dev and "the business“ don’t know how to talk to each other, and everyone ends up frustrated. IAs speak just enough of everyone's languages to be the translation layer. How ?
fUX I have yet to meet anyone in marketing who understands what users actually need or want. Marketing is for inducing customers to buy and creating a connection to, or awareness of, the brand. Marketing is not about users or user experiences. Rather, as marketing folk come up with ideas, they should be engaging IA from the outset to shape that idea into something usable. Users .
fUX Do you want someone doing your work for you in a completely uninformed way and then arguing when the next version they see is not identical to what they gave you? Didn't think so. Simply moving from requirements and/or brief straight into design is the best way to create endless churn and revisions around design comps, because both the client/business and the designers are flying blind since no one mapped out or agreed to what should be on that page or screen. IA is an advocate for the user and an optimum user experience. This is often mistaken as being "precious" about design. It's not. It's the job the IA is being paid to do. Truth .
fUX Dexocratic Revolution fixes the user experience . Dex fUX !
fUX www.dexrev.com [email_address] Contact Dex !
fUX A user experience architect in the rainy Pacific northwest who can regularly be found in various coffee shops drinking (double grande non-fat) lattes, whipping Visio into a wireframing and flowcharting frenzy while debating, discussing, and pondering the triumphs and challenges of information architecture, user interface design, usabilty and user experience in an ever-changing technology driven marketplace. Who is Dex ?