DonnaM » Blog Archive » When IA meets interaction

When IA meets interaction

In the recent past, I’ve been known to say that designing for information and designing for interaction are quite different, and require a distinctly different set of techniques. I have also often commented that many people peddling user-centred design have missed this point and have tried to apply a set of techniques that are irrelevant to information-rich spaces (yes, sometimes I’m so polite).

I still often see designers who are in only one camp:

  • the old-school user interface designer who knows lots about workflow, user scenarios, goms (!) and interaction, but little about the detailed design of rich information spaces
  • the new-school information architect, who can design a site structure, taxonomy and controlled vocabulary, but doesn’t know a checkbox from a radio button

So I’ve been thinking about our future, and what skills we will need in the next x number of years (I’m not going to guess on a number) and think that much of our future lies in the bridge between the two. We need to be able to design amazing interactions that fit our body and our mind, and we need to be able to cope with the vastness and richness of information that surrounds us.

I was thinking about a university project I did last year which involved designing an in-car navigation system. I needed an excellent understanding of anthropometrics (eg how large are our fingers), visual perception (can I see the screen from here), attention (I’m also trying to drive), user tasks (what do I need to achieve my end goal). I also needed to use my information architecture skills to design the interface navigation (poor metaphor in this cirumstance) and search function.

Hopefully, this is the type of work that more of us will be able to get involved in – designing interactive systems that use rich information. To do this, we need to look at information architecture not through the lens of a website, but through the lens of an everyday device; which means that we may need to start thinking harder about getting involved in the design of those devices.

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