UXers, how confident are you when it comes to IA?

Lena Pietsch • 04.02.2021
Lena Pietsch

I learned a great deal of techniques just in getting my Master's. Which, to be completely honest, at first, can seem like vocabulary practice in Latin class. I'm currently sitting here with my backpack loaded with tools.

I discovered an astounding gap during my design survey.

  • Core extend jump
  • Product design
  • User experience

I learned countless methods in my master's program alone. To be honest, it can feel like vocabulary practice in Latin class, especially at first. Now I'm sitting here with my tools in my backpack. The white sheet of paper in front of me. And an impediment that appears to bring me to my knees at the first step. The architecture of information. Is it true that I lack the tools to clearly define the hierarchy and structure of my content? Will someone with a different background take over?

I polled 67 UX professionals on the subject. The survey was distributed via Linkedin and Instagram to candidates with the job title of UX/UI designer (49%), product designer (19%), UX specialist, manager, or consultant (17%), and UX students (4%). Two-thirds have been in their current job for less than three years, while the other third has more than four years of experience. The vast majority of participants have a formal education. 53% had a bachelor's degree or a diploma from a university of applied sciences. 38% have a higher level of education, such as a master's, master's, or state examination. As a result, we should be able to get a good cross-section of current teaching and practice methods. The results of this survey surprised not only me, but many others.

Information architecture is part of the daily business

How many tasks from information architecture actually occur in real-world UX work? It's possible that I was preoccupied with something unimportant in my professional life. But that was not the case - at all. Because more than 60% of professionals assign UX design to all seven of the tasks I filtered out of an information architect's job description. At the same time, almost all respondents have at least one of these tasks as part of their daily routine. So there's no denying that IA and UX are inextricably linked. Simultaneously, I wonder why we received so little input in this area during our studies.

Sieben Balkendiagramme untereinander, die veranschaulichen, wie die befragen Personen die Aufgaben »Informationsstruktur im Hinblick auf Usability gestalten«, »Kohärente Informationshierarchie erstellen«, »Prozessablauf festlegen«, »Navigationspfade und Suchoptionen strukturieren«, »Über Informationsarchitektur kommunizieren«, »Content und Funktionen definieren, gruppieren und verknüpfen« sowie »Content und Webseiten ordnen und kennzeichnen« als Teil des Berufsbildes von UX/UI-Designern sehen und inwieweit sie diese Aufgaben in ihrer täglichen Arbeit ausführen, mit Prozentangaben und einer Legende oberhalb dieser Darstellung.
A poll based on the question: In your opinion, which of these activities belong to the job of a UIUX designer? And which of them do you carry out in your daily work?
Diagrammartige Darstellung auf hellgrauem Hintergrund von 67 befragten Personen mit einem erdbeerroten gepunkteten Vollkreis und einer erdbeerroten durchgezogenen Kreislinie innerhalb des gepunkteten Kreises, die anzeigt, dass 87 % von ihnen die Aufgabe für relevant halten, und einem erdbeerroten gefüllten Kreis innerhalb der Kreislinie, der anzeigt, dass 64 % von ihnen sich für die Aufgabe kompetent fühlen, und einer Legende in der oberen linken Ecke, die zu dieser Darstellung passt.
Evaluation based on the question: In which of these skills do you feel competent?

Lack of self-confidence

I also wanted to know how competent the professionals felt in these tasks. Surprisingly, many of them appear to share my sentiments. Although UX designers delegate tasks to our profession, some of them lack confidence in their abilities. For example, 87% of respondents consider forming a logical hierarchy of information to be extremely important. However, only 64% believe they are competent enough to complete this task. The distinction is 23%! Other activities show similar disparities in relevance and perceived competence. So, while information architecture is an important and supporting component in UX design, not everyone believes they have the necessary level of expertise.

Diagrammartige Darstellung, die 67 Befragte mit einem gestrichelten leeren Kreis und 51 Prozent der Befragten mit einem gefüllten erdbeerroten Kreis darstellt, sowie eine zu dieser Darstellung passende Legende in der oberen linken Ecke.
Evaluation based on the question: What tools or methods do you use to structure a single page?

Gap in the set of methods

Almost all professionals say they do at least one activity from the IA context on a regular basis. What methods do they employ? But only half of them (51%) could tell me which ones. It is unknown how the other half will complete these tasks. After all, despite the rapid decrease in the number of responses, a diverse range of methods came together to adequately address IA tasks. However, the initial euphoria was quickly followed by disappointment. Essentially, there is no standard; the majority of designers use no method.

Card sorting is the most frequently mentioned method, accounting for only 12% of all citations. This means that only eight of the 67 UX designers polled would agree on the method choice.

Some professionals have even developed their own method to complete these tasks, which fits the picture. They did not appear to find a single suitable method in the pool of methods and thus used their own approach.

Informationsgrafik zur Wichtigkeit von Informationsarchitektur
A poll based on the question: How important do you think psychological mechanisms are, in the context of information architecture?

What role does behavioural psychology play?

In my master's thesis, I looked into how behavioral psychology insights can help us with information architecture. Now I was curious how professionals rated this. Surprisingly, more than 85% of respondents rated this link as important (4) to very important (5). Despite the fact that there is currently no approach based on behavioral psychology findings. This is all the more remarkable given that we conduct extensive research on the behavior of our product users. However, when building an information structure, we avoid using scientifically established patterns as a foundation.

The key facts at a glance
23 %
When it comes to creating information architecture, one in five UX designers feel underqualified.
50 %
Half of the UX designers do not name any method at all. Only a very small proportion of the above-mentioned procedures are practised.
80 %
More than 85% of the UX designers see a direct connection between behavioural psychology and information architecture. Nevertheless, there is still no method that builds on the scientific findings of behavioural psychology.

No problem changing the system

Neither my research nor my survey revealed an approach used by the majority of UX designers that could assist me in creating a working IA. Even seasoned designers can't agree on a method. When developing an information architecture, only about 60% of respondents believe they are competent enough. This uncertainty is not limited to UX designers during the design process. It is also visible to our customers and all users who interact with the product.

This does not have to be the case. Not when the solution to the problem is so close at hand. Behavioral psychology and IA are inextricably linked. We'll show you how to use IA to pay attention to users' intentions and goals by leveraging behavioral psychology insights. At the same time, with the help of Core Extend Jump, we'll provide you with a tool to model your content accordingly.

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