The Boersma Assertion
In a 2004 essay titled, Big IA is Now UX, Peter Boersma asserted that information architecture was a practice among many that contributed to the effort of user experience design. I refer to this claim as the Boersma Assertion. The Boersma assertion implies that the complete practice of user experience design overlaps or entails some aspect of every form of professional practice in the design and development of computing interfaces. However, Boersma’s assertion never included an argument that explained where the overlap of UX design occurs throughout each practice. Since the publication of Big IA is Now UX, no supporting argument has been proposed.
Finding Information Architecture by Investigating UX
In a November 2011 column titled, The T-Model and Strategies for Hiring IA Practitioners – Part 2, I revealed the overlap of user experience design across multiple practices. To explain the UX design skills that can be expected from a maturing IA practitioner, I needed to modify the grouping of practices found in Boersma’s original proposal. I then produced a diagram that contained the specific areas of interest for each practice vertical and as a consequence provided evidence of how user experience design overlaps the first three tiers of each practice.
This segmentation is the first attempt within the IA community to validate the Boersma assertion.
More importantly, while the proposed segmentation reveals a great deal about the domain of user experience design and related practices, it ultimately helps to ground further the positioning of the practice of information architecture and its function.
Practical Uses of the UX Design Practice Verticals
- Use for individual skills assessment for IA and UX design professionals – If you’re a manager, use this grid as a guide for determining the practice tiers that are most relevant for the UX design position you are trying to fill within your organization. If you’re a UX designer, acquiring proficiency in the tiers within the section highlighted “User Experience Design” is imperative. However, you can easily use the chart to know the unique interests of a particular practice such as information architecture.
- Use as a checklist for applying IA and UX design methods – Every project will not need to cover every possible business assumption and design and development method—just the right ones. To evaluate a project’s scope, use this chart as a guide to determine the areas a project may need to consider.
- Use for gap analysis for evaluating IA and UX design methods – If a project has been completed, use each practice tier to assess the execution of a UX design project. Consider it as a light heuristics benchmark for UX design activities.
- Visit the DSIA UX Design Practice Verticals Glossary for vertical definitions.
Boersma, Peter. “T-model: Big IA is Now UX.” November 6, 2004. Retrieved December 2, 2011.