When I started my digital career, I’d never heard the term ‘experience designer’. In fact, it was just before the term ‘information architecture’ was introduced to the industry, which we referred to quite quaintly as ‘new media’. 

A decade and a half later, everyone and his dog is involved in “experience design”, using one of a wide range of tiles including UX strategist, information architect, interaction designer, UX designer, experience designer and experience architect. 

So what do those of us in the many-titled tribe do? Do all those labels refer to the same role or are there subtle differences between an information architect and an interaction designer? How do any of us decide which title is right and what to actually call ourselves?

My perspective on this is the names matter less than the skills required within the industry. User experience design covers many activities, including:
  • Strategy - what’s the plan for now and the long term?
  • User research - what do they want and need?
  • Content planning - from data structuring to metadata and taxonomies
  • Information design - to help all stakeholders achieve their goals
  • Usability testing - unavoidable and ideally, iterative
My view on this is not wildly different from Peter Morville's idea of the “Big Architect, Little Architect”. I see a range of skills, not all of which are used on every project, with the data oriented in the pack focus on content planning, the more creative picking up the tasks associated to interaction design and the visionaries grabbing the strategy basket and pushing the boundaries as hard as they can. 

Some people will be able to do it all, from the detail to the big picture. And the more experience they have, the more comfortably they will be able to operate anywhere on the continuum. But, honestly, people who excel at both ends of the spectrum are few and far between.  And rightly so, in many ways. Its the collaboration and the different perspectives that help tease out the nuances in the problem and, later, in the solution.

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