The Foci of User Experience

The Foci of User Experience - thumbnail

There was another round of the “Defining the Damn Thing” (DTDT) discussion on the Information Architecture Institute list recently that started me thinking about the focus of different UX disciplines and the value that IA, specifically, brings to the table.  So heres a quick diagram to illustrate what I think might be the key focus of IA, connectedness

Remember folks, this is not about defining a role, or job description, its just an attempt to examine what we do when designing a user experience, and yes, I know the word “foci” is a little awkward!

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14 Responses to “The Foci of User Experience”

  1. 1 Jennifer b. September 26, 2008 at 1:58 pm


    Thank you for venturing into this space of definition. You are brave and we appreciate that. 🙂

    One comment that comes to my mind immediately is adding the notion of connecting people in your ‘connectedness’ sphere. By doing that you essentially address the realm of social within UX.

  2. 2 David Fiorito September 26, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Very cool. I need to read it over again to provide deeper commentary but it seems to follow along the lines I have been thinking. Hey – maybe we should do a mini summit here in Philly on the topic.

  3. 3 Lorelei September 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    This is a good way further along than the tail-spinning DTTD!

    What about translation vs. comprehension – it’s not enough to understand, you also have to translate the concepts to other people.

    Why connectedness vs. connections? Maybe I think about how few characters we can use, but I’m intrigued by your use of a longer word.

  4. 4 Jay Fienberg September 26, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Really great / really helpful. I got a little thrown-off by “control” at first, but then I realized I was thinking about the system more than user experience. So, as long as I remember it’s “user control,” it makes good sense to me.

    But, this does bring up another point about definition: IA is also involved with the link between UX and system-level design. And, at least in some contexts, the IA role specifically involves translating between all three of these UX foci and deeper system-level information and data.

  5. 5 Richard September 26, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Jennifer – absolutely! Thats what I was trying to get at a little with the Amazon example – they use so many social tools to try and “connect” their users together.

  6. 6 Richard September 26, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Hi Lorelei, I guess my choice of “connectedness” rather than “connections” was an attempt to keep all of the 3 Cs as nouns, additionally its definition of “the state of being connected” (even though I didn’t use that one) made me feel like it was a more macro term. To be honest though any of the ‘connect****’ terms would probably be just as good.

  7. 7 Steve Baty September 27, 2008 at 1:06 am

    I’d love to see a circle (chasing it’s tail) running through the centre of each of the triangles representing ‘Conversation’. I think this would well represent both the social & experiential elements of what we do.


  8. 8 Richard September 27, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Steve, thats a really interesting idea, I tend to lean towards the idea that most experiences we create are really, deep down, actually vehicles for conversation. I was a little gun-shy though of introducing any kind of “motivation” for the experiences for fear of being too narrow and excluding certain types of experience. Does *every* experience include an aspect of conversation for example?

  9. 9 Steve Baty September 27, 2008 at 7:48 pm


    Well, you’ve heard of a one-sided conversation? Thinking of our experiences as conversations is an idea that is driving a lot of brands today.

    By introducing the notion of conversation to the model you also explicitly state the back-and-forth that goes on, as well as conveying the sense of ‘buzz’ on which brands rely.


  10. 10 Andrew Hinton September 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    This is quite excellent. It might ruffle a few feathers, especially of folks who are a bit too literal-minded about boundaries.

    This is an excellent mental model for helping explain to people new to UX, for example, how these things relate, and their histories.

    The only problem might be that others in the UX space might feel a bit left out — where would the CHI crowd fit in, for example? Many of them don’t self-identify as “IxD” … though it has a lot to do with what CHI historically covers. But as you say, this isn’t so much about people’s identities as the focal points of practice. That’ll always be a hard distinction for people to stomach, but it’s an important one.

    BTW, I heard this quote while listening to Nassim Taleb’s “Black Swan” (audiobook) this weekend: “Categories are necessary for humans but it becomes pathological when a category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries, let alone revising their categories.”

    I like that quote because it reminds us that all of these models are only as good as their usefulness in a given moment — they’re not permanent limitations on reality.

  11. 11 Richard September 30, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    IMHO we should all be more honest about what we do as we’re creating experiences – even if that pushes us out of the comfort zone of what we’ve previously called it because thats what we called *ourselves*. I’ve been sitting in a room for the last 2 months creating an experience and probably splitting my time equally between ID (comprehension), IxD (control) and IA (connectedness) – previously I would have said I was doing IA, but now i’m more enlightened 😉

    I think CHI is more a sister umbrella discipline to UX, I don’t think the CHI folks claim to “practice CHI” do they? Not sure though! Is there anything about creating an experience that doesn’t fit into one of the 3 C’s? I’d love to stress test it!

  12. 12 Livia Labate October 29, 2008 at 7:01 am

    I tried to post before but it failed, so here it is again: I hope this is an IA Summit 2009 poster — right? right? 🙂

  13. 13 Richard October 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Liv – I hope so, I submitted 2 and this was one of them.

  1. 1 Viva Memphis « A More Mauvy Shade of Pinky Russet Trackback on March 11, 2009 at 9:06 pm

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