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Jan 13, 2003: IAs: Better at Marketing than they Thought?

A couple of days ago, Challis Hodge was having some fun with Google over at UXblog™. He compiled a list of 25 position titles and job roles related to user experience (UX). Then he searched each string in Google and ranked the results.

The top four were by far the most common, accounting for 93% of all results:

  1. Web Designer 797,000
  2. Graphic Designer 489,000
  3. Art Director 400,000
  4. Creative Director 189,000

These aren't surprising, especially as numbers 2, 3, and 4 have been around for quite a while, certainly before the Web revolution and before terms like "user experience" and "experience design" became more common.

More interesting is that "information architect" clocked in at #5 with 40,100 results.

Astonishing.

If you take out the top four titles (outliers? ;-), and charted #5-#25, "information architect" would be pretty far out in front, even ahead of what I'd assumed were much more common terms: "usability engineer," "information designer," and "interface designer". I just happen to have such a distorted and manipulative chart handy: Chart of Top #5-25 UX Position Titles and Job Roles Does this mean that information architects have somehow been more successful at marketing themselves than professionals from other emerging UX-related fields? Probably not. Or that there are simply so many definitions of IA floating around to muddy things up beyond all recognition? Probably, and though I hate to say it, it is an argument for having more arguments about definitions and labels, as we have on SIGIA-L and many other lists and blogs of late.

Anyway, food for thought. Are you as surprised as I am?

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Comment: Derek R (Jan 13, 2003)


I guess I'm allowed to say something:

People with MFAs understand holism (1+1=3) and are not fixated on deliverables and reductionist thinking.

Challis can dramatically increase the UX of his Web Site by using a relative font-size.

Comment: sam (Jan 13, 2003)

1. I replicated the same experiment but came up with completely diff. findings. Can any one elaborate on his Boolean algebra algorithms?

2. information architect is just a fancy fad right now. I will be suprised if any one has
a valid credential in infoprmation technology and
having proper hardware or software credentials
or certified by any organization.
Sam

Comment: -challis (Jan 14, 2003)

FYI. I compiled and searched a much larger list of titles then listed the top 25 results.

As for the search, I simply searched each job title in quotes and noted the results.

Comment: Jeff Harrison (Jan 14, 2003)

I guess I'm not as surprised. Many of the titles that fall below IA are so close as to be synonymous, at least in common usage. "GUI Designer," "Interface Designer," "User Interface Designer," and "UI Designer," for instance. And, as muddy as the definition of IA may be, try explaining the difference between "Experience Strategist" and "Experience Architect" It seems as though many titles at the sparse end of the list are simply derivatives of their more common counterparts, perhaps coined by a marketing department to distinguish a company's services from a competitor's.

I don't mean this in any way as a value judgment, but it seems that "Information Architect" is a title linked to many disciplines, whereas web design is a discipline linked to many titles. Any company that does web, er, stuff is going to see the need for web designers, whatever it may choose to call them. The need for IA as a separate role is less commonly recognized, and there are thus fewer people who do just that. Younger discipline = less presence = fewer, newer imitators = less title fragmentation.

Jeff Harrison

Comment: Lou (Jan 14, 2003)

Wrong, Sam; there are now programs offering degrees in IA. But you're right in that it's too soon to tell what things will look like in a few years.. I'm a bit more optimistic than you; whatever it's called, the demand for a skillset that makes it easier to find information on a web site or other information system will only grow.

Comment: Beth (Jan 14, 2003)

The fact that IA shows up fairly high after the top four seems to me to be explainable because of the tight relationship between the medium (web) and field. I am surprised that interface and interaction design are where they are. Perhaps it is because of the relative closeness of terms, or perhaps it is that those folks are spending too much time in Visual Basic (or some such) to be creating Google entries for their titles.

That said, I am curious that it is the IA community that has really taken to the web for weblogs and related resources. That may well be marketing that has made a difference!

Comment: SteveA (Jan 20, 2003)

For many years Information Architect and Information Architecture where the role and domain of those of us who practiced Information Engineering (IE).

This was very much to do with structuring data in to data models - conceptual and design - for later use by the DBA in logical and physical database design.

Also, in our terminology *information* also encompassed function as well as data.

I have no problem with the current use of these terms as it seems a logical extension from the old days.

In my new and recent foray into web sites I think IMHO that it is useful to talk structuraly about information and other aspects of a site. The IA seems a pretty good way of encapsulating these things.

Comment: StephenA (Jan 20, 2003)

For many years Information Architect and Information Architecture where the role and domain of those of us who practiced Information Engineering (IE).

This was very much to do with structuring data in to data models - conceptual and design - for later use by the DBA in logical and physical database design.

Also, in our terminology *information* also encompassed function as well as data.

I have no problem with the current use of these terms as it seems a logical extension from the old days.

In my new and recent foray into web sites I think IMHO that it is useful to talk structuraly about information and other aspects of a site. The IA seems a pretty good way of encapsulating these things.

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