UX area breakdown


Hello all, as I keep seeing things around this pop up, I thought it might be good to have one area where people could go to to see what the different areas that UX actually covers. For instance, user/design research, information architecture, and interaction design are more well known or easier to find definitions for. But things like information design or service design are a little bit harder to understand.

I thought it may be good to put areas and then what they cover, or the things involved in them on here. Kind of like definitions but maybe with some real-life examples that people have, just so that newer people to the field can look and see what sounds interesting to them, giving them a starting point on what to look into.


Great idea Natalie! I love it :slight_smile:

I’ve worked in both information design and service design and my current role is user research/testing/IA/interaction design with service design mixed in. I’ll have a think about how I can contribute to this :slight_smile:


I’m actually really keen to create some more “What the @#$% is …” whiteboard animations. Service Design, Customer Experience, Information Design … it could be a great series!

So yes, let’s hear your suggestions. I will probably use this thread to inform which of these fields we tackle first.


Right, well I’ve been thinking on this one a bit more, and although I can’t contribute from a specific role (as mine is the unicorn user experience designer), I might be able to start the discussion rolling. So feel free to give examples, as I’d really love to know what people in specific roles do actually do on a semi regular basis, and also to correct me if what I’ve put isn’t quite correct etc :).

So the fields that I’m rubbing up against at the moment are:

  • User Research
  • Information Architecture

So I’ll go through my understanding of these two areas, and the types of activities and tools that we’ve been working with to help us.

[B]User Research:[/B]
Starting with who. Who are our users, or at least who are our main users, as with the saying: “designing for everyone you design for no-one”. First we wanted to understand what jobs our users do, their motivations, why they get up and go to work each day, what drives them to do what they do. Then we wanted to find out what a typical day is for them, the kind of work that they do. What they currently use to help get their jobs done, their pain points and frustrations, as well as the things they really enjoy.
All this information was gathered through hour interview sessions.

From there we are creating personas, and persona grids, and will work on journey maps.
Later on we will be using user research to validate ideas, as well as current products.
This will either be through sketches, interactive prototypes, html mocks, or even existing products.

[B]Information Architecture:[/B]
For us IA is involved in working out how to organise and create a flow with our products and internal wiki, that are optimised for our user base.
So from the journey maps and daily tasks of our users have been taken, and then we map out what they need to be able to do these tasks. Working on general flow with product site maps, then working down into the nitty gritty detail on navigating between these and what is necessary under each section.
Taking this back and validating with our users will also be important.

For the wiki IA we’ve been using OptimalSort with an open card sort, which has been great. We opened it to a select amount of internal staff first to test we were asking the correct things, then to see what the responses were. We will then take this information and groupings and create a closed card sort to clarify whether these groupings work or not. Hopefully after that, we will then be able to implement these navigation paths.

Right, well as I’ve said, these are quite specific to the work I’m involved in, so I’m interested in what others are doing in these areas, how they are doing it and why. Also please share in areas such as Industrial Design, Content Management, Interaction Design, Information Design, etc.


Awesome work Natalie!

Glad you like OptimalSort- I’ve been working with those guys and they are awesome :slight_smile: I always do a dry run with my team before launching - mostly to ensure I haven’t done anything stupid!

[B]Industrial Design[/B]
I have a degree in this :slight_smile:

Industrial design is product design. It’s a huge umbrella of a term used to describe the design of anything that is manufactured.

It covers but is not limited to:

Fashion Design and Textiles
Automobile and Transport Design (cars, bikes, trains, planes etc…)
Furniture Design
Electrical Appliances

And it’s not just 3D either- Industrial designers can be found in:

Interaction Design
Service Design

Anything that involves a human being interacting with what we refer to as a product- that’s almost everything around us!

Typical skill set:

Industrial design degree - Bachelor or higher
Drawing by hand- rendering and perspective drawing skills. We use; pencils, copic markers, sharpies, pastels, water colours, ball point pens and fine liners.
Model making skills- working with; wood, paper, cardboard, plastic, blue Styrofoam, metals and composites (Kevlar and carbon fibre and anything else you can pour resin on!)
CAD- I learned with Pro-engineer and we used Rhino to extrude the parts before exporting to 3DS for rendering
3D rendering - I learned with 3D Studio Max
Mechanical drawing skills- yep pro-e does it for you but you should still know this stuff
An understanding of manufacturing processes
An understanding of materials and how they can be used
An understanding of sustainable design practice and the cradle to cradle principles including design for disassembly
Low fidelity prototyping
High fidelity prototyping
Graphic design skills
Adobe creative suite
User-centred design methodologies
User research
Understanding and appreciation of design history - we tend to gravitate towards the Bauhaus and anything painted white because we like clean, simple forms

Anything else you’d like to know about Industrial Design? :slight_smile:


Thanks! :slight_smile:

The process is pretty much the same, just substitute blue foam prototypes for wire frames!

You get a design brief
You unpack it and understand it inside and out
ID users
User research tasks
Generate rough concepts
Refine those concepts in 3D (if applicable) (low fidelity prototypes)
Seek feedback and iterate and reiterate
Create a prototype/scale model ( might still be low fidelity in clay/blue foam/paper/cardboard)
Seek feedback and iterate and reiterate
User test
iterate and reiterate

Depending on the project the CAD might start in the middle once the concept has been chosen and refined or a bit later in the process.

[B]What do I enjoy the most?[/B]

Working with my hands and experimenting with surfaces and forms! Creating something beautiful with your hands is so incredibly soothing- in particular sanding blue foam models. You start with a rectangular lump of blue Styrofoam you cut it with a Stanley knife or a band saw. The best part comes next- slowly and carefully you work your way through the grades of sandpaper right down to the fine black sheet and the surface you’re left with is just stunning.

[B]Our personalities? [/B]

I think we are a bit different to the typical UXer. We see things differently- we work with our hands more and favour drawing on paper over hitting the computer- we like things we can touch. We think the colour grey is beautiful and can tell all the different shades apart. We see beauty just about everywhere and we get excited when we see plastic being used or manufactured in new and interesting ways. I’ve never felt particularly comfortable working in a corporate environment and we tend to seek forgiveness over permission. We challenge the rules and we stay up late. We’re known for wearing a lot of black and the joke is we do it to hide the fact that we’ve been up for 2 days straight working. These are just my thoughts and general observations.