Fancy UX terms - what does it mean across continents?

by Yeevon Ooi on 25 October 2011
A few months ago I ran workshops at UXcamp Europe and UXcamp London on How to make decisions collaboratively (without killing each other) using the KJ method. The KJ method was invented by Jiro Kawakita and is a brainstorming method which helps groups reach consensus quickly and accurately especially when it involves prioritising something. A summary of the KJ theory and some handy tips for using it can be found in my previous blog post. The purpose of this blog post is to share my exciting results from the Europe and London workshops. So, without further ado, here's what I found: The focus question that I had on the slides during both the Europe and London workshops: Q: What defines the differences between these following terms?
  • Information Architecture
  • Interaction Design
  • Usability Engineering
  • Visual Design
The results I found for the above question from the 3 groups of workshop attendees are summarised in the table below:
Information Architecture Interaction Design Usability Engineering Visual Design
UXcamp Europe Group 1 Structure Interaction Testing Graphic design
UXcamp Europe Group 2 Structure, content Behaviour Testing How to make it look good
UXcamp London Properties of the system Attributes Ease of use Pretty
I do have some confessions to make for choosing this focus question to illustrate the KJ method:
  • Probably not the best idea as it wasn't the most straightforward question for practising a new brainstorming method
  • Slightly controversial that some people ended up obsessing over the results and not the method itself
... but the UX consultant and researcher inside me thought it was too good an opportunity to miss out on collating some interesting information across different continents! Personally, I don't see any point in arguing over these terms as they overlap with each other at various points and are used by different people interchangeably (which I'm glad that most workshop attendees agreed). The important thing when using any of the terms (and other jargon in our UX lexicon) is to actually understand what encompasses it when being used during a particular instance. For example, when someone says "The information architecture of X should be improved", does that mean the navigation of X, the content of X, or both? Bearing in mind different people have different understanding of such terms, it's important not to resort to using such jargon when explaining what we do as User Experience (UX) practitioners. At the end of the day, it is about communicating to our clients and colleagues what we're trying to do and why. This includes using words that they actually understand and not terms that we're used to using but not really that great at explaining what we do. Have you used the KJ method? I would love to hear your experiences, just leave a comment below!

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