What is UX Architecture?
Edgar Allan offers UX architecture as a huge part of planning a user-friendly digital experience. You could write a website in a Word document and then hand it to a designer to design and then a developer to build. You could go straight from concept to design and fill in the words and images. But you likely wouldn’t build a house without drawing up the blueprints for its walls, fixtures, floor plan, and windows, would you? UX or user experience architecture – wireframes, site mapping, notional or placeholder copy, and all it entails – maps the shape, story, and flow of a website page to page. To push this metaphor to its breaking point, skipping this step is like building a home one room at a time and hoping it’s livable – or that you can even move around inside it in a way that makes sense – when you’re done. TLDR, we, and your friendly neighborhood carpenter don’t recommend it.
Here’s our take generally: At Edgar Allan, creating UX architecture is a highly collaborative activity that puts our content designers and user experience experts in a figma file together from the beginning of a project through to handoff to development. This helps us use the very best of the narrative and analytical or structural brains in the room to see a digital experience from an audience’s perspective and then plan to help those groups get what they need easily and quickly.
We also happen to execute UX architecture in a very high-fidelity way. Where many digital design shops will prepare wireframes that are gestural and often general, we spend a lot of time planning most of the functional details of your website in this phase, from interactivity and potential animation possibilities to page interlinking, button placement and intent, and even “notional” copy that helps humans understand what will happen on a page, even if it’s not “real” content yet.
Oh, but what is UX architecture exactly and why is it so important to a website? Let’s let our AI overlords help a bit from here on out:
UX architecture, also known as user experience architecture or information architecture, is the practice of organizing and structuring information and content in a way that is intuitive, user-friendly, and efficient.
UX architecture involves designing the overall user experience of a digital product or service, such as a website, mobile app, or software application, with a focus on creating a clear and logical information hierarchy that enables users to easily find what they need and complete their tasks.
A UX architect typically works closely with a team of designers, developers, and content creators to create wireframes, prototypes, and other design artifacts that guide the development process and ensure a cohesive and effective user experience.
The ultimate goal of UX architecture is to create a digital product or service that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and easy to use, ultimately enhancing the user's experience and driving business results.
How does Edgar Allan define UX architecture?
At its core, UX architecture is creating the high-level structure of a website and organizing its content across the site’s pages in a way that meets users’ needs. It is a key component of UX design, but while UX design as a discipline also addresses the overlap between user experience, user interface, content design, and development, such as individual touchpoints including CTAs, animations, interactions, etc., UX architecture acts as a series of bridges between different collaborators and stakeholders throughout the project and well after the website is published.
How does Edgar Allan go about implementing UX architecture for clients?
We start with a two-pronged approach: creating a site map and a content outline. These are the most basic site architecture documents that will be shared with our client. The site map is a blueprint for the navigation, pages, content sections, and their hierarchical relationships.
The site map, at this level, describes the site’s most basic components and pages, and arranges them to reflect their relationships with each other. This is where we visually begin to understand the scope of our effort. The content outline then takes each of the pages (or page types) and breaks them down in the form of a high-level narrative, giving descriptions of each page and reasoning behind the organization of the site.
This is all used to inform the creation of wireframes — a heavily abstracted visual representation of the final design. They are usually black and white and sometimes include grayscale elements. In more straightforward projects, the wireframes can be constructed from existing templated elements rearranged down each page to follow the content plans set out in the map and outline. Hierarchy from main navigation to headlines, body copy, interactive elements, tags, placeholder copy, and imagery to inline links are included.
What makes Edgar Allan's UX architecture unique?
At EA, we take time to understand a business and its offerings deeply to be able to create a site structure and pages where every content section is intentional — not just boxes on a page for a writer or designer to figure out what to do with. We’re not just making maps and wireframes. There is so much deep thinking that starts with understanding who a company is and what they do to even begin thinking about page organization, content hierarchy, CTAs, and dev considerations.We also practice intentional collaboration between the disciplines of content strategy, UX, and design that we use to produce a thoroughly aligned final product.
Why do I need UX architecture? Why does UX architecture matter?
There are two big reasons why UX architecture matters to a website experience, and why you need it to achieve success in your web project. For one, UX as a discipline acts as the most focused advocate for the user. The work done to create UX architecture and design is at the core of creating a good user experience (it’s called UX for a reason) and keeps user needs and goals at the forefront. This means making sure users are provided with the information they need, when and where they need it; it’s about offering intuitive pathing and reducing friction along those paths.
UX architecture also matters from a project standpoint. As client-facing deliverables, site maps, content outlines, and wireframes serve as tools to communicate — and confirm — the proposed organization of the website and its content. But they also give project team members an overview of the site and how the content and pages will fit together. They form a set of technical and intentional sources of truth for the client, designer, and developer.
What are some reasons that UX architecture fails?
- If you don’t take the appropriate time and do the requisite deep thinking up front and you don’t have the full list of needs and requirements, retroactively finding a place for a need or piece of content can get very messy and complicate the writing, design, and development processes. Along those lines, if you don’t make time to inventory the details of how the site should work you’ve got the pages, and the general content, but don’t capture all the little details like hover states, filtering, content management, that can pose an issue in development.
- There is a fine line to toe between over- and under-prescribing solutions for the designer to use in the page designs. Landing on the wrong side can cause confusion.
- The deliverables can be hard to read or interpret for anyone new to wireframes and site maps. It’s important to clearly communicate what the site maps, outlines and wireframes represent, and the purpose they serve, in a way that helps clients understand the vision best when we’re still in this abstract phase and there isn’t anything else to see. If not, you set yourself up for misalignment moving forward.
What are some benefits of having strong UX architecture?
1. It supports and aligns both user needs and business goals.
2. It reduces complexity for collaborators, clients, and users.
3. It lets us move at pace using low-fidelity techniques to iterate quickly, make decisions, and come to an agreement on what we’re building — saving time and money later on.
If you are looking for UX architecture, contact us and we would love to chat with you about it. You may also be interested in Edgar Allan’s other services like brand design, brand naming, brand messaging, QA and UAT, and content design.
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