The Difference between Usability Professionals and Information Architects

Recently, I’ve encountered a Usability Professional who may or may not realize that he is really doing Information Architecture work (but considers it Usablity). By performing a content audit, analyzing data, and sorting for display, he is really thinking in a larger perspective than just process orientated usablity.

Difference between Usability Professionals and Information Architects:

Information Architect:
Content Focused. Goal is to understand and categorize information in a way that makes sense to the user. Understands that content may be accessed in multiple methods –data is perceived and consumed in different ways. Analogy: They organize the products, aisles, and signs in the store.
Usabiltiy Professional:
Process Focused. Goal is to create efficient process to complete a task. Seeks to create process to benefit majority of users. Analogy: They streamline how folks get around the store, organize the checkout process, and also help with signs.

Both of the above fall in the realm of User Experience Research –if you’ve not done so already, please learn Jesse James Garrett’s Elements of User Experiencememorize the 5 planes (PDF). Have you seen the website Ok Cancel? Worth a look, the cartoons are pretty funny.