During a recent conversation with my father-in-law, an architect with nearly 40 years of experience, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between his work and mine. As he detailed his design process and thinking to me—sharing his extensive design insight—I was reminded of my own process and thinking. Obviously, the tangible results are quite different, but there is common ground in the way that we view the world, and the way that we think about design.

Architects are, of course, a type of designer, but the work of a good architect is not just about designing a space that is beautiful. It’s about balancing aesthetics with usability—precisely what we are tasked with as user experience designers. Moreover, architects solve problems, crafting solutions that embody balance. The late American architect Buckminster Fuller once said, “When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”

The Architect’s Design Process

Renowned American architect Hal Box identified the start of the design process as the exploration of three worlds that are about to meet: “One world is the site, a place in the community or landscape; another world is the program, the owner’s list of needs and desires; and the third world is the budget.” The site is the physical space the project will occupy, which incorporates not only the possibilities but also the restrictions imposed upon it (zoning codes, building codes, etc.). The program encompasses everything expected from the building, including its content, functionality, audience, etc. The budget is, of course, a reality of almost every design project.

While the program is the heart of the design process, it does not define it—the project is a living thing, adapting as necessary to changing priorities and variables. Architects typically engage in visual problem solving—sketching, diagramming, and fleshing out all aspects of the problem and possible solutions. They sketch, test, and visualize, working toward developing the architectural concept of any given project, which Hal Box poetically defines as the architect’s “visualization of what the building seeks to be.” This phrasing fascinates me because it implies that every project has an ideal form, and every designer simply attempts to interpret its manifestation. It brings to mind a metaphysical concept among artists that they do not themselves create, but rather reveal the form already present within whatever medium they are using.

First century Roman architect Vitruvius posited that all structures must have firmitas, utilitas, venustas: solidity, utility, and beauty. These so-called Vitruvian Virtues refer to the fundamentals (like the foundation), functionality, and, of course, aesthetics. Architects use these three principles throughout the design process, in crafting the overall user experience. In many ways, architectural UX work is much more complicated than it is on the web. An architect works within a defined space—a plot of land, perhaps, or a preexisting structure. The scope of work can be further defined by restrictions or limitations imposed by government and other regulations. From here, the architect must consider the best use of this space, how to best use it in fulfilling the client’s requirements, while also considering users/customers, particularly when it comes to commercial and public spaces.

Architectural facets of usability may include anything from a clearly marked entrance, to an intuitive and logical flow through the hallways/corridors and overall layout of a structure, to signage with appropriate labeling and giving clear directions, among many other things. However, usability is only one of many considerations in developing an architectural solution. In this realm, working within a physical space gives a distinct advantage—an architect can design a solution that will engage all five of a user’s senses. In this way, he or she creates a somewhat more complete user experience than we could ever achieve on the web (as we know it).

Still, architects are, essentially, generalists—they must be able to develop an overarching vision that encompasses all aspects of a problem. During construction, they function as overseers, relying on a team of skilled specialists to help realize their visions. They must be masters of communication to be able to guide their team toward the solutions they’ve developed. The fluidity of their work lends itself to the same sorts of challenges we face in ours—budgetary issues, lack of resources, difficult clients, difficult teams/managers, etc.—which, in turn, requires flexibility of thought from the designer to be able to adapt the work with each changing variable.

UX Designers as Architects?

At this point, I’m certain, you’ve noticed the similarities between what I’ve described in the preceding paragraphs, and our own processes and considerations as user experience professionals. The UX canvas is, of course, the web, which is theoretically limitless, and our sites and applications tend to function as independent worlds that have little or nothing to do with other sites and applications. When we begin a project, we are essentially designing a self-contained community that rarely, if ever, interacts with other sites or apps.

In this way, user experience designers function as urban planners, guiding the orderly development of a community. Our information architecture is the laying of the foundation; navigation design maps out the network of roads, leading to and connecting the various sections of our site. We know that if these elements are not sound, are not intuitive and logical, our community will be difficult and frustrating to maneuver.

User experience designers function as urban planners, guiding the orderly development of a community

The sections and pages of our sites are the buildings, floors, and public spaces of our community, where content, functionality and audience come into play. In order to enhance and bolster the overall site experience, they must work in concert. The roads we build will guide people around our community, but the content must both captivate and fulfill user desires.

Thinking Like an Architect will make You an Awesome Designer

Architecture is a millennia-old design discipline that has passively influenced our work on the web. Awareness of the connections and similarities between our professional realms can help us to actively improve our work. By studying the successes and failings present in the world around us and understanding what goes into the design process that leads to the structures and spaces we see all around us we can more fully appreciate our experiences with them. In every space we enter and interact with, there is an opportunity to learn and grow as an experience designer.

The next time you’re driving (or riding) somewhere, pay careful attention to the roads taken. Are they clearly labeled? Is the navigation intuitive? Can you easily get where you need to go? For example, you may find an exit that’s only on one side of the freeway, or signage that is nonexistent or obscured by trees or other elements of the landscape. When visiting department stores, “big-box” retailers, grocery stores, etc., note the layout of the store. If it’s a large chain, does it have the same layout as other branches you’ve visited? Can you find what you’re looking for without asking an employee?

When you get out on the road, or go to a store, you are setting out to fulfill a particular objective—just like users on a site or app. Observe how easily you are able to complete that objective, and where the process can be improved. We are the users of someone else’s product every single day of our lives. By setting ourselves up as testers, we can continually learn valuable lessons in usability, hone our thinking and improve our craft.

Conclusion

The connections between architectural and experience design are undeniable, the thought processes nearly indistinguishable from one another. When we explore other, older design disciplines, their evolution may begin to guide ours, and we may begin to truly innovate. We are truly the architects, the chief builders, of the web, and I’ll leave you with one last thought to consider, from Hal Box: “It’s the architect’s responsibility to develop an architectural concept that will satisfy the client’s program of need, desire, and budget in a way that will enhance rather than damage the surroundings—and do so in a way that will make the client, user, and public grin with pure pleasure.”

Pure pleasure. It’s a lofty goal, but one we strive toward every day.

 

Image of architect's plans courtesy Shuttershock

Add new comment

Comments

 

My names is Adams Helen am from USA i want to use this opportunity to thank Dr Trust the great doctor who bring back my husband which makes me very happy today so i could not keep the wonderful work he has done for me so i decide to share it with you all because he is real not like those who eat up my money and never do anything for me, i have 2 lovely kids for my husband, about 3 years ago my husband and i has been quarreling about some things he is doing that he had not been doing before,like keeping late at night and drinking i don't know that my husband is having a secret affair with a lady close to my street they do meet after work at one hotel,one day i felt that this is too much to bear then i confronted him one night but he did not listen instead he beat me up in front of our kids then he finally left me for the lady. i felt my life was over and my kids thought they will never see their father again. i tried to be strong just for the kids but i couldn’t control the pains that torments my heart, my heart was filled with sorrows and pains because i was really in love with my husband. Every day and night i think of him and i always wish he will come back to me, until one day i met a good friend of mine that was also in a situation like me but her problem was her ex-boyfriend who she had an unwanted pregnancy for and he refused to take responsibility and dumped her. she told me that mine was a small case and that i shouldn’t worry about it at all so i asked her what was the solution to my problems and she gave me this great Doctor email address i was doubting if this man was the solution,because i have tried so many fake Doctor on the internet but they only eat up my money and never work for me so i contacted this great man and he told me what to do and i deed them all, he told me to wait for just 42 hours and that my husband will come crawling on his kneels just for forgiveness so i faithfully deed what this great man asked me to do and for sure after 12hours i heard a knock on the door i went and open the door, in a great surprise i saw him on his kneels and i was speechless, when he saw me, all he did was crying and asking me for forgiveness, from that day, all the pains and sorrows in my heart ran away,since then i and my husband and our lovely kids are living happily.that is why i want to say a big thanks to Dr Trust This great man made me to understand that there is know problem on earth that has no solution so please if you know that you have any relationship problem, i will advise you to contact this great doctor through his mail

 

Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com or Ultimatespellcast@gmail.com

Web site: http://ultimatespellcast8.wix.com/ultimatespellcast 

Call +2348156885231

During my time of difficulty and heartbreak i was able to find refuge in the hands of Dr.AZA through his act of spell casting that he was able to bring my lover back within 48 hours, my husband left me and the kids for another woman and he said to me that he just want to be alone for sometime and i was so depress by his words and action but not knowing he did it because of another woman. The first time i read an article about Dr.AZA i was wondering if all the things that i read about were true because a lot of people where testifying about his good work, But since i was desperate to get my lover back i had no choice than to contact him through these details whatsApp number +2348107155060 and via email: azaspellcaster@gmail.com And to my greatest surprise i was able to get a positive result that got me shocked because my lover called me within hours that i contacted Dr.AZA.

Excited and extremely happy, and thankful that my marriage with my husband has been restored. me and my husband have been married of 22 years together 23. After i found him texting a coworker and questioned him, he said they were just friends but 3 wks later he told me he didnt love me anymore that he was in love with her and that i made him feel bad about himself and she didnt. He left home for 2 wks came home and left 2 wks later. Been gone for 3 1/2 months now. Hes been going to bars, calling women, lying like crazy, drinking like a fish and hasnt spoken to the kids the whole time hes been gone. His whole personality has changed. We believe he is going thru some sort of mid life crisis. Its crazy, he is acting like a person that we dont know anymore. Is it possible to get my marriage back. Because I know that he is going thru some crazy thing right now Im finding it very hard to let go. I still love him. How can I save my marriage and family when my husband is in the middle of a mid life crisis and wont listen to my or anyone else. We are so confused. i try to communicate with him but still hang off the phone on me,I love my family. and my husband and i need to keep my marriage save with him from other women so i have to seek for a love spell to keep our marriage stronger and safe so going online one day on facebook, i saw a prayer point, and a website say if you need your ex back, save your marriage, and fight your husband from divorce. i was so very happy a hopeful again that i can get back with my husband after i saw this website so i read this testimony of this website on how he help save his marriage nd i was excited to give a try so i contacted him and give him all the reason why i need his help, and he assured me that with-6 good hours of his spell that my husband will come back home to me so i believe and trust him coz he was like a father to me also a man of his words so today am happy that my husband who has been away for 3 1/2 months now with his coworker is back home with apology plz you all should help me and thank Dr happy he really save my life and my marriage so email him if you need help also on happylovespell2@gmail.com call +2348133873774 about his service and web site: http://happyspelltemple.webs.com/

Hi everyone, I'm so excited.My ex-boyfriend is back after a breakup,I’m extremely happy that will are living together again.My name is Mary Wilkie from England.My boyfriend of a 4yr just broke up with me and am 30 weeks pregnant.I have cried my self to sleep most of the nights and don’t seem to concentrate during lectures sometimes I stay awake almost all night thinking about him and start to cry all over again.Because of this I end up not having energy for my next day’s classes ,my attendance has dropped and am always in uni and on time.Generally he is a very nice guy ,he ended it because he said we were arguing a lot and not getting along.He is right we’ve been arguing during the pregnancy a lot .After the break up I kept ringing him and telling him I will change.I am in love with this guy and he is the best guy I have ever been with.I’m still hurt and in disbelief when he said he didn’t have any romantic feelings towards me anymore that hurt me faster than a lethal syringe.He texts me now and then mainly to check up on how am doing with the pregnancy,he is supportive with it but it’s not fair on me, him texting me as I just want to grieve the pain and not have any stress due to the pregnancy.i was really upset and i needed help, so i searched for help online and I came across a website that suggested that Dr Unity can help solve marital problems, restore broken relationships and so on. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and he told me what to do and i did it then he did a spell for me. 28 hours later, my bf came to me and apologized for the wrongs he did and promise never to do it again. Ever since then, everything has returned back to normal. I and my bf are living together happily again.. All thanks to Dr Unity. If you have any problem contact Dr.Unity now and i guarantee you that he will help you.Email him at: Unityspelltemple@gmail.com ,you can also call him or add him on Whats-app: +2348071622464 ,His website: http://unityspelltemple.yolasite.com .

Hi everyone, I'm so excited.My ex-boyfriend is back after a breakup,I’m extremely happy that will are living together again. My name is Mary Wilkie from England.My boyfriend of a 4yr just broke up with me and am 30 weeks pregnant.I have cried my self to sleep most of the nights and don’t seem to concentrate during lectures sometimes I stay awake almost all night thinking about him and start to cry all over again.Because of this I end up not having energy for my next day’s classes ,my attendance has dropped and am always in uni and on time.Generally he is a very nice guy ,he ended it because he said we were arguing a lot and not getting along.He is right we’ve been arguing during the pregnancy a lot .After the break up I kept ringing him and telling him I will change.I am in love with this guy and he is the best guy I have ever been with.I’m still hurt and in disbelief when he said he didn’t have any romantic feelings towards me anymore that hurt me faster than a lethal syringe.He texts me now and then mainly to check up on how am doing with the pregnancy,he is supportive with it but it’s not fair on me, him texting me as I just want to grieve the pain and not have any stress due to the pregnancy.i was really upset and i needed help, so i searched for help online and I came across a website that suggested that Dr Unity can help solve marital problems, restore broken relationships and so on. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and he told me what to do and i did it then he did a spell for me. 28 hours later, my bf came to me and apologized for the wrongs he did and promise never to do it again. Ever since then, everything has returned back to normal. I and my bf are living together happily again.. All thanks to Dr Unity. If you have any problem contact Dr.Unity now and i guarantee you that he will help you.Email him at: Unityspelltemple@gmail.com ,you can also call him or add him on whats-app: +2348071622464 ,His website: http://unityspelltemple.yolasite.com .

I totally agree with the parallels drawn here. I have been an architect and recently trying to make the transition into UX. While in class I saw the similarities and wondered why we never took a course like UX or something similar in Architecture. I think it is about time we started to see the convergence of some of these professions since they have so much in common.  

I really would like to know what roles are out there if any that combine Architecture and UX. I think being able to incorporate Architecture and technology into a seamless experience from the onset could be very interesting.

Are you going through a break-up or divorce? Do you need your Ex back fast? do not cry anymore, contact Dr .Unity powerful Love spell that work fast now!! I was hurt and heart broken when my husband breakup with me, and i could not know what next to do again, I love my husband so much but he was cheating on me with another woman and this makes him break up with me so that he can be able to get marred to the other lady and this lady i think use witchcraft on my husband to make him hate me and my kids and this was so critical and uncalled-for,I cry all day and night for God to send me a helper to get back my man until i went to Texas to see a friend and who was having the same problem with me but she latter got her husband back and i asked her how she was able to get her husband back and she told me that their was a powerful spell caster called Dr.Unity that help with love spell in getting back lost lover back, and i decided to contact the same Dr.Unity and he told me what is needed to be done for me to have my man back and i did it although i doubted it but i did it and the Dr told me that i will get the result after 24hours, and he told me that my husband was going to call me and i still doubted his word, to my surprise my husband really called me and told me that he miss me so much, Oh My God! i was so excited, and today i am happy with my man again and we are joyfully living together as one big family and i thank the powerful spell caster Dr.Unity for bringing back my man and i decided to share my story on the internet that Dr.Unity is best spell caster online who i will always pray to live long to help his children in the time of trouble, If you have any problem contact Dr.Unity and i guarantee you that he will help you,Email him at: Unityspelltemple@gmail.com ,you can also call him or add him on whats-app: +2348071622464 ,visit his website:http://unityspelltemple.yolasite.com .

Mary Wilkie from  USA

 

My name is tucker stacey.This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Trust has rendered to me by helping me get my ex husband back with his magic and love spell. i was married for 6 years and it was so terrible because my husband was really cheating on me and was seeking for a divorce but when i came across Dr.Trust email on the internet on how he help so many people to get thier ex back and help fixing relationship.and make people to be happy in their relationship. i explained my situation to him and then seek his help but to my greatest surprise he told me that he will help me with my case and here i am now celebrating because my Husband has change totally for good. He always want to be by me and can not do anything without my present. i am really enjoying my marriage, what a great celebration. i will keep on testifying on the internet because Dr.Trust is truly a real spell caster. DO YOU NEED HELP THEN CONTACT DOCTOR TRUST NOW VIA EMAIL: Ultimatespellcast@gmail.com or call +2348156885231 or ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com. He is the only answer to your problem and make you feel happy in your relationship. his Via web sit: http://ultimatespellcast8.wix.com/ultimatespellcast  

I am very happy today for what God used dr. trust the great spell caster to do in my life. My name is Jong Wood i had a fight with my wife in the past which led to our divorce. I tried all i could to make her come back to me but she refuse and said it was over between us, one day i came across a testimony on the internet on how Dr. Trust used his spell to reunite two lovers and so i decided to contact him. and he assured me that my wife will come back to me within 48 hounrs after he has finish the preparation of the white magic spell.I am very glade today to tell the world that Dr.Trust is truly a man of his word because my wife came back to me and fell on her knees begging me to forgive her and accept her back. Do you have a problems with your loved once then contact Doctor Trust today via email: Ultimatespellcast@gmail.com or Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com call him +2348156885231 his Via web sit: http://ultimatespellcast8.wix.com/ultimatespellcast or you can chat or add me on Facebook via Jong wood.

 

I am an architect. But I've been coding my first app, learning as I code since last year. It will also be my first startup. I've been a design architect for 10+ years doing designs of all scales and mainly competitions. So I know a thing or two about architectural design. I can design and 3d model an island masterplan in a few hours for example, of course these kinds of projects only happen in China. 

In my startup I'm coding and designing an iOS app that relates to data and its visualisation graphicalolly and spatially. In theory my architectural expertise should be able to overlap quite well. I'm imagining the site is a little like deep space. So when I'm designing this data it feels a little like designing a spacestation in terms of it being isolated in space and without context. 

it's surprising tho. As much as I thought I knew about design, designing the UX and UI has major differences. In architecture I am always trying to design somethin people haven't seen before, always trying to be cutting edge. The word to take note of here is "trying". Architecture is old, and everyone knows what a building looks like so really you can only ever keep trying to do something crazy and then blame all the other project constraints when your curve becomes straight or your spike gets deleted. If a person gets lost in your building, you blame signage.

With UX, if the user gets lost, they wouldn't even get into the building, they'd leave the app or website and never use it again, until further notice. Most people don't freak out and even expect to get lost in a building. Not the case with digital applications. So right now, I'm trying to Look into the users conceptual expectations vs the designs concept and trying to match them. My architectural skills do let me traverse these well enough but still, its not exactly a metaphorical match. I'm confident I can overcome these issues because of my design experience however.

happy to discuss further as I do think architectural experience can branch out into many other fields More than just metaphorically. To be honest I'm sick of listening to metaphors about architecture and such such. I'm only interested in a real merge now. For example my entire career in architecture I've heard the metaphorical similarities of film and architecture. But All I could find is architecture in film. Not film in architecture nor its merge. So yeh, bring it on! :)

 

 

Information Architect = UX Designer. Riveting, isn't it?

This is very good on the architect for UX. http://www.canopy-malikmurantik.com/

This is very good on the architect for UX. Also, I can see this can handy for making software designers. 

Thanks Rima, your article was an inspiration to make a presentation to teens interested to learn about digital world and about my work. Really  i can to explain clearly my function inside the digital development team.

It sounds as if UX practitioners are increasingly trying to be all things to everyone. In the past, a web designer did all the things you mention in the first couple paragraphs. Solved problems, balancing aesthetics with usability and also ensuring the design can be built. Now, Web Designers are supposedly redundant because UX is now going to do the visual design and everything else. I think UX Design is just a new way of saying Web Design. In other words, anyone who used to have the job title of 'Web Designer' or 'Copywriter' or 'Visual Designer' or 'Architect' or anything with the word 'Designer', well now you should just call yourself a UX Designer and get paid a whole lot more.

thanks for your note, hugh. i suppose that's one way of looking at it, but web development has changed quite a bit since the 90s, even in just the last couple of years. i don't know that i agree with your assessment, though. for one, i don't think most ux people do much copywriting, though i could surely be wrong. also, ux is just so much more than visual design, isn't it? ux brings a focus to crafting the entire experience that typical web design or development wouldn't necessarily encompass. many who have worked as developers or designers have certainly shifted into the ux field - that's where i started as well. the field sounds broad and general on the surface, i get that. but it's like majoring in political science with a concentration in political theory - ux is the focus, the paradigm, the lens through which the project is viewed and what will influence decisions. smashing magazine has some great ebooks about ux principles and techniques which i'd definitely recommend checking out if you're interested in learning more about ux. not to mention the vast collection of fabulous articles on this very site. and, of course, i'm always up for further discussion :)

as a trained architect who practiced for 7 years before becoming an interaction/ux designer at the dawn of the web...I would echo this assessment. The process and tools for designing complex, simultaneous, multi-variable, human-centred problems (buildings) which are both useful and beautiful whilst balancing the needs of the client, the budget, the site, the physics of materials, legal regulations, etc. were a perfect fit for designing complex websites and software which are arranged around the goals, needs and information of users whilst meeting client objectives within a timeline and budget. I would even go so far as to say that there are few educational foundations as rich and potent for so many different creative fields as architecture. But then that is not surprising, it is a culture and practice that is literally as old as civilisation...and formally defined as a practice since the time of the ancient greeks. That's a lot of knowledge and experience to draw on...

Hi Ian, I too am a qualified architect but I have become increasingly disillusion with the practice or architecture (I am currently 9 years since registration). I have read a few accounts of architects making the leap, such as yourself, into UX and not looking back. I would really like to get into this field but I have absolutely no idea where to start. I don't suppose you would have any tips?!

Amazing article.
The sort of content that put us to think more about the importance of our job in the web.

Thanks Rima

For anyone interested in this line of thinking, the fantastic book "A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander is a must-read. Here's the wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Pattern_Language

Now, I can explain my work to my parents !
Thanks for this great article.

good luck to you - my mom just knows that i make websites!

Great Article Rima nice thoughts....it was very inspire me

thank you, it was just something that's been on my mind for a while :)

thanks very much!!

I agree with you Rima & great article. UX surrounds us, we live in and are part of someone's design vision whether we are in a bldg, driving or walking to a bldg or on a train etc. Poor design choices are also everywhere, frustrating and putting people in danger, like doors that open "in" rather than push "out", etc. We have to try harder, learn more and do the best job we can.

thanks barbara! that was exactly my point and exactly what inspired me to write this piece

I am determined to push forward more than ever, thanks again for writing this Rima!

Appreciate the thoughtful article!
I have degrees in Architecture and Human Factors in Information Design... they really are parallel universes!

thank you, amy! what an interesting combination of degrees - i'd love to learn more about that

I hope you don't mind lone comments.

re: Buckminster Fuller said: "...I only think about how to solve the problem..."

But it all starts here does it? That is, misunderstand the problem—any problem, not just UX problems—and the solution, regardless of how brilliant, is going to be off-target. While Hal Box's Three Worlds helps, I think it might be much simpler than that (presuming the problem is already understood).

Well formed solutions come down to this: In theory vs Reality.

For example, project / client wants (no matter how misplaced), as well as budget would be part of the reality side of the process. In theory, is anything outside the context of reality. That is, custom cut wood (as opposed to stock size from the lumber yard) would be theory. Exploring solutions in many cases starts in theory but it must work towards reality. How much time and effort can be devoted to that migration, is a function of timeline / budget. Yet how many times do we still see a budget missed because an excessive amount of time was put into theory (and the team's self-indulgence, creative masturbation, etc.)?

Great article. Thanks. The closing quote from Hal box was worth the price of admission.

p.s. I believe there might be one important factor that is missing from your analogy / discussion. That is, maintenance and maintainability. For example, how many times have we seen a building material that looks great when new but then soaks up dirt and such as it weathers. Or what about trees that are planted directly under power lines? Yes, it looks great on postcard but in a few years that fully grown tree is just one thunderstorm away from an inconvenience, as well as an unnecessary expense. We must be mindful of the life-cycle (if you will) of the products we design.

thanks so much, mark - really great insights and food for thought

I like your thinking. Although I think we need to zoom out a bit more. "The UX canvas is, of course, the web,..." is like saying 'the canvas of an architect is a villa'. I think what's next for the UX is practice is the realization that its mindset, approach and skills will be applicable to any object to be designed, both physical and digital. THAT makes the canvas for UX limitless. Also because the line between the physical and digital is blurring. If things are 'hybrid' I think the UX practice is in the lead, and sooner or later, everything is 'hybrid' in one way or the other. The bottom-line for UX is the quality of the human experience, regardless the shape or form of the touchpoints.

great points, frank! and i completely agree. take all of my notions only in the context of the web.

Every time somebody says Architect in our profession ... a kitten died somewhere.

lol i'm not sure what your opposition is to the term... but like i explained in a different response, architect literally means chief or master builder - what are we if not builders?

There is a lot of truth here. Speaking as one of the few people on the planet with degrees in both Urban Planning and Human Computer Interaction, though, this statement:

"When we begin a project, we are essentially designing a self-contained community that rarely, if ever, interacts with other sites or apps.

In this way, user experience designers function as urban planners, guiding the orderly development of a community."

is fairly antithetical to both architecture and urban planning. Architects that design buildings or communities that don't live in harmony with their surroundings (or at least break the harmony for a purpose) aren't doing their jobs well. Similarly, urban planners need to make sure they set the rules for a city as such that development in one area is unlikely to negatively affect another in any surprising ways.

I say this not just to be contrarian, but to point out that as we move into the Internet of Things era, it may be that it is also antithetical to UX designers to design our systems in a silo. Indeed, we're already starting to depend on Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and many other designed systems to power our creations. It's likely that in the future, efforts will become even more entwined. UX designers are already trained to think holistically, but we may have to up our game.

i completely agree. "user experience" applies to everything, not just the web. of course, the context here is that i was referring to web-based sites/apps - maybe that was unclear. in that context, i stand behind what i said. and i was referring to the typical reality of these projects, not necessarily what i think should be done. a typical website stands alone. the vast majority of sites in existence today are still fairly static sites. they have nothing to do with anything else. there are many known examples contrary to this, but the fact remains. the web is vast!

fwiw, that bit bothered me as well. The "project" might not interact directly with "peers" but the users / visitors do interact with said "peers" and that in turn adjusts and defines expectations. To ignore that context is dangerous at best.

Nice analogy Ms. Reda.

Before changing careers, I was a structural engineer who worked to help architects design building. Now, as I began my UX career, I too think about the similarities between architects and UX designers. Your article does a nice job fleshing out the analogy. What I have to add centers around your conclusion that:

"[UX designers] are truly the architects, the chief builders, of the web"

In the design of a building, the architect always leads the design and hires the engineer to ensure that the building doesn't fall down (among other things). The aesthetic and usability design is well developed before the engineering begins.

The opposite is true for the web. Computer engineers lead its design, at least historically, and UX designers add aesthetics and usability to what the engineers built. This arrangement--engineering preceding UX--is shifting, it seems, to a more collaborative, iterative process as the web matures.

So your conclusion about the chief builders of the web may be a little premature. And I don't know how far the UX/architect analogy can be stretched, but comparing how a designer sees the world as opposed to how an engineer sees it is certainly worth exploring further as society develops its digital world.

whilst I would agree that the web has been dominated by engineers in many instances...in my 20 years working in the industry i have seen design working hand in hand with engineers...and often shaping the vision for the solution due to the focus on the value created for users in the experience they have. But its also worth saying that as someone who practiced as an architect, it is no different there. Buildings are incredibly complex, requiring multiple areas of deep expertise. in reality, buildings are a collaboration between architects, engineers, planners, business people, interior designers, landscape architects, HVAC specialist, glazing specialists, manufacturing specialists, etc. The reason architects appear to lead the process is simply because architect is simply because they are able to visualise and communicate how the whole comes together from the perspective of the end users...which is, in the end, their role. They are the bridge between the different disciplines...the ultimate generalists...in much the same way that designers are in the best of web and software developments.

hi ryan, thanks for your comments and insight! i love hearing from people on the other side.

what you said about computer engineers leading design has historically been true, but i think there's been a paradigm shift in recent years and we're seeing more and more designers/ux people/creatives leading these efforts. i hope that trend continues. i've experienced it both ways, and while i do believe that things need to be balanced, i think i prefer having a creative in charge.

i got the term "chief builder" from the literal meaning/translation of the word architect, and i do believe it fits. ux is in the forefront more and more - i see ux job postings everywhere now, all the time, where a couple of years ago i barely saw any. we're doing it. we're leading the charge, and people are realising how essential our work is.

This is why information architecture uses the word architecture, rather than design or strategy or engineering or scientist. Architecture connotes something essential that the other do not.

Thanks for bringing this up. I'm surprised that the job title and entire field of Information Architecture wasn't really mentioned here. Although I "grew up" as a UX Designer, my most recent title has been Information Architect. I'm sure there's lots of folks who go back and forth between those two job titles.

I've realized that I'm more comfortable with "architect" than "designer" because although I use design thinking, I am architecting solutions based on user and technology restrictions. Just like non-digital architects.

Very insightful!

thanks, ann!