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August 21 2012

13:30

The Difference Between Information Architecture and UX Design

Information architects form the blueprints of the web

Next to explaining what I do for a living, the second question I most frequently hear is: “What’s the difference between Information Architecture and User Experience?” The line always seems to blur between the two, even though there’s clearly a difference. How should I go about explaining it?

Information Architecture, according to Wikipedia, is “the art and science of organizing and labelling websites … to support usability.“ According to the same source, User Experience is “the way a person feels about using a product, system or service. [This includes] a person’s perceptions of the practical aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency of the system.”

Even with regards to its definition, User Experience takes Information Architecture as its foundation and brings it to the next level.

Information Architecture concerns structure

Information Architecture is a relatively old term. Old in the sense of the web and old in the sense of our progression through technology. It focuses on the organization and structure of content in a manner in which a user can navigate through it. Digitally speaking, it can range from a simple brochure site all the way to a complex information system.

Information Architects work to create usable content structures out of complex sets of information. They do this using plenty of user-centered design methods: usability tests, persona research and creation, and user flow diagrams (to name only a few). That said, it still seems that UX design is in vogue.

And here’s why: Information Architecture comprises only small a part of a user’s overall experience.

User Experience concerns emotion

What’s User Experience then? User Experience Designers take a site’s information architecture one step further, considering not only its navigation, but also its ability to facilitate engagement. To do this, they employ user-centered design to produce a cohesive, predictable, and desirable affect in their target audience. Whoa.

UX designers turn ordinary experiences into exceptional ones

Essentially, UX designers work to make things more profound, targeting their users on an emotional level. I don’t mean “tugging at heart strings” emotional, but more eliciting an emotional response in respect to what they just accomplished. UX design adds context and story to a user’s natural behaviour and, in so doing, gives them something to take away from their experience.


The Fundamentals of Experience Design

Stephen Anderson believes that the best experiences lie at the intersection of “People, their Activities, and the Context of those activities”

You can look at it like this: UX encompasses the whole spectrum. It’s like taking a cup of IA, mixed with a dash of usability, a pinch of content strategy and whole lotta creativity. Or, even simpler, UX is the love child between a Creative Director and an Information Architect. A lot of the time this means stripping things away so you’re left with just the essence of what a user needs.

Being easy and cool

If you aren’t completely confused yet, you’re probably thinking that you need a good IA in order have a good UX. Exactly. Another way of looking at it is: User Experience Designers consider Information Architecture, but Information Architects don’t necessarily consider their users’ entire experience.

A usable experience is easy, simple and gets the job done. An engaging experience does all of that and instills a lasting impression on the user. It’s the difference between coming away from a site and thinking “That was easy” and “Whoa. That was cool.”

It’s the difference between Wunderlist and Clear.

Between Sketchbook and Paper.

Both of the former apps are good, easy, usable tools. But the latter apps are not only easy and usable, they’re fun and engaging.

It’s all in the approach

Looking at any one discipline’s workflow is a daunting task, but let’s take a quick 10,000-foot view how the workflows for IAs and UX designers might differ. Information Architects would likely consider their requirements, research their users’ goals, and conduct some form of competitive analysis. In the end, they might generate page flows, wireframes and, of course, a sitemap. Add on some usability testing, refinement and revisions, and it’s off to the designers.

UX designers, though, would likely take a different approach. Although they’ll take the IA’s workflow into consideration, they might also consider the emotional goals of their end-user. Their competitive comparison may be more around interaction models, rather than structure and layout.

Conclusion

UX builds on the foundation that IA provides, aiming to take that experience to the next level, both creatively and emotionally. This is the outstanding difference that defines how the apps, sites, and products of today are designed as opposed to those of yesterday. For those interested in more resources, I’ve included a list of links below to check out.


The post The Difference Between Information Architecture and UX Design appeared first on UX Booth.

June 06 2012

20:11

May 08 2011

10:00

Using Social Media To Establish Your Brand Online

Everyone has a brand, including you. You’re a freelancer, that right there is the start of your brand. If you are involved in social media at any level, whether personal or professional, you have a brand. Think about it, every time you interact with someone or say something in public, you’re establishing your brand.

Did you help someone out? You just established yourself as a helpful person and that adds to your brand. Do you complain a lot? You’ll become known as a whiner. Are you the go to guy in your field of work? That’ll add to your brand too.

With every personal and professional interaction, you’re subconsciously branding yourself or your business for your customers.  Social media is now considered one of the most important outlets of establishing a brand. If you aren’t utilizing the power of social media, you’re doing your business a disservice. Social media has the power to cement your brand in your audience’s mind. Yada, yada, yada.

Importance of branding

As a freelancer, your brand is the most important aspect of your marketing efforts. It sets you apart from other freelancers in your niche. It helps your clients identify you as someone who’s business values match theirs. It helps you establish an emotional connection with them which, when done right, can turn into loyalty. Imagine having a client who’s so happy with you that he only wants you to handle his work.

A brand isn’t just a symbol or logo. It is an amalgamation of your core values and beliefs. Through branding, your clients know your values, what you believe in, stand for – and what you don’t. Your brand tells your consumers why you’re different and better than your competitors.

Get your branding right and you won’t have to prove your mettle to your client’s time and again. Your brand will tell them for you.

Personal vs. Professional Brand

Your brand could be anything that your customers and target audience identify you with. It could be your name, a symbol, your company logo or tagline  – anything that is your identification mark.

At its most basic level, branding is divided into two types: personal and professional. A personal brand is one where the name of the individual is more recognized. A professional brand is about a company and can represent more than one person or even just one as is the case in most freelancing businesses.

Freelancers often have a tough time figuring out whether they need to establish a personal brand focused around their name or a professional one based around their freelancing business. Both have their pros and cons.

If you’re a one man show whose name carries more recognition than your company, then a personal brand is the best option. It’s easy to recognize, people relate to it more easily and trust it more. On the other hand, a personal brand is vulnerable as there’s no off time where you can shut off and not be scrutinized. Because your name is your brand, anything online that has your name on it gets attached to your brand even if you don’t want it to.

A professional brand is the right choice if your company is the face of your business. For example, you may be a team of freelancers working as a business. Depending on your goals, you can either all use the company logo as an image or create separate accounts for your business. This way, more than one person is the face of the brand and this is also where it gets complicated.

It also means that there’s no one point of contact and the action of one reflects on the business and it’s partners and has the potential to ruin your reputation should something go wrong.

Using Social Media to Establish your Brand

One of the easiest ways to establish your brand these days is through social media. It doesn’t cost anything and has the potential to reach thousands. It’s also the most treacherous way to establish your brand. One wrong step and you could ruin your reputation and damage your brand. But do it right and you’ll be reaping the rewards.

Decide which Social Media Networks to Use

The biggest pro and con of using social media to establish your brand is the sheer number of services available out there. In order to effectively brand yourself, decide on three that are most relevant to your business.

For freelancers (and most other businesses), the top three social media networks are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The interesting thing about these three is that they all have different vibes and uses.

Facebook is the ultimate social network. You can create a group, start a page and even use your own profile to connect with your existing and prospective clients. People can join your group, like your page or add you as a friend to start interacting with you.

Twitter is more like the office water cooler. People hang out there to share things, make connections, network and generally have fun. The action and reaction time on twitter is in real-time. Tweet something and you’ll start getting replies from your followers immediately.

LinkedIn is more formal and aimed at professional networking. It is where you put your business foot forward. If you’re looking to make some serious connections, then LinkedIn is the place to be.

The one common thread between these three networks (apart from them being social networks) is that they can be effectively used to establish your brand.

Establishing your Brand Online

The first step of establishing your brand is to stay consistent with the information you display on these networks.

Display identical information on all of them. If your profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all display different information then your brand will become known for its inconsistency.

Social networks ask for the same information no matter where you’re signing up. Instead of having different information on them, it’s simply easier to use the same on every network. Not only will it save you the headache of thinking up a new ‘About me/us’ section of the profile, people will recognize you regardless of which network they run into you.

To stay consistent, pay attention to your:

Profile Picture

Your profile picture is the visual representation of your brand. If you have a personal brand then using your own picture is the best option. If you have a professional brand then you may use your company logo.

To make sure that the same picture is displayed on the website even outside of your social networks, use a service like Gravatar. It uses your email address to recognize who you are and display the picture you’ve linked to that email address.

If you use multiple emails, they can all be linked to your Gravatar account. The best thing about it is that you only have to do it once. Then you can leave a comment on any website or blog and you’ll be showing the same image as you use on your social media networks.

Profile Page

When setting up your profile, make sure your bio is the same across all networks. Facebook and LinkedIn give more space for everything in the profile section. Use it to go in detail of your business.

Twitter though just gives you a few characters. Create a short version of your profile that still lets people know that it’s you.

Link to the same website and blog in your profile and the same with interests, location etc.

Tagline

Your tagline should be present in the about section of your social network profiles. It’s the second thing visitors look for in your profile after the image.

A tagline tells you what your business, website or blog is about and how it is relevant to your audience. It’s your online elevator speech.

Contact Information

Contact information is another way to keep your brand consistent. Include the information on every social media profile, your website, blog and even communication programs like Skype.

Your email signature is another great tool to help introduce and establish your brand. Your name, occupation/designation, tagline and contact information should all be listed in the email signature along with the image you use in your social media networks. This way, if you’re contacting someone from your networks, they’ll know who you are and vice versa.

Doing the legwork to establish your brand through social media isn’t hard. It just takes time in the beginning but once everything is set up, it pretty much automates itself.

Make these changes to your social network profiles today and then all you need to focus on is your online behavior and interaction with target audience.

August 27 2010

03:59

Is a color just a color?

For centuries color has been used to provide distinction between classes, businesses, kings, courts and everything else in between. So what exactly is in a color? Does it matter that purple has been used in connotations with royalty? Does it matter that most fast food places logos are red to stimulate your appetite? So a color is a color right? Not exactly. Below are a few examples with switched color palettes. Do you think the brand still looks the same? Does it give off the same vibe/aura in a different color?

AdobeAndroidFacebookFordTargetStonesStarbucksMicrosoft

So if colors are “just colors” these brands being switched should be exactly the same thing right? Starbucks stills feels warm and earthy in blue… Facebook is cool and collected in red. Nasa feels not so smart and more juvenile… And adobe… well, it’s a bit shocking to see a different color palette to icons that we rely so heavily on their color. Many would mistake photoshop for flash in that color palette. So, remember colors aren’t just colors… Research should be put into the color palette just like your branding.

Suggested Reading

A Guide to Choosing Colors for Your Brand

Can Color Affect Your Brand Positioning?

The Definitive Color Wheel

Sponsored by

Made By Tinder

Advertise on Fuel Brand Network.
Fuel Brand Network 2010 cc (creative commons license)

Is a color just a color?

July 21 2010

12:49

May 14 2010

10:46

Time to get Serious: Selling your Brand like a Pro

Working as a freelancer means many challenges for you. You have to be a great ambassador and salesperson for your own work. When you are that closely involved it can sometimes be hard to keep the right focus. In this article I will try helping you out by sharing some useful tips on some things you should pay extra attention to if you want to be a pro when it comes to selling your brand whether it is a product or a service.

Be Positive :)

Picture by Robert Aichinger

When you are trying to sell a design/service/product you have to remember to smile. It sounds very easy, but it’s also an easy thing to forget. By being in a good mood and talking in positive words, you can affect the client to feel the same way about what you have to offer. Clients soon notice it if you seem to love what you do and be a positive person. It’s contagious!

Be satisfied

Picture by Jos van Galen

By always doing your best, you will be able to present offers and samples that you are satisfied with yourself. This makes everything easier to sell, as clients pick up any attitude you have towards your own work (like mentioned in the previous point). Selling something you really believe in is always easier. Anyone can tell when you love what you do!

Never take feedback personal

Picture by David Duncan

Even though you are the creator of what you’re trying so sell you have to remember to not take all feedback personal. We all do good and less good pieces of work and we can all become better. Clients have different preferences to what they like. Something that’s being very much-loved by one client, can be disliked by another. This doesn’t have to mean that it’s a bad piece of work though. Always aim to use all feedback in a constructive way.

Don’t sound like a “know-it-all”

Picture by Nina Briski

Make sure to adjust your language to fit whoever you’re talking to. If you use too many difficult words and terms you could end up pushing an interested client away from you, and you don’t want that.

Give all clients something unique

Picture by Gabriella Fabbri

As all clients are different you can often win extra points by fitting what you offer to suit that client. It doesn’t have to be huge changes from your original service/product but it can mean a world of difference. It can be simple things as adding an extra feature to a solution, changing settings and colors or downsizing something. By being able to custom-fit something for a client they will feel more special and better taken care of. It’s always important to make the client feel that he’s being heard. This might just be that final touch that will sell your product and have clients come back over and over.

Know your field

Picture by Michael R

You have to keep updated on what going on in your niche. Not only will clients notice, but this can separate you from the less serious competitors. By gaining a reputation as being someone who knows their field you will quickly get new clients as the rumors spread fast.

Give something extra

Picture by Charles Thompson

When you calculate an offer to a new potential client, adding something extra for free is a huge bonus for them. By throwing in free business cards, extra pictures, a month of free support and so on you can earn the value of this back many times.

Use a set-up that is easy to understand

Picture by Chris Baker

Make sure that the offer you give is easy to understand. Don’t add too much information and never leave any important parts out. Include every cost to avoid an unhappy client that gets a bigger bill than he signed up for. If you can’t set 100% the price for everything its a good idea to add a point informing of a possible 10% ± change in the final price.

Give deadlines (even if you don’t have the work yet)

Picture by Kevin Cloutier

Make sure to also tell the client exactly when you expect to have finished his product. Every piece of exact and correct information added to an offer will leave you looking both honest and professional. Both two abilities clients value a lot.

Show the ability to adjust

Picture by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Always be open to make adjustments to a project along the way, and tell this to the client beforehand. This shows good will from your side from day one and can be a strong force in your sale.

Be human

Picture by Ariel da Silva Parreira

Never give the impression of never having made any mistakes, it’ll seem cocky and unappealing. Instead of putting that mask on, you should be honest and mention how you always aim to do better at everything. Tell them that you appreciate all kinds of constructive feedback and that you are flexible.

Showing your portfolio

Picture by Guillermo Ossa

No matter how good you are with words, they can never fully replace showing your portfolio. This way clients can see examples of your previous work and see what you are capable of. Putting hours into having a good and versatile representation of your work in the portfolio is definitely worth it as it can give you extra sales. A portfolio can also give clients new ideas to things they would want to order from you.

Make sure the portfolio is accessible for later

Picture by Omar Franco

So you’ve made a great portfolio, but remember that it needs to be easy to show too. My tip is to have three versions:

  1. One that you always carry around with you to meetings
  2. Another one online as part of your website
  3. and a third one as a pdf file that can easily be mailed to someone

Have references

Picture by Ratnesh Bhatt

In a market with many competitors that clients can choose from its always a good idea to have some references. These, along with your portfolio, should represent the versatility of your work. Good older clients can help you make new deals just by being there as a reference. Never underestimate this.

No pressure

Picture by Bob Smith

Always give the client time to think through your offer. If you push too much to get an answer you can also here push the client away from you. No one like people who put too much pressure on them, so don’t do that mistake no matter how excited you are.

Give the client some time to think over things and compare it to other offers, then contact them. If they think another offer is better, offer adjustments if you can and/or ask how you should improve to maybe be a better option the next time around.

Don’t forget to share your input via comments section.:)

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