Since a couple of years, some UX designers renamed themselves as UX architects. That’s probably because the word « designer » sounds too interaction focused, and that because the UX job also includes information architects skills.
So, I’ve been wondering what are the similarities between UX and « real » architecture .
ACCEPT ALL CONSTRAINTS
Some theories about evolution tell that species that survive are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but the ones that adapt the most successfully. In the book « Yes is More », edited by the famous architecture agency BIG, architects are described as « Yes men », because they accept the complexity of a project and adapt themselves. So it’s all about this, dealing with constraints of different kind to find the right structure, the one that works for all.
In UX, we manage development constraints to create the best user experience, in a way that creates value for our client.
UNDERSTANDING THE FIELD
As every project is unique, an architect needs to understand the role of the building he is working on and who is going to be living there.
Take a school project. He must understand how both the children and the staff would experience it. For the children, windows, staircases and furnitures have to be adapted to their size, the decoration must be dense and colorful. For the staff, safety elements are crucial, furnitures must easily be washable, storage spaces accessible…
In UX, every project is also particular, and it would be a mistake to reproduce exactly the same structure from one website to another, even of the same type. User interviews help us to define the key functions and content, and how to organise them logically. Then, every part of the website is built taking into account particular ergonomic requirements.
BUILD WITH A SYNTHETIC APPROACH
Most construction projects start with a pitch. Architecture consultancies compete to show the best project, using didactic assets and beautiful renderings to express their idea. At this stage of the process, main issues are treated such as the implementation in the surroundings, volumes, user flow, solar orientation, structure, … Then, when the project really starts, the design is more detailed.
In UX, we need both to have a strategic vision of the project and then to manage all the little aspects that can potentially bother the user experience.
Take a chat box, users should be able to access it from anywhere, hide it and bring it back, easily browse the previous messages, … This element is just one little part of the website and doesn’t have to be detailed at the beginning of the project, but if it’s not well treated, it can spoil the whole experience.
Like in industrial design, architecture massively uses 3d modelling in the conception phase, both for the interior floor layout and the building structure. It helps to manage all the challenges of the construction by simulating the final result. In the software Revit, multiple contributors use a model and save work centrally. They can analyze the lighting, the thermal insulation, the structure and get an inventory of all elements included in the building such as furniture, doors, lights, …
3d helps also to organize the construction workflow, as you can see it in the Megastructure Singapores Marina bay sands documentary.
In the digital industry, the gap between the design and the construction is more blurry and, in Agile processes, we can still change the project during the development phase. Yet some architecture projects tend to create buildings that can still change after construction, such the Google HQ imagined by BIG and Heatherwick.
OPEN MINDED BUT STUBBORN
From a position at the end of the process, as a human factor specialist, UX gets now more and more implicated during the whole process, at the center of the many stakeholders.
Like architects, UX must:
• accept all constraints and seek for the best structure
• deep dive into the field they are working for
• build with a synthetic approach, from the big picture to the very last details
• anticipate failure as soon as possible
This position also means to be a bit stubborn, to keep the product as user friendly and innovative as possible.
As UX, do you feel like an architect? Is there any other job comparable? Restaurant Chef for example?