Developer Career Patterns: The User Interface Information Architect
Interface building and information architecture are essential components of any designer's or coder's toolkit. Learn what it is, and some tell-tale signs you might be right for this field.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
The interface reigns.
Since the introduction of GUI, user interfaces in general and web interfaces more lately have become one of the most important aspects of computer-human interaction. Entire fortunes are now gambled, lost and made, on the presentation of the pixel. Rather than advertising or the more profound functionality behind the product, the front-end has come to be identified as the most visible expression of brand, intent, and usefulness.
Positioning Pixels is Parsing Meaning
The architects who design and create these vital portals go by many names; the most popular now invoke the term User Experience: an initially useful term now made ambiguous through dillution.
Whatever the nom de guerre of the moment, anyone building an UI is functionally an agent of information architecture; while UI, and its aesthetic aspect, is the most visible expression of information architecture, it neither begins nor ends there. For the sake of simplicity, I'll name these practicioners UI-IA for User Interface Information Architect.
So what, exactly, means this career path is the one to which you're inclined?
Personality is Aptitude
It's most likely a question of personality as much as topical interest.
Building interfaces that reflect a deeper order reflects a concern for matching structure and meaning; it's not enough that something can be found or a task completed, it's also how the information is conveyed. A form must be observed; resemblances sought out, nurtured, and developed into a system of predictable elements and arrangements.
You might have spent time in a library or two in your youth, not just looking, but discerning how discoverability works and the shape discourse takes rather than solely its contents.
This is where Computer and Library Sciences meet, in the discipline of Informatics: one part engineering, one part information science.
An UI-IA considers not just the placement of pixels, but the entirety of the information system, from its primary users and their task and attendant habits, the organization of which they're a part, the attributes of the technologies at work, and finally the interface that serves as window unto these first-order concerns.
Conceptual inputs from outside fields are investigated, and often appropriated.
The shortest answer is the doing of the thing.
You have to build a website that showcases your style and command of information. A popular project is to create a website that documents its own process of development, from ideation to execution. This is the kind of deliverable that any client will ask you to produce, and the best proof of competence.
Success and Guard Conditions
Working in UI-IA means that you rarely have sign-off authority; part of working in these environments means developing another skill set, this one soft:
- Build consensus among teams. How many people are involved in the production of your product? This context matters; even areas as far away as marketing can affect the way your work is likely to be received.
It's difficult to sell a process whose outputs are a flowchart, wireframe, and mock-up because these outputs can be made badly and still appear to be the result of diligent work.
Your competition isn't the competent professional, it's mediocrity.
The State of the Art and Long-term Prospects
UI-IAs will enjoy employability in a field that's growing much more quickly than the rest of the labor market.
Depending upon your particular strengths and how you market yourself, you can command a fairly high salary.
Field and Compensation (U.S. National Average)
|Graphic Design||Web Development||Software Development||UX Design|
|44, 150 USD per annum||62, 500 USD per annum||93, 350 USD per annum||90,000 USD per annum|
|21.22 USD hourly||30.o5 USD hourly||44.88 USD hourly||43.27 USD hourly|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Glassdoor
We'll wrap-up with a quiz that can tell you whether you fit the mold for this career path or any of the others from our developer career paths series.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.