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Developer Career Patterns: The User Interface Information Architect

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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.

· Web Dev Zone
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Good design is thorough down to the last detail. 
Dieter Rams

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.

Engineering Ideas

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.

Curriculum Vitae

The shortest answer is the doing of the thing.
Ernest Hemingway

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

Next Time

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.

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Topics:
web design and web development ,careers

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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