I’ve encountered an untold number of situations where, upon asking a project team to show me their planned Information Architecture (IA), they show me a Site Map instead.

I politely point out that this isn’t an IA model.

The team looks back at me, confused, and they ask the question I already know is coming: “But aren’t they the same thing?”

Nope. But I completely understand why they believe this. And I explain the difference like this:

That confusion isn’t new, partly because people on the UX/IA side of the fence do a terrible job explaining the difference.

A site map, as an artifact, does have value. It can certainly tell us whether or not all screens are present and accounted for. It can also tell us how a user may move from one screen to another.

But having a site map does nothing to ensure that the content surfaced on those screens is important to those users.

We’ve created this artifact, but that doesn’t mean we know whether or not the organization and navigation of those screens will make sense to those users.

In this week’s episode of Tuesdays with Joe, I explain (simply and clearly) the true difference between a site map and an IA model. I guarantee you’ll never confuse the two again 😉

Wishing you success in all you do — GIVE GOOD UX!

— Joe

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