UX Architect vs. UX Designer – What’s the Difference?

The UX space is continually growing and evolving, with new UX roles and departments emerging to accommodate specific tasks and research. 

One question we see pop up regularly is UX architect vs. UX designer—what’s the difference? And does my company need to fulfill both of these positions to improve the design process?

We’ll explore what a UX architect does, and the roles and responsibilities for UX designers and UX architects differ and overlap. At the end of this article, we provide a brief overview of how UXPin can help UX teams collaborate effectively.

UXPin is a collaborative tool for UX designers and UX architects to design better product experiences. Sign up for a 14-day free UXPin trial today! 

Who is a UX Architect?

A user experience architect is essentially a UX specialist with a high-level view of a product or design. UX architects are concerned with the structure and flow based on in-depth user and market research.

To achieve this, UX architects will often work closely with research teams or even conduct research themselves. This research guides UX architects to make informed decisions about how a user will use the product and organize the information architecture accordingly.

A brief outline of a UX architect’s responsibilities:

  • Ensure the product fulfills the user’s needs
  • Makes sure information is organized and easily accessible
  • Fixes usability and accessibility problems

Organizing Content

Rather than creating content and assets, a UX architect organizes and arranges content to best serve the user. This organization falls into three categories:

  • Content inventory—a list of all the product’s digital content.
  • Content grouping—a logical structure for organizing the product’s content, defining the relationships between different pieces of information and how they all connect.
  • Content audit—a regular review of the product’s content to determine what needs updating and if new content is required.

UX architects must organize the content on each page and determine where to add titles, subheadings, links, and navigation to help users find what they’re looking for.

Hierarchy, Sitemaps, and Navigation

Information architecture arranges a product or website’s hierarchy, sitemaps, and navigation. These crucial elements determine how easy and accessible an app or website is to use.

  • Sitemap – all of the app or website pages.
  • Hierarchy – how to arrange a page’s content in order of importance.
  • Navigation – how a user moves through an app or website.

Internal Wireframing & Low-Fidelity Prototyping

UX architects create wireframes and low-fidelity prototypes for internal UX teams to use as an architectural reference for designing a product or website. 

UX teams will only use these mockups for design purposes and usually won’t use them for usability studies or sharing amongst stakeholders.

Who is a UX Designer?

A UX designer is a broad term encompassing design and research roles. But in the context of a UX designer vs. a UX architect, the designer is responsible for designing user interfaces. Ultimately, a UX designer makes a product usable.

A UX designer will take a UX architect’s wireframes, prototypes, and architectural instructions and turn them into a working product. UX designers also work with UX researchers to determine which fonts, colors, buttons, and other design elements to use.

Persona Development

UX designers are responsible for early research and creating user personas. Larger organizations might have a dedicated user researcher or team, but they still fulfill a UX design role.

User personas tell UX designers about the user’s demographic information, motivations, desires, potential responses, and more to design user interfaces that accommodate these user needs.

Wireframes, Mockups, and Prototypes

UX designers create wireframes and mockups for the product’s pages and flows with initial user research and the UX architect’s information architecture.

UX designers also look at the UX architect’s sitemap to link the pages and navigation to make working low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes.

Research teams will use these high-fidelity prototypes for usability studies to learn how users interact with the final product.

User Testing

Where companies don’t have a dedicated research team, UX designers conduct the necessary usability studies. This crucial part of UX design provides UX designers with valuable feedback on how users will interact with the final product.

With the results from usability studies, UX designers tweak their designs to improve the user experience.

The Main Differences of UX Architect vs. UX Designer

The most significant difference between a UX architect and a UX designer is that the UX architect looks at the bigger picture while the UX designer focuses on the details.

The UX architect focuses on navigation and user flows while the UX designer creates the user interfaces and interactions for each screen or page.

While both UX architects and UX designers review research, the UX architect considers what features and content the user needs. In contrast, the UX designer wants to know how the user will interact with these elements.

We can summarize the roles of a UX architect vs. a UX designer as follows:

  • UX architect – who are the users, and what do they need?
  • UX designer – who are the users, and how do we meet their needs?

How UX Architects & UX Designers Work Together

It’s important to note that a UX designer performs the UX architect’s responsibilities in many companies, especially small businesses. 

Where these roles are split, the UX designer is often referred to as a UI designer (user interface designer) because they focus on the interfaces and interactions. 

A UX architect is a UX specialist in information architecture rather than focusing on design.

UX architects and UX designers work closely on content. The UX designer focuses on the content’s details while the UX architect decides how to structure the content. To get this right, designers and architects must work closely together.

A Typical UX Architect & UX Designer Workflow

The following workflow is a broad overview to show the separation of responsibilities between a UX architect and a UX designer. 

  1. A project will start with a UX architect analyzing market and user research to determine what the project needs and how to structure the content—similar to an architect designing a physical structure.
  2. The UX architect puts together a blueprint (wireframes & prototypes) for the UX designer to start the build process.
  3. The UX designer analyzes user research and the UX architect’s blueprints to start designing each user interface.
  4. The UX designer will create wireframes, mockups, and high-fidelity prototypes for stakeholders and usability studies.
  5. During usability studies – the UX architect wants to know how the user accesses content and navigates through the product. The UX designer wants to see how the user interacts with the elements and content on each screen.
  6. Once a product is live – the UX architect’s job is to ensure accurate and up-to-date content. They will also look at accessibility issues and recommend updates accordingly. The UX designer will take the UX architect’s recommendations and analyze interaction data to optimize each screen to best serve the user.

Does Your Company Need a UX Architect & a UX Designer?

With each team focusing on different design aspects, separating the UX/UI designer and UX architect roles can improve the quality and efficiency of a product or website.

There might not be enough work for a dedicated UX architect for smaller projects and cash-strapped startups. It’s important to note that UX designers are capable of fulfilling a UX architect’s role.

As projects scale, information architecture becomes complex and time-consuming to manage. In situations like this, a UX architect is critical to a project’s success.

While agencies generally work in small teams, they often work on multiple apps and websites for clients. Having a UX architect can help to streamline productivity by handing UX designers all the information they need to start building immediately—effectively creating a tech production line.

Businesses should ask a series of questions to determine if they need a UX architect:

  • How much time do UX designers spend on building layouts and information architecture?
  • Do these tasks create production delays?
  • Do users often struggle with navigation issues in usability studies?
  • What is the cost of a dedicated UX architect in relation to the benefits from an increase in quality and efficiency?
  • Does your product frequently struggle with usability and accessibility issues?
  • Is someone monitoring your product’s content? Do you regularly find out-of-date content or unused product features?

How UXPin Increases Productivity for UX Teams

UXPin is a powerful design tool for UX teams to build better products collaboratively. UX architects can use UXPin to create layouts, wireframes, and lo-fi prototypes, with comments for guidance and context.

UX designers can use this information to design beautiful screens and interfaces with mockups to present to stakeholders and use for usability studies.

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