Introduction

This articles introduces the elements of user experience. It is a strategic approach that product designers can use while designing products. By dividing the process into 5 planes and building the product from bottom up, it helps designers to focus on specific decisions at each level. It also encourages designer to take a user centered approach while designing thereby ensuring that any decision taken is done consciously.

A more detailed explanation into the process can be found in this book. In this article I will just be taking you through as to what I have understood and I highly encourage anyone learning UX design seriously to read this book completely. I take no credit in the content, you can consider the following as my notes.

Why It matters?

  • Most of the problems that we face today are because of poorly designed products.
  • Every product/service that we use is made by someone else like us to whom the credit should go for good design or be blamed for bad products.

What is user experience?

  • User experience is how a product works on the outside rather than the inner workings or what the product does, it essentially answers the question what it’s like to use the product or service?
  • A well designed product is one that does what it promises to do, functionality or aesthetics is only a part of good design. A pretty looking pen with a torch and a spy camera that doesn’t write when there is enough ink is clearly a badly designed product.
  • Greater the complexity the more difficult it becomes to identify exactly how to deliver a successful experience to the user.
  • User experience effort aims to improve efficiency i.e. helping people work faster (time is money) and helping them make fewer mistakes (greater job satisfaction == less people quit, more experienced staff provide higher quality work).

Principles

  • Sound is an important part of the aesthetic appeal of a product.
  • The correct shape or form of the product should be dictated by the psychology and behavior of the users rather than the functionality.
  • User centric design - Take the user into account every step of the way as you develop your product. In this way you will know all the ramifications of your decisions and compromises will not happen by accident.

Web sites

  • Bad design makes people look stupid. People blame themselves even though it’s not their fault when the site doesn’t work the way they expect it to.
  • Web site is a self-service product. No training. No instruction manual.
  • Paying attention to what people want and need is what matters. Faster market entry is not the complete success and having more features is only a temporary source of competitive advantage. Keep it simple.
  • It is user experience that determines whether your customer will ever come back.
  • Effective communication is a key factor in the success of your product. If users can’t figure out how to make it work, they will never use that functionality.

Business

  • Good user experience increases ROI, improves the customer loyalty and brings customer back. You usually don’t get much of a second chance if you failed once.
  • Conversion rate(what percentage of users you convert to the next level) is a common way of measuring the effectiveness of a user experience.
  • Conversion rates are very helpful in measuring e-commerce websites. There is huge potential to convert casual browsers into active buyers by delivering satisfactory user experience.
  • Sales can suffer because of poor marketing but measuring success through conversion rates tracks how successful you are in getting those who visit to spend some money.

The elements

The design process should be such that no aspect of the user’s experience with your product happens without your conscious, explicit intent. Taking note of every possibility of every action the user is likely to take. Understanding the user’s expectations at every step of the way.

Surface plane

  • Concrete details on the appearance of the product like the color, typography and other aesthetic details of how the product looks.
  • Concerned with the sensory experience created by the finished product.

Skeleton plane

The placement of interface elements on the page. The arrangements of these elements should result in greater efficiency.

  • Information design describes the presentation of information in a way that facilitates understanding (both sides).
  • Interface design involves arranging interface elements to enable users to interact with the functionality of the system (functionality side).
  • Navigation design describes the set of screen elements that allow the user to move through the information architecture (information side).

Structure plane

  • Defines the way in which different features and functions of the site fit together.
  • It defines how users get to a page and where could they go once they finish there.
  • The skeleton might define the arrangement of navigational elements allowing users to browse through.
  • Interaction design defines how the system behaves in response to the user (functionality side).
  • Information architectureis about the arrangement of content elements to facilitate human understanding (information side).

Scope plane

  • Functional specifications provide a detailed description of the “feature set” of the product i.e. the features and functions the product/service provides (functionality side).
  • Content requirements provides a description of the various content elements that will be required (information side).

Strategy plane

  • Product objectives - What do the site owners want to get out of it.
  • User needs - what do the users want to get out it.

Why this way?

  • By diving into these 5 planes and building the product from bottom up, the issues that we might deal with at each plane becomes less abstract and little more concrete.
  • As we move up the decisions we have to make become a little more specific and involve finer details. Each plane depends on the plane at the lower level.
  • The choices you make on each plane affect the choices available to you on the next plane above it.
  • Requiring work on each plane to finish before work on the next can start leads to unsatisfactory results for you and your users. A better approach is to have work on each plane finish before work on the next can finish.