How many times do we really think about the work that goes behind the products we use? Like that Keurig machine you use every morning–don’t deny it, we all do it. Who worked to make sure it worked for you? And your car that hasn’t given you any troubles at all since you bought it a year ago. Who designed that for you? The work put into giving you the best user experience is performed daily; it is a shame more of us don’t know what goes into all of the products we use. In his book The Elements of User Experience, Jesse James Garrett tackles the reasons why user experience is so important and how it is created.
The first part of the reading that Garrett discusses is user experience itself and why it matters. So, why does it matter and how does it affect an overall product? The products we use easily frustrate us, but they empower us as well. The make us feel irritable and stupid at times, but then they make us pleased and satisfied. It is easy to forget that these things we use are made by people who put hard work and time into making these products for us. I am not saying that designers are all angels and perfect at what they do. But here Garrett explains why their job is so hard.
Designers look at two main aspects when they are designing a product: aesthetic appeal and its functionality. However, they do need to look beyond these two qualities to have a good outcome for the user experience. Products are not all about appearance and how it works. It also needs to produce an experience for the users. Designers do this by following a user-centered design. In other words, they take the user into account every step of the way as they develop their product. If you look at the clip below, the user of the car has an experience that is made easy and simple by the product itself, because it was designed for that exact reason.
Now, you might be wondering what goes into making that user experience. Chapter 2 describes in detail the five planes of the user experience.
- Surface. This is something you can click on, so it is mostly “on the surface” and is more of a sensory design (i.e. images).
- Skeleton. The placement of buttons, controls, photos, and blocks of text. This serves as information design and is one step below the surface plane.
- Structure. This is how users get to the page and where they can go when they finish on that page; serves as a map of some sorts.
- Scope. The way in which various features of the site fit together, acting as a function of specificity or a content requirement.
- Strategy. This last plane incorporates what people running the site want with what users want to get out the site as well. User needs are the goal here.
These five planes provide a framework for talking about user experience problems and the tools they use to solve them. Each plane is dependent on the planes below it, but despite the work put into the planes, the content ultimately shapes the final user experiences, next to elements and technology.