Our next reading, now that we’re done with the video project is from Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience. We’re looking at this because our next assignment is designing a website.
Since we are constantly buying and using products and services, user experience is a part of our daily lives, whether we know it or not. There is one person, usually more, behind every service or product. Garrett defines user experience as the experience the product creates for people in the real world, whether it is positive or negative.
Why It Matters
Everyday, we interact with products without realizing how big of a role use experience plays in our lives. But user experience doesn’t start when we are using the product. It is developed by people in order to make the product as easy to use as possible. User experience is found in the details – it’s the small things that make the difference. Positive user experience usually adds something intuitive. Negative user experience goes against human nature and is complex.
User Experience Design
Product design is more than how it looks and how it functions. It delves into the psychology of the users themselves. I actually learned about this in my General Psych class during my first semester at Furman. A good product is designed to align with the way we think.
An example we talked about in class is a stove. The placement knobs you have to turn seems simple enough, but what if they were in the wrong order? Wouldn’t that make it much more complicated to use? Someone had to think of that when designing the product.
What if the knob that is all the way to left turned on the front right burner? It would always be a guessing game.
Another example, which he mentions in the book, is the dials in the car radio that change the volume and the station. In my car, they’re flipped, so whenever someone in the passenger seat goes to crank it up, they inadvertently change the station. I have a Mazda 3, so maybe it’s more common in Japanese products to have the dials switched. But it definitely went against human intuition. This makes it harder to use and decreases customer satisfaction.
Which one should change the volume and which should adjust the station? Human nature says the biggest one in the middle should be for volume, since it’s used much more often than the station dial.
Web User Experience
User experience is more important for websites than for any other products. Unlike with a tangible product, if a website is too complex to use, the user blames himself instead of the website. He feels stupid, making him much less likely to use it again.
Web user experience is often neglected, as sites focus on adding as many features as possible. But, it is user experience that sets these sites from their competitors. No matter if a product is on the web or in your hands, whether your experience is positive or negative determines if you will come back.
- return of investment (ROI) – for every unit of something you spend, how much you get in return
- conversion rate – measures how effective the user experience on your site is
The main goal of a website is to communicate information, or content, to its viewers. It has to be easy to understand. It could be the best functioning website on the Internet, but without good user experience, people won’t come back to use your site again.
Conversion rate is seen most with sites that sell something, meaning that the company’s ROI is monetary.
How User Experience Improves Efficiency:
- helping people work faster
- helping people make fewer mistakes
This also pertains to websites within the company. Over the summer I worked at a company where the websites I had to use to finish my tasks were way too confusing. It made me frustrated, and when I talked to others, they felt the same way. Web user experience would not only increase productivity but also job satisfaction.
- user-centered design – practice of creating engaging and efficient user experiences
In order to create a user-centered design, you must consider the user’s needs every step of the way. I’ll go into this more in the next chapter…
The Five Planes
All of these planes combine to give you the neat package that is the website. They range from concrete to abstract, with strategy being the most abstract.
- The Surface Plane – this is the superficial level where text and images combine to create what you see
- The Skeleton Plane – the placement of buttons, controls, photos, and text
- The Structure Plane – the abstract layout of the skeleton
- The Scope Plane – the features and functions that constitute the site and how they fit together
- The Strategy Plane – what the creators and the users want out of the site
All of these planes depend on the surrounding planes, so if they don’t align the final product will show the lack of cohesiveness. You need to start with a sound strategy and build from there. The decisions you make in a plane limit the choices you have for the next one.
However, this doesn’t mean that you must finish each plane before moving on to the next. The decision making processes actually overlap between the different planes. You want to be able to go back and change things as you go.
Function vs. Information
- user needs – what the users want out of the site
- product objectives – what the creator wants out of the site
- functional specifications – detailed description of features of product
- content requirements – description of content elements
- interaction design – define how the system behaves in response to user
- information architecture – arrangement of content elements to facilitate human understanding
Skeleton: Information Design - present info in a way to facilitate understanding
- interface design – arrange interface elements to allow user to interact with site’s functionality
- navigation design – set of screen elements that allow the users to move through information architecture
*This is where you make mock-ups of what you think the final product will look like.
Surface: Sensory Design