Review: The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett
I still consider myself very new to the UX world and I did read a few articles pertaining to the subject, but this was my very first book about UX design for the web, specifically. If you are getting into UX, like myself, this is an excellent read when first starting out.
Garrett discusses how successful interactive product design requires more than good code and nice graphics; UX designers must also “fulfill strategic objectives while meeting users’ needs."
User experience, Garrett defines as the "experience the product creates for the people who use it in the real world.” The difference between a successful product and an unsuccessful one depends upon whether a designer makes sure to spend time considering the product’s users. User experience deals with the outside of the product, how a person comes into contact with it. Garrett brings up a good point when he says typically, when people think about product design, they think of aesthetics (how it looks, feels, etc.) and/or functionality (if the product does what it’s supposed to do), and don’t look beyond. There is so much more to product design.
User-centered design, or the practice of creating efficient, engaging user experiences, is brought up in this book frequently, among the Elements of User Experience. The Five Planes are:
-The Surface Plane (images and text, what you click on, etc.)
-The Skeleton Plane (placement of buttons and blocks of text, etc.)
-The Structure Plane (define how users got to __ page and where they go next, etc.)
-The Scope Plane (what do certain features/ functions do, etc.)
-The Strategy Plane (what do creators AND users want out of site?)
Garrett encourages people to work from bottom to top (Strategy to Surface), as the ideas start abstract and become more concrete. Issues starts fairly basic and become more specific and detailed the higher we go.
Above is the layout of the five planes. Each plane is dependent on the one below it. When we don’t start from the bottom and hash out choices, deadlines are missed, costs go up, and projects become a mess.
Garrett also brings up the duality in the nature of the Web in the user experience community: one group sees problems as an application problem and applied problem-solving approaches from desktop and software worlds; the other group saw the Web in terms of information distribution and retrieval, and applied problem-solving approaches from the publishing, media, and information science worlds. Garrett suggests splitting the five planes straight down the middle to deal with this issue: one side as functionality and the other as an information medium.
Lots of information, all in the first 27 pages. But it does make more sense as you read along. I found myself struggling somewhat with the lower planes, as I tend to think of myself as more of a “visual” person. But I did find them very interesting. Garrett spends time addressing the fact that USERS are so important, and that’s why user research is so important.
Just like he encourages you to do, Garrett starts with the lower planes and works his way up. The book is filled with lots of diagrams, colorful charts, and even highlights key words (like a school textbook). He goes into depth about each aspect of every plane, both on the functionality side and the information side.
Good user experience is good business. If a user has a bad experience with your product, they won’t come back. Garrett also discusses return on investment and conversion rate when proving that good user experience results in good business.
User experience design is just solving a very large collection of little problems. One should approach user experience with two basic ideas, Garrett says:
1. Understand what problem you’re trying to solve.
2. Understand the consequences of your solution to the problem.
The topics addressed in this book are thought-provoking and should be considered by anyone concerned with (or who should be concerned with) user experience. I’m very glad I read this book early into my UX experience. Reading this shortly after finishing The Design of Everyday Things helped to solidify certain ideas that poor design is not something to accept or tolerate; successful user experience design should be acknowledged or, preferably, invisible. This book has helped me to understand that UX is not just dealing with color schemes and button placement and user research. There is so much more that needs to be examined and hashed out if the users are to actually be considered when designing a product.
My Rating: 5/5. Get the book here.
*Photos are not mine.