17 June, 2008

The Elements of User Experience

A basic duality: The Web was originally conceived as a hypertextual information space; but the development of increasingly sophisticated front- and back-end technologies has fostered its use as a remote software interface. This dual nature has led to much confusion, as user experience practitioners have attempted to adapt their terminology to cases beyond the scope of its original application. The goal of this document is to define some of these terms within their appropriate contexts, and to clarify the underlying relationships among these various elements.


Web as software interface

Visual Design: graphic treatment of interface elements (the "look" in "look-and-feel")

Interface Design: as in traditional HCI: design of interface elements to facilitate user interaction with functionality

Information Design: in the Tuftean sense: designing the presentation of information to facilitate understanding

Interaction Design: development of application flows to facilitate user tasks, defining how the user interacts with site functionality

Functional Specifications: "feature set": detailed descriptions of functionality the site must include in order to meet user needs

User Needs: externally derived goals for the site; identified through user research, ethno/techno/psychographics, etc. Site Objectives: business, creative, or other internally derived goals for the site





Web as hypertext system

Visual Design: visual treatment of text, graphic page elements and navigational components

Navigation Design: design of interface elements to facilitate the user's movement through the information architecture

Information Design: in the Tuftean sense: designing the presentation of information to facilitate understanding

Information Architecture: structural design of the information space to facilitate intuitive access to content

Content Requirements: definition of content elements required in the site in order to meet user needs

User Needs: externally derived goals for the site; identified through user research, ethno/techno/psychographics, etc.

Site Objectives: business, creative, or other internally derived goals for the site