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3 UX Design Principles Every Designer Should Know

A lot of people think the term user experience design is a trendy buzzword strewn around that doesn't have any substantial meaning. Others new to the subject mix up web design with user experience design. It's not the same thing. In "Essential Guide to User Experience," Jesse James Garrett injects substance and clarity into the UX vernacular.

UX is One Field

One of the most striking themes is as Garrett explains in an interview with Peach Pit, "UX is one field and not two or three or seven...holism is the most effective way to approach this work..."

Erik Flowers, a practitioner at Intuit on the other hand argues that UX Design is the intersection of three fields: (1) Technology, (2) Design and (3) Business.

Jesse James Garrett Erik Flowers

The diagrams speak volumes on 2 different schools of thought -- Garrett approaches UX as a multi-dimensional, holistic approach while Erik Flowers views it as a one dimensional intersection of 3  different disciplines.

Personally, I identify with Garrett's point of view. It makes the field feel more whole and thought out. Erik Flowers' venn diagram makes the field seem fragmented and disparate.

The Conceptual Framework 

Garrett's conceptual framework is awesome! It breaks apart the whole design process into manageable, bite-sized chunks.

  1. Surface plane: images and text, the visual design (i.e. What would the color scheme be for barnesandnoble.com?)
  2. Skeleton plane: placing tabs, photos and text (i.e. Can the user find the shopping cart button quickly?)
  3. Structure plane: What are the different categories? How do users get to a certain page?
  4. Scope: list of tasks users can accomplish. (i.e. Should we include a feature to save used email addresses?)
  5. Strategy: What do users and the site owner want? (i.e. Barnes & Noble site -- users want to buy books, site owner wants to sell books.)

Before I tackle a project, I would like to write out a short 1-page (or shorter) plan that outlines each plane. That way, I can have a big-picture view, but also have a detailed step-by-step guide to figure things out and get stuff done.

How the timeline works

The third theme that resonated with me is the timeline. Garrett recommends: have each step overlap. If a team requires work on each plane before work on the next plane can start, it will most likely lead to a poorly designed product. Instead, have work on each plane finish before work on the next can finish.

For example, as you finish pouring the concrete foundation of your house, start building sections of the walls and roof on the side.

For both seasoned practitioners and for those who have never heard of User Experience, this book is intuitive and enlightening. It's not a surprise to see it on the "must read" book lists for ux designers, technologists, and software engineers.