From Garrett – The Elements of User Experience (2011)

  • User Experience: “the experience the product creates for people who use it in the real world” (6).
  • User experience is different from product design because it requires a look past the aesthetic and the functional. Or, speaking teleologically, looking beyond the dictum that “form follows function” . . . it’s understanding that user experience is heavily dependent on the psychology and behavior of users.
  • When not selling a product, websites contain information. Participatory archives are most certainly websites that traffic in content; as such, the most important main goal of this sort of website is to communicate that information as effectively as possible (12).
  • Five Planes of User Experience (5Ss)
    • The Surface Plane: The plane that you actually see and negotiate as a visitor. What sort of sensory experience is produced on the functional and informational?
    • The Skeleton Plane: Placement of controls, buttons, text. This is related to usability as site users become accustomed to/expect particular ways of navigating/moving through information. On Question, this is infinitely configurable. Functionally, this is related to interface design or the ways that interfacial elements allow users to interact with the function of the system. Informationally, this is related to navigation design or how a user can move through the information architecture.
    • The Structure Plane: The infrastructural relationships among pages. Categories, content markers, metadata, etc. Functionally, this is related to interaction design or the way that the system responds to the user. Informationally, this is related to information architecture of the way that content is arranged to assist human understanding.
    • The Scope Plane: The features plane that allows users to do particular things. On Question, think about collages, requests, etc. These are all questions of scope. Functionally, this is related to the “feature set” or tools incorporated into the system. Informationally, this is related to descriptions of all the content elements that are going to be required.
    • The Strategy Plane: Scope is defined by strategy. What are the objectives/outcomes of the site?
  • To better understand the Planes and their division, check this helpful graphic out:

Garrett - Image 1

  • As you might expect, all of the Planes and their bifurcations are interdependent.
  • According to Garrett, the design process for most sites with a user-experience orientation is from the bottom up (strategy-scope-structure-skeleton-surface). In other words, this is his software development model. BUT, this doesn’t mean that each individual plane must be addressed in it’s own time; rather, planes are in a constant process of reevaluation and revision.
  • Garrett divides the web into two basic functions: product as functionality (a design issue) and product as information (a retrieval and distribution issue). The functionality side is concerned with tasks or how to do something. The other side is concerned with information or the process of enabling people to find/absorb/use information (28).


Some Preliminary Ideas:

  • Strategy plane is fairly straight forward in sites of distributed social production . . . especially sites like participatory archives. The objectives (production of archive) is easy. The outcomes (transformation of copyright legislation, transformation of distribution mechanisms, etc.) are far more difficult to understand. See Lewis 2015.
  • Scope: Functionally, the feature set is suggested by users and developers. These features are typically articulated as needs arise for better sifting/maneuvering through the archive. Informationally, the features or tools that function as rhetorical genres are able to function that way at all because they rely on the social data generated by site users as well as various indexing/scrobbling services. So, from a functional perspective, feature sets are intimately tied to the structural components of various tools that have developed over time (think the features of a CMS). From an informational perspective, content is generated through the substantive/functional features of social use. In the RGS parlance, function=form while substance=content drawn from social sources? Think more about this point.
  • Structure: Functionally, we’re in the domain of interaction design or the way the system responds to user interaction. Inforamtionally, we’re talking about information architecture . . . an intimately rhetorical concern that deals with visual rhetoric and the presentation of content. From a functional perspective, interaction design is perhaps most intimately related to the structure of technology . . . and it’s historical use over time. So, the scope of a particular tool is structurally bound (think the “Pin It!” tagging system on Pinterest and the tagging system from Delicious) and we know that that structure is successful because of small transformations to the interaction design . . . or small changes to the design of tools that facilitate particular action. This particular action that arises out of particular form/structure is made real in interfaces . . . something we’ll find more concretely articulated in the skeleton and surface planes. From an informational perspective, structure is concerned with information architecture. This is, of course, bound up with the substantive/socialized/typified responses to recurrent rhetorical situations. From a software development standpoint, information architecture structures information and dictates how we make sense of it through it’s presentation. Specifically, this is related to issues of organization and navigation. Information architecture traditionally relies on categorization schemes for information; however, in the context of the Gazelle ecosystem, information architecture outsources a good deal of it’s categorization to social data aggregated from multiple user-generated sources (direct interaction, type sites, etc.). Because of a reliance on social data, information architecture in sites of distributed social production present information via organic structures (as opposed to hierarchies, matrices, sequences). Because of the incredible amount of socially generated metadata, the organic information architecture of sites like jive particularly well with the substantive qualities of rhetorical genres. The CMS coordinates all of this work on a macro level of scale.
  • Skeleton: The skeleton plane is fundamentally about the canon of arrangement. Functionally,  the skeleton is really the buttons, fields and other interface components that comprise the interface design. Again, in RGS parlance, these are the structural components that work because of recurrent form. As Garrett notes, “Interface conventions seem like they don’t change, but they do, if very slowly” (116). Informationally, the skeleton is related to navigation design . . . itself a part of information design (along with interface design) but different inasmuch as we’re not talking about the recurrent forms here (such as radio buttons or tick boxes) but the socially inflected navigational structures created through the novel form of the hyperlink and visualized navigational structures. The CMS coordinates these various forms of social data through the use of various tools included in the broader Gazelle genre ecology. The navigation design articulated as the substantive component of the genre equation (substance+structure+medium) results in supplementary navigation or navigational structures that facilitate exploration without starting over at the beginning.

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