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User Experience Design

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  • Peter Morville
    User Experience Design (June 21, 2004) http://semanticstudios.com/publications/semantics/000029.php ... I ve been practicing information architecture since
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 21, 2004
      User Experience Design (June 21, 2004)


      I've been practicing information architecture since 1994, and from
      Gopher to Google have seen dramatic changes in the landscape of
      organization, search and retrieval.

      Through these ten tempestuous years, I've found the infamous three
      circle diagram to be a great tool for explaining how and why we must
      strike a unique balance on each project between business goals and
      context, user needs and behavior, and the available mix of content.

      Figure 1. The Three Circles of Information Architecture

      While this diagram was conceived with IA in mind, it's equally
      useful for explaining UX. In conjunction with Jesse's masterpiece, I
      use the three circles to illustrate the distinction between user
      experience and user-centered design. I'm still not convinced UCD
      exists outside the realm of theory, but I practice user experience
      design every day.

      Facets of the User Experience

      When I broadened my interest from IA to UX, I found the need for a
      new diagram to illustrate the facets of user experience - especially
      to help clients understand why they must move beyond usability - and
      so with a little help from my friends developed the user experience

      Figure 2. The User Experience Honeycomb

      Naturally, the jump from three circles to seven hexagons gave me an
      instant buzz, but after several months of road testing, I can safely
      say this diagram has survived the honeymoon.

      Here's how I explain each facet or quality of the user experience:

      Useful. As practitioners, we can't be content to paint within the
      lines drawn by managers. We must have the courage and creativity to
      ask whether our products and systems are useful, and to apply our
      deep knowledge of craft and medium to define innovative solutions
      that are more useful.

      Usable. Ease of use remains vital, and yet the interface-centered
      methods and perspectives of human-computer interaction do not
      address all dimensions of web design. In short, usability is
      necessary but not sufficient.

      Desirable. Our quest for efficiency must be tempered by an
      appreciation for the power and value of image, identity, brand, and
      other elements of emotional design.

      Findable. We must strive to design navigable web sites and locatable
      objects, so users can find what they need.

      Accessible. Just as our buildings have elevators and ramps, our web
      sites should be accessible to people with disabilities (more than
      10% of the population). Today, it's good business and the ethical
      thing to do. Eventually, it will become the law.

      Credible. Thanks to the Web Credibility Project, we're beginning to
      understand the design elements that influence whether users trust
      and believe what we tell them.

      Valuable. Our sites must deliver value to our sponsors. For non-
      profits, the user experience must advance the mission. With for-
      profits, it must contribute to the bottom line and improve customer

      The honeycomb hits the sweet spot by serving several purposes at
      once. First, it's a great tool for advancing the conversation beyond
      usability and for helping people understand the need to define
      priorities. Is it more important for your web site to be desirable
      or accessible? How about usable or credible? The truth is, it
      depends on your unique balance of context, content and users, and
      the required tradeoffs are better made explicitly than unconsciously.

      Second, this model supports a modular approach to web design. Let's
      say you want to improve your site but lack the budget, time, or
      stomach for a complete overhaul. Why not try a targeted redesign,
      perhaps starting with Stanford's ten guidelines as a resource for
      evaluating and enhancing the credibility of your web site?

      Third, each facet of the user experience honeycomb can serve as a
      singular looking glass, transforming how we see what we do, and
      enabling us to explore beyond conventional boundaries.

      A Different Way of Seeing

      For example, I realized some time ago that while "information
      architect" describes my profession, findability defines my passion.

      Since then, I've found my focus on findability has opened my eyes,
      leading me beyond IA while simultaneously making me a better
      information architect.

      Last Summer, while redesigning the Q web site, we identified
      findability as a top priority. Our quest to make this small site
      more findable took me beyond the discipline of information
      architecture and deep into the realm of search engine optimization.

      That experience proved useful last Fall, during a redesign project
      for the National Cancer Institute, in which we used findability
      concepts and SEO statistics to alleviate an unhealthy fixation on
      the home page, raising awareness of the need to design findable
      documents for direct access via the Google, MSN, and Yahoo! search

      And this Spring, I was hired to perform my first findability audit
      for a major international nonprofit. Feeling a bit concerned about
      dedicating four weeks exclusively to findability, I asked whether I
      should also consider usability factors. "No thanks," my client
      replied. "We already had Jakob in last year to focus on usability."

      A Big Hive

      Though the findability audit was a success, it did feel ironic to
      once again be ensnared inside a box (or hexagon) of my own making.

      But I'm sticking with findability for now. Between my new seminar,
      my new book, and findability.org, I'm busy as a bee.

      And anytime I feel trapped, I can explore other facets of the user
      experience honeycomb, or perhaps even create a new diagram.

      For me, user experience design is a big hive: a dynamic, multi-
      dimensional space where there's still plenty of room to build new
      boxes and draw new arrows, at least for the next ten years.
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