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The Elements of User Experience

Now we can map that whole confusing array of terms into the model. By breaking each plane down into its component elements, we'll be able to take a closer look at how all the pieces fit together to create the whole user experience.

The Strategy Plane

The same strategic concerns come into play for both software products and information spaces. User needs are the goals for the site that come from outside our organization—specifically from the people who will use our site. We must understand what our audience wants from us and how that fits in with other goals it has.

Balanced against user needs are our own objectives for the site. These site objectives can be business goals ("Make $1 million in sales over the Web this year") or other kinds of goals ("Inform voters about the candidates in the next election"). In Chapter 3 we'll go into more detail about these elements.

The Scope Plane

On the software side, the strategy is translated into scope through the creation of functional specifications: a detailed description of the "feature set" of the product. On the information space side, scope takes the form of content requirements: a description of the various content elements that will be required. Chapter 4 will cover the scope elements.

The Structure Plane

The scope is given structure on the software side through interaction design, in which we define how the system behaves in response to the user. For information spaces, the structure is the information architecture: the arrangement of content elements within the information space. You'll find more details on these in Chapter 5.

Figure 2.12

The Skeleton Plane

The skeleton plane breaks down into three components. On both sides, we must address information design: the presentation of information in a way that facilitates understanding. For software products, the skeleton also includes interface design, or arranging interface elements to enable users to interact with the functionality of the system. The interface for an information space is its navigation design: the set of screen elements that allow the user to move through the information architecture. There's more about the skeleton plane in Chapter 6.

The Surface Plane

Finally, we have the surface. Regardless of whether we are dealing with a software product or an information space, our concern here is the same: the visual design, or the look of the finished product. It's trickier than it sounds; you can find out all about it in Chapter 7.

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