The Elements of User Experience

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Quick Summary

A great foundational book on user experience, but a bit lacking in depth. It definitely needs to be accompanied by more in-depth companion books.


Title
The Elements of User Experience
Author
Jesse James Garrett
Rating
The Review

The Elements of User Experience

Build your base to be a better UX expert

The Elements of User Experience, by Jesse James Garrett┬áis one of those books that is foundational to any User Experience professional’s library. For students who are just getting their feet wet, it provides a fantastic conceptual base for understanding what UX design is, and why it is important. For weathered veterans like me, it both provides concrete affirmation of day to day processes and refreshes methods which either may be rusty or are ignored because of time constraints.

User experience and why it matters

What conversion looks like. I guess.

Conceptual clarity is the biggest bonus

Jesse James Garrett immediately sets the book on its path by outlining a set of conceptual “planes” for how a User Experience is developed and executed. These planes make up the bulk of the book and give structure to the process he is selling as the “right way”. I found it particularly interesting how closely it mapped to my methodology. On reflection, I think that it makes sense that we both came to a similar method, as the underlying reasons for them are very similar.

The Elements of User Experience Planes are

  1. The Surface Plane – what you actually see, and what most people seem to refer to as “Design”.
  2. The Skeleton Plane – this is usually the wireframes underneath the surface plane
  3. The Structure Plane – the “map” or higher-level overview of the flow of the experience
  4. The Scope Plane – a high-level definition of what needs to be achieved
  5. The Strategy Plane – the highest level of ideation, which defines the “why” of the entire project.

As you can see it really flows from last to first, with the final product sitting on the pinnacle. Each “plane” makes you answer basic questions and ensures that your goals are well-thought out and that the solutions to the problems which are presented are applicable and solid.

For the most part in my day to day work, Planes 4 and 5 are out of scope of the work I’m doing. These are defined by my clients and my bosses as they are the ones directing the “business” part of the project. From structure onwards, it is my job to help mold the final product into something which really knocks it out of the park.

Simple layout and easy to understand images make the user experience of the book solid

Simple layout and easy to understand images make the user experience of the book solid

It’s a great reference..but..

While I always recommend this book to new students and junior designers, I do have a few quibbles with the content.

Get the latest and greatest

It’s fairly important that if you do pick up a copy of this, that you get the latest version. The original is fantastic, but a bit long in the tooth. In the new revision, there is a lot more emphasis on modern experiences, including targeting mobile and tablets. As you can guess, for any modern design that is pretty critical.

It’s just a beginning

While I consider this a great primer, it is a bit shallow and does need complementing with other more in-depth books. If you are a student and you read through it, you’ll have a lot of great knowledge but it will be hard to convert that knowledge into something you can show because you’re still missing a lot of the pieces. For example, they talk a bit about conversion metrics (which are hugely important) but little about how to do real testing and how to improve your designs. I understand why they make that cutoff, but it leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air and unanswered.

Final Break down

The good

  • Great for beginners
  • Easy to read and the illustrations are nice
  • Simply written and easy to understand

The bad

  • Somewhat shallow and lacking in followup detail

The ugly

  • Don’t get the first revision as it is seriously oldschool
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The Elements of User Experience

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