The ABCs of UX: The Diverse Disciplines (Part 1/3)

“To understand what the user is looking for in the things he is looking at.”

 

The current post is the first one in the series of 3 posts, where I would like to clarify the definitions and concepts that are core to our context covering User Experience (UX),Information Architecture(IA) and Interaction Design (IxD).

 

User Experience (UX)

User experience (UX) is a convergence of several disciplines. There is no final fool-proof list of disciplines which come together to form it. But yes, there are many popular explanations by social scientists, industrial designers and information architects which describe it as a combination of a verity of disciplines.

 

 Fig: 1

 The most popular and accepted compilation of disciplines is shown in Fig 1 where it is represented as a combination of :

 

  1. Information Architecture (IA)
  2. Visual Design
  3. Industrial Design
  4. Human Factors
  5. Interaction Design (IxD)
  6. Human – Computer Interaction (HCI)
  7. Architecture

 

There are variations available to this where commercial aspects are added to it . Fig 2 represents such a case.

 

Fig: 2

 

 In Fig:2, you can see the UX definition has been seen as all those disciplines which can work together to provide a solution that can deliver “customer with a harmonious and consistent experience”.

If you notice all the aspects such as “branding” and “customer service” are related with emotional aspect of human behavior. So user experience is also about emotions and psychological dimensions of customer’s perceptions about the product. Wikipedia also defines “User Experience” as :

User experience (UX or UE) involves a person’s emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience highlights the experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of the practical aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency of the system. User experience is subjective in nature because it is about individual perception and thought with respect to the system. User experience is dynamic as it is constantly modified over time due to changing circumstances and new innovations.”

Similarly ISO 9241-210 defines user experience as:

a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. According to the ISO definition user experience includes all the users’ emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, physical and psychological responses, behaviors and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use. The ISO also list three factors that influence user experience: system, user and the context of use.

 

So basically, “User Experience” deals with the “How” factor of the product or system rather than it’s “What” factor. Most of the customers buy the product not because simply “what it does”, rather the “how” factor takes priority when it comes to choose from a several similar products.

We will dive deep throughout this series, but before that let’s see clear similar jargons.

 

Information Architecture (IA)

 

While exploring UX in previous section, we saw that Information Architecture (IA) is one of the contributing disciplines which form the total User Experience. During 1960’s ,Richard Saul Wurman, an architect by profession having skills of a graphic designer, author and an editor of numerous fine graphics related books, coined the term “Information Architecture”. He mostly developed concepts “ in the ways in which information about urban environments could be gathered, organized, and presented in meaningful ways to architects, to urban planners, to utility and transport engineers, and especially to people living in or visiting cities”. Later these impacted a set of disciplines such as library- and information-science (LIS) , graphic design and in recent years the world wide web (www). During 1990’s , with the evolution of the Web, there rose the need to rethink the presentation of library-catalog information as this information has been moved into online public-access catalogs, and in part to the proliferation of information on the Web itself. So during 90’s IA has taken on something of a connotation of applying especially to the organization of information on the World-Wide Web.

Basically Information Architecture (IA), all about organizing information in a meaningful way so that the user can easily find it when needed through proper organizationnavigation,labelingandsearchingsystems.IA also takes care of the process that ensures that there is no information breakdown or explosion with the scaling of information overtime.

 

Fig: 3

 Fig:3 represents the 3 basic ingredients of IA, namely:

Users: This represents those who will use the product or system, their “information seeking behaviour” and their needs. Any of the following roles/skills/features can be applied to them:

  1. Personas
  2. Ethnography
  3. Usability Testing
  4. Expressing User Needs

 

Content: This is what is presented to the users through the product or system. This includes the data or information that is offered, along with its aspects such as volume, metadata, structure and organization. Sample skills/roles/features/concepts revolving around content are:

  1. Indexing
  2. Cataloguing
  3. Site Architecture
  4. Writing
  5. Content management
  6. Navigation
  7. Labeling
  8. Search mechanism

 

Context: This is what gives meaning to the content that is being served to the user. This can have the attributes like business model, business value, resource, resource constraints, culture etc. The following features/roles/skills are associated with context:

  1. Defining business requirements
  2. Project management
  3. Business model analysis
  4. ROI calculation
  5. Client management
  6. Technical constraints

 

(To be continued…)

 

(c) Samir Dash , 2013 -14

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