Monthly Archives: February 2015


Strategy Plane

Word: Strategy plane

Definition: The first plane of Jesse James Garrett’s “Five Planes of User Experience” which focuses on product objectives and user needs.

Thoughts: UX Strategy is the foundation for a successful product and an important first step in product creation. Before beginning a project, it is important to understand firstly what the product is setting out to accomplish and secondly, what user needs are being addressed. Hence, this should be your “lightbulb moment”.

The strategy plane works to set in place the product objects and the business goals while working to define success metrics and brand identity.


lightbulb gfx credit


The Five Planes

Word: Jesse James Garrett’s model of understanding the entire user experience process by providing a conceptual framework. The five planes include: Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, and Surface.

Thoughts: The planes are structured bottom to top from most to least abstract. In Garrett’s quintessential UX book The Elements of User Experience Garrett explains the structure as such:

“On the lowest plane, we are not concerned with the final shape of the site, product, or service at all — we only care about how the site will fit into our strategy (while meeting the needs of our users). On the highest plane, we are only concerned with the most concrete details of the appearance of the product.” (pg 21)

The plane structure helps a UX practitioner navigate a product over time, from initial strategy, across development, and through launch. They key to UX is understanding the user’s relationship with a product every step of the way. Garrett’s method provides a mental checklist to ensure conscious decision-making.

Questions: Do you find Garrett’s abstraction of the UX process helpful or too convoluted?


Card Sorting

Word: Card Sorting

Definition: A form of UX research in which participants are given a set of cards with words or topics on them. They are then asked to arrange the cards into meaningful groups.

Thoughts: This research methodology is great for organizing and understanding content structure. Many designers will use this technique when determining a site’s information architecture. For example, if you are trying to organize a site’s navigation you would write down the different site elements on note cards and have the participant arrange them in appropriate and meaningful groups. This will then help you better understand how users will explore and navigate your site.

There are many ways to go about an effective card sort and the good news is, it’s very hard to get wrong! Look into “open” versus “closed” card sorts for more information on research practices (or wait a few days until I define those terms 😉 )

Note: this is nothing like blackjack!

Question: What are some of your card sorting techniques and best practices?


Responsive Logo

Word: Responsive logo

Definition: Combining principles of responsive web design with a defined set of iconography that are to be utilized at different screen sizes.

Thought: While responsive logos are not commonplace as of yet, it is easily understood why such an idea was proposed. In a world where more and more people are browsing and interacting with content on smaller and smaller screens, logos are an element on a page that must be accounted for and designed around.

Joe Harrison created the Responsive Logos Project, which beautifully illustrates how such a concept can be put to great use.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.47.59 PM
The Responsive Logos project by Joe Harrison

UX Magazine lays out the pros and cons of this concept as such:

  • Pros: Legibility, Flexibility, Pre-optimized for new devices
  • Cons: Design time, Recognition

Question: While the benefits and fluidity of responsive logo design seems beneficial, some have argued that this is all a moot point. Great logos, if designed properly, should not need such pomp and circumstance and instead, be powerful at any size. Is responsive logo design the future? Do we really need it?


Success Metrics

Word: Success Metrics

Definition: Indicators that are tracked after a product is launched to determine whether it is meeting project objectives and user needs, as articulated in the UX strategy.

Thought: Success metrics are an important part of understanding project objectives and then ultimately defining whether or not these objectives have been met . Meeting a set of success metrics provides direct evidence and indication of the UX contribution and value to the set project.

UX Matters wrote an article about success metrics which points out three key, high-level UX metrics that are worth tracking. These are a great place to start!

  • Usability – How easily can a user accomplish what they set out to do
  • Engagement  How much users interact with the site or application (be cautious because this metic is notoriously hard to track and findings can easily include lurking variables)
  • Conversion rate – Percentage of users who take a desired action. This can be used as one of the strongest ROI arguments for better UX, increased research time, more funding, etc

Question: What do you use to define the success of your products?


Foot in the Door Technique

Word: Foot in the door technique

Definition: The persuasion tactic of asking for something small from someone and then following up with a larger ask if they comply to the first.

Reference: The sales technique is named for that literal practice of physically putting a foot between a door and a door-frame in order to stop the door from being closed closed, or slammed for that matter, in one’s face.

The foot in the door phenomenon was first studied in 1966 by Stanford University psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser. That year Freeman and Fraser published a landmark study titled “Compliance Without Pressure: The Foot-in-the-Door Technique” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1966, Vol. 4, No. 2, 195-202). The study asked participants a question about household cleaners over the phone and then later followed up with a second ask on the same topic in person. Freeman and Fraser found that participants were 135% more likely to respond positively to the second request if they had responded positively to the first smaller ask over the phone.

Thought: Such a technique can be utilized in user experience. For example, a site could start by asking visitors for a very small piece of information about themselves, like an email or a zip code. This figuratively allows the site to put their foot in the door and set themselves up for a larger ask shortly there after. The user is much more likely to give up more information if they have already given up a little bit previously, and perhaps already gained some value from that first ask.

So stick your foot in that door people and then do your best to crack it wide open!


Power Users

Word: Power User

Definition: Someone who operates a computer or device at an advanced skill level with knowledge and/or experience that is not typical of an average user. Sometimes referred to as a super user. 

Thoughts: UX designers need to consider all user types when designing and that includes both the power user and the beginner. This can lead to a tricky situation because a dumbed-down interface will frustrate the power user, while a complex interface will scare off the beginner. There is no secret formula, unfortunately, but I can still offer a few helpful keep-in-the-back-of-your-mind thoughts!

Games are great examples of interfaces that progress as a user essentially levels-up and gains knowledge. This way it teaches a novice the basics while providing and unlocking features for the power user. As gamification continues to penetrate UX thinking, games can offer quite a bit of insight and inspiration.

However, another school of thought says that all products should be accessible and usable by everyone at all times and that the seamlessness integration of all types of users is the beauty of great design. I can dig this too!

Question: In what situations do you consider yourself a power user? As a power user do you look for VIP treatment?


Fat Footer

Word: Fat footer

Definition: A form of secondary navigation located at the bottom of the page, typically taking up a considerable amount of page real-estate and serving as a shortcut to hierarchical content.


Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.24.37 PM
Williams-Sonoma fat footer


Thoughts: Fat footers are typically used on sites with an incredible amount of information and lengthier page content. These sections are extremely helpful to link popular site content that may not be directly relevant to the selected page itself. It also acts as a visual anchor and an affordance that a page has come to an end while providing additional page view opportunities. Fat footers also present space for graphics, social media links, and newsletter promotions. These big guys have graduated from more than just links lists.

While I know this may come off as a broken record to you consistent “UX 365” readers, but there is a debate on this topic amongst us! While there are clear benefits to such “obese footers” (as Jakob Nielsen once called them), there are also thoughts of too many links and a persistent feeling of “spamminess”.

Both points are well taken and I venture to guess that like with most polarizing topics, it comes down to a case by case basis with specific business goals in mind.

Question: How does the persistence of continuous scroll effect the future of the footer, regardless of its size?



Word: Mobile-centrism

Definition: Dependance on and around mobile devices in a way that goes beyond sheer usage and into lifestyle and activity penetration.

Thoughts: This word was first brought to my attention in the Smashing Magazine article about mobile use in China. In China, as of June 2014, more people accessed the internet via mobile than via PC. This growth has led designers to move beyond “mobile-first” and into the mindset of “mobile-only”, bypassing desktop and relegating it to an afterthought.

In China, the mobile-centrism is so strong that a user’s cell phone number can be equated to the value of a US social security number with people using their mobile numbers for everything from digital wallets, to proof of ID, to login-in credentials.

While China is leading the way in mobile access and centrism, the US has seen its own uptick in lifestyle infiltration, particularly when it comes to e-commerce. Mobile payments and mobile wallets are likely to only get stronger and more widespread in the coming years.

As UX designers we know the power and prevalence of mobile and it’s exciting to think about how this saturation will further penetrate lifestyle.

Question: Can you foresee the rest of world catching up with China’s current mobile practices in the near future? If not, what might happen if the rest of the world does not follow suit?


Status Quo Bias

Word: Status quo bias

Definition: The cognitive bias that says people typically prefer consistency over change. The tendency to like things to stay relatively the same, which forms a baseline in the mind. Any change from this consistent baseline is perceived as a loss.

Thought: This psychological principle plays into the theory of loss aversion. Status quo bias can be reduced however, by exposing users to other choices (assuming, somewhat obviously, that those choices were equivalent or better than the current option). The lesson here is that change is best accepted by users when introduced incrementally.

In Chris Nodder’s book Evil By Design he uses an amazing metaphor to describe illustrate this cognitive principle,

“If you place a frog in hot water, it does its best to hop straight out. However, if you place it in cold water and then heat the water up slowly enough, the frog won’t attempt to jump out.”

Essentially, Nodder wants us all to think of our users as frogs, and I’m down with that!

Question: Can you think of a good example that refutes this? How can we make the frog stay in the hot water from the beginning?