Monthly Archives: March 2015


Pattern Signifiers

Word: Pattern Signifiers

Definition: Common UI trends that have been popularized to the point of near universal understanding.

Thoughts: We may not always know what the symbol means or why it works but we sure know what to do with it! How do you know that clicking on the three horizontal-lined icon will open an expanded menu? Why did you know to click on the site logo to get to the home page? Where can you enter a search query?

The hamburger menu, a logo in the top left corner, and the magnifying glass icon are just three examples of these patterns. Such pattern signifiers have become so ubiquitous over time that we intuitively know not only how to use them, but what to expect from their given interaction. These learned behaviors work to create a library of common UI elements that both designers and users can intuitively understand and utilize.

Question: What happens when a pattern signifier becomes as bad habit? Can we unlearn a pattern signifier?




Adaptive Hierarchy

Word: Adaptive hierarchy

Definition: The flexible design model in which product layouts change, affording priority for elements based on a user’s action at a given time within a given context

Reference: I first heard of adaptive hierarchy from an ustwo blog post in which they reimagine a car interior dashboard that provides a user with different options and views depending on context (car is on, car is in motion, roadway conditions, etc).

In adaptive hierarchy, context is key because it is context that can support more empathetic and appropriate options to the user based on the user’s actions in a particular moment.

Question: Does adaptive hierarchy build on the “slippy ux” model? Is there a point where automation goes too far and we lose user empowerment altogether?



Social Proof

Word: Social Proof

Definition:  People are influenced and guided by the behaviors, actions, and beliefs of others.

Thoughts: Social proof can be used in design to influence users’ thoughts and actions. Take a moment and think about Amazon’s review section. Would you really buy a microwave that was reviewed by 300 people and had 1 out of 5 stars. Most likely, not. Why is that? Because the crowd has a strong influence on your decision in this situation, that’s why.

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion details how social proof plays into human insecurities and the innate desire to do the right thing.

Social proof can be utilized in user experience design in a multitude of ways like demonstrating product credibility (through reviews and ratings) and encouraging adaption and acceptance (like following a Twitter account because you see many others follow the account as well).

Question: How, if at all, has social proof influenced the development of social media services? Is social media even comparable to the definition of social proof outlined above?



Structure Plane

Word: Structure plane

Definition: The third plane of Jesse James Garrett’s “Five Planes of User Experience” which focuses on interaction design and information architecture.

Thoughts: The previous planes help identify objectives and requirements but it is in the structure phase that the actual product functionality and information architecture is defined. The mental model begins to shift at this phase of development. The designer stops thinking broad strokes and abstract ideas and she begins to focus in on concrete details.

The structure plane works to set in place the interaction design, information architecture, conceptual models, error handling, and team roles and process.

Strap in folks, there is no turning back now!



Scope Plane

Word: Scope plane

Definition: The second plane of Jesse James Garrett’s “Five Planes of User Experience” which focuses on functional specifications and content requirements.

Thoughts: The plane before “scope” is “strategy”. The UX process transitions into the scope phase once the user needs are translated into product objectives and requirements. This plane is an extremely important step in unifying the entire team by establishing a reference point and a common language to use throughout the product’s development.

The scope plane works to set in place the product content and functionality by defining and prioritizing those requirements.