Category Archives: practitioners


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.


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?


T-shape people

Word: T-shape people

Definition: A term used to described a worker’s skill set. The vertical portion of the T represents a specialized skill that is known and practiced in great depth where the the horizontal portion represents those skills that are known on a more broad level.

Thought: Thinking of UX practitioners as a T-shape can be helpful because of the interdisciplinary skills that make up the field of user experience. For example, a UX designer may be specialized in user research but a generalist in a variety of other useful skill sets like prototyping, font-end development, or product strategy.

Concepts like T-shape people fuel the ever-present debate over specialized versus unicorn designers within the UX community. I’m just going to throw this out there so do with it what you will, but are debates like this nothing but apples and oranges? Perhaps it’s more about finding the right fit for the right skill sets instead of pushing everyone to be a unicorn or specialist.

Question: Can a designer be both T-shaped and a unicorn?