Category Archives: strategy


Interaction Cost

Word: Interaction Cost

Definition: An interaction cost is equal to the physical effort plus the mental effort exuded by the user per a given task.

In a perfect world, the interaction cost would be zero, in that the user would know exactly what she has to do and how she can accomplish her goals, all without any effort or strain. However, we know that this is an impossible standard to attain, so the point is to get close!

Reference: This term comes from the early days of Human Computer Interaction and is used to evaluate a product’s usability. Tools such as heuristic evaluations directly influence and ultimately minimize the interaction cost for the user.

Thoughts:  Examples of efforts that can be minimized and ultimately lower the interaction cost are:

  • Reading
  • Scrolling
  • Clicking/tapping
  • Typing
  • Page loading
  • Way-finding

Now let’s reduce the abstraction and look at a very basic example! Image you are filling out a form on a mobile app. You are exerting effort every time you read a form field label, click into the field, type a value into that field, and then finally submit the value. When broken down in this manner, that is a lot of effort!

Think about the small things that we can do as UX designers that will help lower this effort. We can automatically display the numerical keyboard on a phone number or zip code fields. We can allow the user to tab from one field to the next without exiting the keyboard display. We can display shortcuts to various form field sections for easy access. The possibilities are endless!

These may seem like small interactions and mundane examples but it is through such details that the larger interaction cost is reduced and the usability of a product ultimately increases.


Top-down approach

Word: Top-down approach

Definition: An approach to information architecture that involves creating a site’s architecture directly from an understanding of product objectives and user needs.

Thoughts: This approach begins with the broadest possible categories for the content and strategy while still accomplishing the strategic goals. From there, the broad categories can then be broken down into more logical and specific subsections.

However, here is your word of warning… when using a top-down approach, important details can go overlooked so be mindful and proceed with caution and thoughtfulness (as I’m sure you already do).

Question: When is a top-down approach an ineffective strategy?


Hook Model

Word: Hook Model

Definition: The cycle a successful product follows in order to reach the goal of unprompted user engagement, where in users return to the product consistently and often.

Reference: The Hook Model comes from Nir Eyal’s book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

Thoughts: In Eyal’s book, he describes the Hook Model process as a cycle, consisting of a trigger (external and/or internal), an action, a variable reward, and then an investment. Rinse and repeat.

Let’s break down each step a bit for a better understanding: The trigger is the actuator of the behavior, like an alert or notification. The action comes next, which is essentially, the behavior a user performs in anticipation of a reward. The next step is the variable reward, which is the Hook Model’s way of creating user craving by initiating intrigue. Finally,  investment is when the user takes the step to input some work into the product or service. By investing time and energy, the odds increase dramatically that a user will pass through the Hook cycle again.

The Hook Model is an important tool to not only understand as a designer, but to build habit-forming products as well.


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?


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!