Thinking about UXD models + design artifacts

11Nov09

Jesse James Garrett postulated a model/schema (fig. 1) for understanding user experience design in his book the Elements of User Experience Design in 2003. He also co- founded a leading user experience design agency called Adaptive Path. The model Garrett uses posits that there are five layers to UX design that have varying levels of abstraction and uses this model to discuss user experience design practice, for example visual design, information architecture etc. Using this model Garrett articulates the different activities of user experience design very well, however perhaps this model is a little too linear, depicting  a process over time, from “abstract” to “concrete” and  “conception” to “completion”.

model1

(Fig. 1) Jesse James Garrett’s model of the elements of user experience design discussed in his book SRC

I recently attended a UX intensive program run by Adaptive path where they talked about 4 areas of user experience design being strategy, design research, information architecture and interaction design. This program was interesting and also really reinforced to me the idea that the practice of “making” and the creation of design artifacts are central to user experience design practice. Furthermore, whilst this model (fig. 1) used by Garrett looks linear, the iterative nature of UXD was emphasised during the program. Peter Merholz from Adaptive Path has written a book called Subject to Change all about iterative design and prototyping.

I am currently writing a Masters thesis on the use of design artifacts within user experience design where I am utilising an alternative model for conceptualising UXD practice (fig 2) . This model posits that there are three intimately related overlapping spheres within the practice of UXD, that of strategy, research and design. Within this model, design artifacts can act as a type of “gestalt glue” whereby they can be used as a way of melding these three spheres yielding experiences that are greater than the sum of their parts. Further, these three spheres of user experience design are in fact so inter-related that within user experience design they almost can not exist alone.

model2
(Fig 2) An alternative model for conceptualising user experience design

Within the discipline of archeology artifacts are extremely important. They act as embodiments of knowledge and are subsequently communication devices, whereby the archeologist can gain implicit and explicit knowledge about the practices, ideas, and culture of another time.

So too in software engineering, artifacts play an important role in communicating knowledge and specifications yielding a shared understanding for it’s project team. Indeed the use of models is an emerging field within software engineering today and there is a lot of research being done in the use of meta-process modeling within software design.

The use of design artifacts within user exprience desgin practice is an area I am very interested in. Stay tuned for more thinking on this topic.

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