When I first began my schooling, I remember waiting patiently for my books to arrive so that I could dive right in and get a head start. But, my first shipment of books puzzled me. "The Elements of User Experience?" I thought to myself. "Now why do I have a book like this, I'm supposed to be learning html and CSS and all the other useful things a person needs to know to build a website."
But, what I didn't realize is that if you don't understand a user's experience on the web, you can't build an effective website. So, I'm going to share with you five elements of user experience. These are the "stages" or steps that customers go through when they land on your site.
The Surface Plane: This is what your users see -- web pages made up of text and images, all performing some certain task or function. The surface plane includes your logo, backgrounds, navigation buttons, etc.
The Skeleton Plane: Beneath outward appearances lies the skeleton of the site -- the "bones," if you will -- behind all the pretty stuff. These elements are arranged for maximum efficiency, so that vistors can easily recall where your shopping cart button is, eliminating the stress of wanting to make a purchase but not knowing how to go about it.
The Structure Plane: Think of the structure as something like a family tree, complete with branches and parent entities. The structure makes up your navigational system and the hierarchial order in which pages appear. If your visitor comes to a page, the structure helps them get there and decide where to go next.
The Scope Plane: Where the structure defines the ways in which the features and functions of the site fit together, the scope is what those features and functions are. If you have a site that requires or offers a login feature so that addresses can be saved for future visits, it would be included in the scope of your site.
The Strategy Plane: This is where we get down to fundamentals. What do we want out of the site? What will our users want out of the site? In the case of ecommerce, the strategy could be very simple: We want to sell our products and users want to buy them. Figuring out how to please both sides is the strategy behind building the site. We want a stress-free, easy-to-navigate system that will make it not only possible for purchases and surfing, but enjoyable for our users. That, then leads us to figuring out the strategy for which to incorporate our features and functions into an enjoyable site.
Understanding these planes can go a long way in improving site rankings and sales. These elements provide a conceptual framework for discussing user experience problems and the tools we can utilize to solve them.