Krysta Curtis adds joy to the world through design.

To prepare for the UX Design program at Tradecraft, I read “The Elements of User Experience” by Jesse James Garrett.  It’s the go to book for understanding how the many disparate parts of user experience fit together.  A must read for anyone interested in UX.

To help me dive a little deeper into the subject matter, I decided to select three aspects of the book that stood out to me and share the reasons why.

#1 Personas

Quoting from the book:

By putting a face and a name on the disconnected bits of data from your user research and segmentation work, personas can help ensure that you keep the users in mind during the design process.

These are the persona examples Garrett uses in the book:

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 1.48.28 PMScreen Shot 2014-08-10 at 1.48.22 PM

This is awesome!  In my design work, I’ve always envisioned the end users to build empathy with them.  By using empathy, I can make sure that any feature I design will fit their needs.  However, my imaginary “users” have never had names, detailed personalities… or even a face!  By going a step further and creating full personas, I’ll be able to empathize with their needs much, much better.  This will be especially valuable when the product targets multiple types of users who have significantly varying needs.  Adding this to my toolkit!

#2 Conceptual Models

The book describes conceptual models as follows:

Users’ impressions of how the interactive components we create will behave are known as conceptual models.

The book goes further on to explain an example of a conceptual model:

For example, the conceptual model for the shopping cart component of a typical e-commerce site is that of a container. This metaphorical concept influences both the design of the component and the language we use in the interface. A container holds objects; as a result, we “put things into” and “take things out of” the “cart,” and the system must provide functions to accomplish these tasks.

This idea stood out to me since it’s something I’m familiar with in my experiences with game design – I’ve just never referred to them as conceptual models.  I’ve always strived to design game features that had strong connections with the way things work in the real world.  If there is no real world  parallel, it would be difficult to understand and would feel contrived thus breaking the immersive experience.

For example, in the Mahjong Butterfly game I designed at Namco, I wanted to create a meta-game to boost the engagement of matching Mahjong tiles.  Sure, I could have simply instructed the users to match X number of tiles to get some random reward thereby adding extrinsic motivation.  But, I knew adding a mechanic with a real-world parallel could create intrinsic motivation.

Since most people are familiar with the concept of caterpillar metamorphosis and I knew that nurturing creates one of the strongest emotional connections, I decided to create the conceptual model of nurturing caterpillars to raise them into butterflies.  Once I decided to go with the nurturing conceptual model, every design decision moving forward needed to fit within that theme.  For example, changing the tile artwork from the traditional dots and bamboo to honeydew and leaves created a feeding element – very intuitive.


In Mahjong Butterfly, players match honeydew and leaf tiles to collect food for their caterpillars.

I’m excited about having the term, “conceptual models” and a deeper understanding of the concept to add to my design toolkit!

 #3 The Five Planes

I’m new to the concept of the five planes of user experience – they are the surface plane, the skeleton plane, the structure plane, the scope plane and the strategy plane.  One aspect of this concept really caught my eye:

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 3.18.22 PM

Woah!  I was initially taken aback and uncomfortable with this idea – most of my experience thus far has been using a waterfall production technique.  In the past, I’ve been most comfortable with having a very solid design before moving forward with any production.  Upon further reading, I started to realize that during my previous design processes, I’ve actually done some of this already.  But since I’ve never categorized the work into these five planes, it seems rather alien to me.  I imagine getting this technique right is a finesse skill that takes experience to master.  I look forward to exploring this concept and gaining some of that experience with my work at Tradecraft and beyond!

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