The Elements of User Experience: Three Things I Liked
Having been a web designer for the past 10 years I've developed a pretty firm grasp of the general components composing the user experience of websites. In spite of that, Jesse Garrett's book The Elements of User Experience provided me not only valuable insights but a whole new holistic perspective on what constitutes user experience and how to approach purposefully creating it.
Jesse's famous illustration provides the framework for this book. In this illustration he breaks down the different elements that compose the structure of a site as well as the process of creating one. He goes further and divides his illustration so that the elements can be applied to content sites as well as web apps.
I love the simple yet descriptive nature of this illustration. Even without reading the book the viewer is lead to a deeper understanding of the structure and content involved in web design as well as the process needed to get there. As soon as I saw this illustration I started thinking back to my jobs and easily identifying where projects had gone wrong as well as how they could have been set right.
Scope and Strategy
The further I ventured into the book the less I found myself learning. As a web designer much attention had always been given to the skeleton and surface of a site (especially the surface). But towards the beginning of the book, as I read up on scope and strategy and the proper way to approach them, clearly defining the "why" as well as user and business centric success metrics, I couldn't help but daydream about how I would apply this to future projects. I'll admit I might have drooled juuuuust a bit.
This was something that I always just made. It took thought, feedback, and revisions but I hadn't considered the differences between the types of IA I was creating. Reading about information architecture approaches felt something like if I'd spent the last 10 years cooking different loaves of bread without any insight as to why they turned out the way they did then reading a book on the science behind bread baking. It was eye-opening and I found myself more than once saying, "oooooh!" to myself as I realized the logic behind why I'd been doing things the way I had. I'll admit I still have no idea what a matrix IA approach could be applied to (Wikipedia?) but I'd like to learn more.
Overall I loved the book. As I mentioned I found myself losing interest the further I got but I blame that on my familiarity with the skeleton and surface planes. By the time I got there it was just rehashing concepts I felt very comfortable with.