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The Elements of User Experience – The Five Planes

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Jesse James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience (great book, by the way), says the user experience design is a process applied in order to ensure all actions of the user happen as planned. To accomplish this is necessary to understand the user’s expectations and behavior, which will affect how the product you are designing looks, how it behaves and what it allows the user to do. It’s not a simple process, for that reason, JJG breaks it down in five different planes – surface, skeleton, structure, scope and strategy.

Strategy Place

This is the first plane, “the foundation of a successful user experience”. It defines both what businesses and users want to get out of the product. Sounds simple, but this has to be clear and straightforward. Every decision in the process has to be backed up by this definition. It’s also essential at this stage to define the success metrics, indicators that will be used to track whether the product is meeting the right objectives.

Scope Plane

When your strategy is determined, you need to start focusing on the scope, which is fundamentally defined by the strategy itself. In the scope you identify the content, features and functions that are going to be used in your product. By going through these requirements, you’re forced to address potential issues right at the beginning.

Structure Place

At this stage the scope turns into a conceptual structure of the product, which cares about how the system behaves in response to the user. It’s also about the arrangement of elements that will facilitate the understanding of the user about the product being designed. It’s important to define which options patterns and sequences will be presented to users, how they will perform and complete tasks focusing on delivering the right information to the user.

Skeleton Plane

Here the structure is further refined, where aspects of interface, navigation and information design will be identified. This will “make the intangible structure concrete”.


Interface Design “is about selecting the right interface elements for the task the user is trying to accomplish”, and then arranging them in a way that will be easily used and understood. Remember: Focus! What is the most important element in your interface? Make sure the users notice them.

Navigation Design deals with three main goals: provide users with a means to get from one place to the other, communicate the relationship between different elements and make sure users understand the relationship between the content and the page he’s currently viewing.

Information Design is about making decisions on “how to present information so that people can use it or understand it more easily”. It’s very easy in theory, but in practice it might get complicated. Remember to always ask for the opinion of the user!

Surface Plane

Here is where “content, functionality, and aesthetics come together to produce a finished design that pleases the senses while fulfilling all the goals of the other four planes”. You need to decide how the design will be presented. Depending on the product designed, difference senses (vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) should be used.


Written by Cristina Dresch

June 27, 2011 at 11:40 AM

One Response

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  1. This excellent website definitely has all the information and facts I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    November 26, 2012 at 12:18 PM

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