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The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web

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A site that really works fulfills your strategic objectives while meeting the needs of your users. This book aims to minimize the complexity of user-centered design for the Web with explanations and illustrations that focus on ideas rather than tools or techniques.

189 pages, Paperback

First published October 21, 2002

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About the author

Jesse James Garrett

1 book35 followers
Jesse James Garrett is a user experience designer as well as a co-founder of Adaptive Path, a user experience strategy and design firm, and of the Information Architecture Institute. His essays have appeared in New Architect, Boxes and Arrows, and Digital Web Magazine. Jesse attended the University of Florida.

Garrett authored The Elements of User Experience, a conceptual model of user-centered design first published as a diagram in 2000 and later as a book in 2002. Although originally intended for use in web design, the Elements model has since been adopted in other fields such as software development and industrial design. He also created the first standardized notation for interaction design, known as the Visual Vocabulary.

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5 stars
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796 (19%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 159 reviews
Profile Image for Keith Walfson.
14 reviews5 followers
October 11, 2019
A must-read for every programmer! Most of the books teach you how to program, or how to use your specific language features, but none of them will teach you how to ACTUALLY write clean and maintainable code. This one does!
Profile Image for Tamara.
1,407 reviews549 followers
February 11, 2011
This book essentially dissects the process of website creation, clearly defining every element that goes into planning and implementing a website. This would have provided an invaluable visual map during our last website redesign. Rather than a tangled ball of yarn, I can now see all of the wheels and cogs fit together in a logical manner.

It seems that, of the five planes of the user experience development process (the surface plane, the skeleton plane, the structure plane, the scope plane and the strategy plane), I am most interested in the skeleton plane (i.e. navigation, interface and information design) and the structure plane (information architecture).

I might have to own this book.

Favorite Quotes:

If your site consists mainly of what we Web types call "content" - that is, information - then one of the main goals of your site is to communicate that information as effectively as possible. It's not enough just to put it out there. It has to be presented in a way that helps people absorb it and understand it. Otherwise, the user might not ever find out that you offer the service or product they're looking for.

Habit and reflex are the foundation for much of our interaction with the world...

If it involves providing users with the ability to do things, it's interface design...If it involves providing users with the ability to go places, it's navigation design...If it involves communicating ideas to the user, it's information design.

Making your interface consistent with others that your users are already familiar with is important, but even more important is making your interface consistent with itself.

An interface that gives a small number of extreme cases the same weight as the needs of the vast majority of users ends up ill-equipped to make either audience happy.

Presenting a style on your web site that's inconsistent with your style in other media doesn't just affect the audience's impression of the site; it affects their impression of your company as a whole.

[Effective content] requires effective maintenance.

[Information architecture] draws on a number of disciplines that historically have been concerned with the organization, grouping, ordering, and presentation of content: library science, journalism, and technical communication, among others.

[Information architecture and interaction design] are about understanding people, the way they work, and the way they think.
Profile Image for Eric Phetteplace.
342 reviews63 followers
November 3, 2014
Somewhere, Nietzsche has a quote (probably directed at Kant) dissing philosophers who, rather than introduce new ideas or vectors of exploration, simply schematize already existing terms. That is, they take a bunch of signifiers and try to ground them in reality or each other.
Jesse James Garrett takes schematization to a new level in The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web, unfortunately. See, the problem with user experience is we haven't defined its constituent terms enough. I bet you didn't know that it's composed of six layers, each bifurcated into two semi-planes, subdivided by topics which sometimes overlap those semi-planes, did you? If you didn't and you think that that sounds like knowledge, then this book is for you.
This is not a bad book and I needed to read it. It considers many aspects of designing an intuitive and user-friendly website which other, far longer, texts leave out. All that said, the basic premise that what these many undifferentiated fields (interface design, information architecture, user experience, web design, strategic planning, et al) truly need is a dictionary and a schema is laughable. Fractal overspecification.
Profile Image for Josh Lee.
2 reviews12 followers
September 22, 2007
The diagram that lies at the heart of the book, a layered view of user experience design, is solid. The book itself feels kind of padded, though, and I found myself skimming a lot. You might be better served by simply meditating on the diagram itself ( http://jjg.net/elements/pdf/elements.pdf ), and only referring to the book if you need more explication.
Profile Image for Asia Hoe.
14 reviews16 followers
July 3, 2013
I read this book in preparation for a class at General Assembly on User Experience Design. Excellent resource on User Experience for both designers and everyone they meet in a product's life cycle. The methodologies herein are invaluable and worth revisiting at the start of each project, and at each phase of a project. You won't find specific examples, as the book is more about methodology than application. This is helpful if you're trying to wrap your mind around what UX is, and how to go about it. Find what works, and stick to it.
Profile Image for Haider Al-Mosawi.
56 reviews36 followers
March 31, 2011
This is a must-read book for anyone involved in web development.

It takes a holistic look at the subject of user experience and provides a very useful vocabulary for all the elements involved in user experience design.

The author provides a model that consists of 5 planes that cover the abstract as well as the concrete aspects of the user experience.

The 5 planes are:

1- Strategy (why you're building the site for you and your users)
2- Scope
3- Structure
4- Skeleton
5- Surface (the visual elements of the site)

Every plane depends on and influences every other plane and it's important to maintain consistency and harmony amongst the planes, so that the user doesn't experience any clashes or inconsistencies.

If you struggle to make sense of what makes bad web design bad, then this book could shed light on the matter and help you identify the type of problems that lead to poor design.

More importantly, it offers a very helpful approach you can follow to create great websites that please - rather than frustrate - your users.
Profile Image for Philippe Heckly.
21 reviews6 followers
May 3, 2015
A basic of UX it didn't impress me as much as others. That websites have layers of meaning, interactivity and can trigger various emotions is something that perhaps more than 10 years after the book was written we now take for granted?
Profile Image for mary liz.
212 reviews18 followers
March 8, 2020
Read for my interactive design class (aka the bane of my existence), and this textbook was basically one big snooze-fest. The only chapter that was very applicable to my career was the one about sensory design.

(No, I'm not adding textbooks to my reading challenge because I'm desperate to reach my goal. Why do you ask? *COUGH*)
Profile Image for Brendan Brooks.
437 reviews4 followers
April 8, 2019
Essential reading, for almost every aspect of website development, including management, will be a book that is kept handy to my desk from now on.
Profile Image for Emilia.
260 reviews
May 15, 2021
Creo que este es un libro que hay que leer si te interesa el tema. El problema es que es lentísimo y denso. De todas formas vale la pena.
47 reviews1 follower
August 24, 2008
I just finished Andy Clarke's Transcending CSS and deciding to delve into The Elements of User Experience which I picked up because, skimming, I realized it was giving me names for what most of us are already doing.

So far, it's concise and Garrett does a nice job of making sure that a web developer doesn't leave a reading of the book with impression that user-centered design isn't connected to a much bigger discipline, human factors design. Garrett hasn't used that word -- or Computer Human Interaction -- but he's careful to situation user-centered, user experience design into a broader context, where engineers and other subject matter experts have been working on design for the way people use things like alarm clocks and gas grills.

One thing I found most intriguing from my initial skim at the bookstore, was that I (and a lot of us) have been doing "information architecture" and "information design" -- but we didn't necessarily call it that. We've been doing user interaction and user experience, too, we just haven't called it that. If you've been developing Web sites with the user experience in mind, if only because you are also a heavy user of the Intertoobz, then much of what is discussed in thiis book is intuitive -- what you already do.

That may not be the case for people who've been more focused on programming or who get a charge out of building the technology and would, perhaps, love it if they had advanced users for whom there was no need to write meaningful error messages -- let alone test and test again until you break the code, accounting for edgecases, not just the tech savvy user.

For me, probably because I always had to stick around for the consequences of what I built when I was doing elearning, the name of the game has been user-centric development and design practices. When good training via elearning means the difference between following government regulations about security and privacy -- and not doing so -- it mattered a great deal whether the Learning Management System was usable. Moreover, in elearning, people who focusing on user experience early on -- because the user's environment mattered to whether or not they learned anything.

In that sense, much of what was presented in this book was mostly key terminology that is only recently become shared terminology in the wider UI/UX community. As another reviewer mentions below, the best part of the book are the schematics depicting the elements of the user centered design and the relationships between these elements. The book is a handy reference to keep at your desk and to recommend to developers who haven't developed in user-centric environments, or to a colleague who would like to broaden her understanding of UI development in this wider context, particularly as it relates to project management and the software development lifecycle.
Profile Image for Marian.
225 reviews122 followers
October 25, 2020
10/24/20 Update after 2nd reading: This book has aged well and should be required reading for developers, too.

Original review: Enjoyed this more than I expected. The author includes enough simple examples to make it a great introductory text, as well as plenty of theory to provide reference in the future. I used some of his points as starting places for further research, both online and internal to my organization, and I'm excited to see where that research will take me. For a newbie to UX, this book was well worth reading!
Profile Image for Mike Hales.
118 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2011
Absolutely essential reading if this is an area of professional or personal interest.

I try and reread this book once a year as a kind of grounding and to re-establish the key processes and steps involved in considered and effective UX design.
Profile Image for Lucas Terra.
7 reviews4 followers
January 4, 2016
Jesse James Garrett exposes in a very clear way the essence of user experience for the web. He breaks down the ux for the web into five different planes going deep into the vocabulary and strategy for designing better experiences for our digital world.
Profile Image for Oz.
10 reviews
May 9, 2017
What it's about: Using design as a way to achieve business goals + user goals, including an important framework ("5 Planes") for thinking about user experience.

Why Read It: A foundational way to think about design strategy, helpful for approaching new projects

When to Read it: This is one of those reads that makes you step back and reevaluate your work, and the way you work.

Reading this book gives you depth. While most people spend time arguing about how UX is not UI (which is true), you see deeper than they do. You see projects in the five layers of strategy, scope, structure, skeleton, and surface – which the author covers in great depth and clarity.

I've referenced - and continue to use - Jesse James Garrett's 5 Planes framework on the UXBeginner.com and in my own design work.
Profile Image for Blake Williford.
20 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2018
One of the classics and a must have for any designer working in UI / UX professions.

What makes this book so great is its timeless quality - Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, Skin is easy to remember and applies to software 20 years ago and will apply to software / experiences 20 years from now - Who the heck knows what we will be designing? Immersive mixed reality co-creative experiences? The same general approach applies.

While this is not a definitive source of information like some textbooks it is a great high-level overview of how to approach designing great experiences. Since it doesn't read like a textbook I especially recommend this book for beginners and those trying to break in to UI / UX but don't know where to start.

Jesse James Garrett is brilliant.

10 reviews
June 27, 2021
So vague about everything. Page upon page of passing mentions. At one point he talks about user research methods without listing the methods, or at least the methods he used most often… I understand you can't cover everything in a book seemingly about anything :)) but that bit of information would actually qualify as useful.

I did find the levels of design—so beautifully illustrated in this book and the reason why I even started it—to be just the map I needed to draw the boundaries between me, in charge of product, and the CEO. He clearly get the last say for business objectives, we need to talk about user needs and functional specifications, but anything below that is my turf :)

In conclusion, just download the illustration and have a look at his visual vocabulary. That's all you need.
Profile Image for Amanda.
43 reviews
September 27, 2021
A good introduction to the famous six planes of user experience, but minus many real-world examples, case studies, and weirdly enough... a whole lot of humanity. I came to this book after reading Steve Krug's terrific "Don't Make Me Think", which is written in a fun, conversational style and chock full of real examples (including screen shots of real websites, examples of navigation menus that do and don't work, etc.)... Coming to this book afterward, I am walking away feeling disappointed and just as confused about the specifics of the six elements as when I first heard about them. Flow charts and diagrams just don't work well enough for me to really grasp a concept so I prefer real examples to refer to. I guess I need to look elsewhere on the web to learn more about this topic.
Profile Image for Justine.
1 review
May 10, 2017
I likely would have rated this book higher had I read it years ago. The content is solid but dry. It reminded me way too much of sitting in core university classes. Garrett's diagram is a great place to start understanding the fundamentals of UX for web. I believe that is all this book intended to be, so I won't criticize it for lacking more practical and interesting concepts. I would certainly recommend it to someone just starting out in UX, but I wouldn't bother with a recommendation to someone with experience in the field. I might ask if they've seen his diagram, and if their mind is blown... then I'd offer up this book that will eventually collect dust.
24 reviews
August 22, 2017
Recommended to anyone learning about User Experience or has to sell it as part of their job.

This book does a good job explaining the fundamental aspects of user experience, defining all the various, seemingly interchangeable terms, and shows how they are all related. It is not an "actionable" book, meaning you can't read it and go redo the UX of a website. It doesn't have the principle/example format of other books such as "Don't Make Me Think". I don't see it as a stand-alone book but, rather, as a great supplement to add a stronger foundation in order to make sense of and apply knowledge gained from experience and other books in this field.
November 19, 2017
I like how the author breaks down the complex field of UX design into a series of individual elements, separated into five different "planes". The five planes are Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton and Surface, stacked on top of one another to illustrate how a UX project is structured. Each plane build upon the decisions made on the underlying plane(s), while also informing the options on the plane(s) above.

Especially the first version of the book focuses on UX of websites, but I think most of it can quite easily be applied to the design of other digital products. Worth reading even if your work doesn't focus exclusively on web design.
Profile Image for Yuliana Oselska.
7 reviews15 followers
September 22, 2018
An essential guide to understanding the general concept of UX on different levels. The author argued there are five elements of any design - strategy, scope, structure, skeleton, and surface, and two types of digital products - product as functionality and product as information. In his book, the author studied each element/layer from both perspectives of web applications and content websites which made this book extremely useful. Especially, I liked the visual component of presenting his understanding. Highly recommended for everyone looking for learning fundamental principles of User Experience.
Profile Image for Emily.
242 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2020
An absolutely incredible book for beginner to intermediate user experience designers. If you want to know what the heck UX is, this book is for you. It mostly focuses on web design, but I prefer that side of UX so I was really pleased. Even the book had a great user experience: great pictures, color coded chapters, small text in a big page so you feel like you're reading faster, bolded key information. My only complaint is that some of the graphic design examples are outdated. Garrett walks through every part of the UX design process, from concept to visual product. Garrett also uses really accessible language with a fun and casual tone that kept me interested throughout the entire book.
Profile Image for Julian Moreno.
11 reviews1 follower
July 26, 2021
One of the fundamentals! Although the book has been published for quite some time, Jesse James Garrett's main model is still very much in force. It will help you have a holistic view and a solid foundation in user-centered design.

As far as my professional experience is concerned, the model of the five planes has given me a solid foundation, while at the same time it has provided me with a systematic basis to address different situations around the design of products/services.

In other words, the model helps you structure, in a practical way, the big picture that every team needs to make conscious design decisions at different levels.
Profile Image for Scott.
146 reviews
April 25, 2022
Jesse James Garrett's "The Elements of User Experience" is a relatively difficult-to-find playbook for UX that's as relevant two decades later as it was upon release. Garrett's introduction of the five planes of user experience -- and their corresponding layers of abstraction -- continues to be a game-changer in web design and other disciplines. Full of useful diagrams, the book covers everything from how to treat edge cases to incorporating eyetracking data to defining functional elements. This is a work I wish I would have read much earlier in my career in web publication, but I'm grateful to be building a common language based on Garrett's terms.
35 reviews2 followers
March 3, 2018
Lacks concrete examples for actual interaction design beat practices

I think that the this is a good book, but it kinda falls short ehen it comes to concrete examples of planning interaction.

As far as I understood, the author suggest using the framework described in the book for managing software solutions as a whole. The framework itself is not bad, but the scope, strategy and stru ture planes kinda try to steal away the glory from the good old fashioned software requirement specification document.
Profile Image for JB Ong.
1 review1 follower
May 28, 2017
For years, this book serves as the foundation for the UX career path. Even when you learn all the processes and skills that make up UX Design, this book maintains itself as a worthwhile reference. There are many crucial pieces of advice in this book, regardless if you're

Crucial foundation for those developing a product. Especially if you're in the field of UX Design. Great to keep to referencing structure ideas for project planning.
Profile Image for Rob.
Author 2 books364 followers
February 6, 2018
I’d like to revisit this book sometime, when I’m able to give it some day-time level attention and note-taking. Most of the ideas presented in here were ones I’d encountered before, usually divorced from this (original?) context. (It was published in 2011, after all.) that said, his “five elements” framework feels like an excellent foundation to work from, and I’ve already tried to apply it to my work.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 159 reviews

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