Using the Characteristics & Principles of UX

So a couple of years ago I made this diagram/poster thing because, well, apparently that’s what I do. I liked it enough to present it at the IA Summit, I even created a separate blog for the idea, but I could never really find a real-world project to apply it to.

Well, I found one. We’re starting a large “blue sky” design project at work and we’re in need of some UX principles – so I thought i’d dust the Characteristics & Principles of UX off, rework the diagram slightly to include everything on one page and see if it works “in the wild”.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Characteristics & Principles of UX (8MB PDF because of screenshots)



3 Responses to “Using the Characteristics & Principles of UX”

  1. 1 livlab February 19, 2012 at 1:53 am

    Hey Richard, in a nutshell how I feel about this concept is cautiously positive – I think it has legs but I don’t understand enough to validate it against the world I see it applied to. Yet! Here are a few thoughts:

    1. I love that you frame it as characteristics and principles.While I’ve seen other attempts use those words, they are often really more rigid interpretation of what “should be”. Perhaps the secret sauce is you are articulating something that helps describe not prescribe. That’s where the UX Health Check falters, for example.

    2. I love that you are trying to describe experiences and not the design of experiences. I feel this is where most of our industry thinking goes off track.

    3. Not to labor the point but, because of the above, I’d add an “s” to Experiences since you’re presenting a framework to look at them all. (Also, I would, at some point, like to do on a tangent about not needing “user” in this equation at all, but let’s not go there now 🙂 ).

    4. I am a big fan of representing characteristics in spectrums like this. I’d venture to say both you and I are influenced by Indi in this regard 🙂 This alone, makes this framework seem more useful to me than others that preceded it, such as the UX honeycomb for example (which has real merits); I can see it as a tool in practice because the spectrums afford a mechanism where different experiences can be represented, rather than rigid categories that they fit in. Or not.

    As a means for validation, as long as there is no value judgment (i.e.: no end of any spectrum is good or bad), then it is fitting as a descriptor of the characteristic. Good/Bad value judgments come with context. And fashion 🙂

    5. characteristics that I’m struggling with:

    a) Accessible. I can’t really understand it with the example you used. Are you comparing how POP versus IMAP experiences force more/less portability? Or are you saying something more about Eudora and Gmail themselves?

    b) Controllable. I understand what you are describing, but it’s not clear what is at the end of the spectrums. The examples you used sound very close to me. Maybe I could understand with different examples.

    c) Focused. I think this one is conceptually solid, but I don’t think “is it focused” is enough to describe it. Is what you mean a spectrum of “is this experience focused on one core activity versus multiple activities?” That makes more sense to me. (this is a specially good one because this characteristic correlates to complexity and other issue that are reflected on principles and therefore design constraints)

    d) Impartial. I’d call it Partial (partiality is what the range considers). Removes the value judgment. In addition, I don’t know about “unbiased”. I think “agnostic” is what you mean; the word bias can introduce a lot of other considerations that would quickly get in the way of what you are trying to convey, IMO.

    e) Informational. I don’t understand what you are conveying here. Help? Maybe I’m struggling because of the terms. Shallow x Deep level of detail would be a spectrum I could understand. Is this what you mean? (because brief or lengthy is just how information is presented, not why it is presented)

    f) Learnable. This one tackles tool knowledge. Which characteristic addresses domain knowledge? I think that’s a missing one. (food for thought: and

    g) Is there a particular reason why they are in the order that they are? I’d put Personal & Social close to each other so their distinction is obvious.

    h) Predictable. Perfect. However, possibly confused with issues of (f) above.

    i) Responsiveness. Sounds strange. Probably because my first thought goes into interface responsiveness and beyond that, performance. I know what you mean, fulfillment. Just perhaps a wording challenge.

    6. Principles – I’m not quite sure how you arrived at these so I’m curious about your thought process. I’m also not sure what your intention is in expressing principles. I am intrigued because in the past, I have only seen principles applied successfully, in specific contexts, and have seen many attempts at general/universal principles, but could never really get the thinking behind them.

    Having said that, first two makes sense to me intuitively (thought answering the above would really help comprehension of the whole thing). I can’t say I understand Aesthetic.

    7. Do not understand what Drivers / Outcomes distinction does. And do not understand the + = equation and therefore don’t know what useful, usable and desirable are doing there. Curious though!

    I am sure this is more than you were expecting.
    But no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    • 2 Richard February 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      Hey Livia, thank you so much for your perspective – it’s immensely valuable! Let me see if I can riff back a little.

      3. I agree that removing “user” would be appropriate, i’ve always thought that “user” was a digital term and although most of the examples are digital, I did intend it to cover all types of experiences (see the blog for some non-digital examples).

      5a. Accessible: I struggled a lot with this label (actually I struggled with most of them!). I’m trying to convey something like proximity or convenience. Do you travel to something, or does something come to you? e.g. going to the movie theater vs. streaming a movie at home.

      5b. Controllable: Another example of the extremes might be a roller coaster (user has no control) vs. playing World of Warcraft (user has lots of control).

      5d. Impartial: I like the “partial” and “agnostic” suggestions to remove the value judgments.

      5e. Informational: I think I was going for something like “information density” here. Shallow vs. Deep might be better extremes.

      5f. Tell me more about how you see domain knowledge fitting in to an experience (vs. the person)?

      5g. No, they’re intentionally in a random order – I spent hours trying to group and order them without finding a satisfying solution. Then I realized that perhaps that was fitting, although some of them are more closely connected than others, they’re all independent variables.

      6. Principles: When creating this framework I tried to do some reverse engineering by thinking about some real experiences and why they were successes or failures. I also looked at existing heuristics and principles (Nielsen’s, Honeycomb, etc.) – I probably have that mapping on a piece of paper somewhere, i’ll try to find it! I realized that i’ve had many experiences that were both relevant and comprehensible, but that were spoiled by an inappropriate aesthetic (unprofessional, too formal, etc.). I’m thinking about BJ Fogg’s work on credibility and how the immediate visual/aesthetic is the biggest driver of credibility.

      7. That’s my haste in cobbling together 3 diagrams into one. The original diagram spoke about how “Useful, Usable and Desirable” have long been touted as the “gold standard”, but that they’re really too high level to be useful – hence the Characteristics & Principles, which are more actionable. So my theory is that if you overtly think about where you want to be on the Characteristics, then design your experience following the Principles you get an experience that is Useful, Usable and Desirable.

      I was quite pleased that I managed to get two sets of 3 into the diagram because we all know that “Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.”

  2. 3 Jody February 22, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Oh noes!! “…starting a large “blue sky” design project at work…”

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