Behind the Scenes with UXd
On the surface any user interface relies on “scenery” and “props” the same way a stage does, or the same way any “real” space does when it’s being staged. Coats of paint and layers of wallpaper along with pictures, soft and hard furnishings, lighting effects, gadgets, devices and other types of objects define the spaces in which we live and function in the same way layers of shape and color, images, objects and devices are used to define a user interface. Structures and Frameworks are also words that are common to both physical places and online spaces. And Circuits, Switches and other types of hardware ultimately facilitate the construction of both “real” and “virtual” worlds.
Users are people interacting with “things”
User Experience Design is about understanding the needs of an individual or group of individuals who intend to use and connect with your product/service in whatever form it exists. Whether we’re talking about the audience of a stage show, consumers of a product, subscribers of a service, buyers of property, observers of an event, listeners of a message or broadcast, users of a website or other type of graphical user interface, we’re dealing with the same thing – people interacting and connecting with your product, service, device, object, message, identity, or whatever you like to call it.
Going behind the scenes involves not only looking at what drives the “back-end” of your User Interface and understanding the functionality and methods that enable what’s “in there” to operate, but also going “out there” and discovering what lies “behind the scenes” of your users. Think of the interface as a point at which two individual realities meet. Actually it’s way more than two, but in any one instance there is a two-way communication between what’s on your side of the interface and what’s on the user’s side. It’s a little bit like Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Seeing it from your side
On your side you have your content, your infrastructure, your processes, your platforms, delivery methods, and so on. Organizing and structuring information should be done independent of specific user preferences and align with a more general understanding of best practices. Use logical categorizations and store content in a relational database that can be cross referenced with tags and keywords. Develop back-end systems that are built on scalable architectures and which utilize sturdy frameworks that can be implemented quickly and reused independent of the specific requirements. Design interfaces that are Web Standards compliant and build them to run on any platform. These, and many other requirements are part of going behind the scenes from your side of the interface.
Seeing it from the users’ side
Understanding the variables that determine what content is being displayed in what template at what time and with what kind of message are all factors of going behind the scenes of the stage which lies on the other side of the interface – the other side of the looking glass.