User Experience Comes in Threes

by Luke Wroblewski November 8, 2004

Jeffrey Veen recently joked that “every consultant needs a Venn diagram.” Turns out he was only half-kidding.

The two or more overlapping circles that make up a Venn diagram are often used in mathematics to show relationships between sets. In the context of User Experience, however, Venn diagrams are frequently used to “quickly convey a message or vision, as a visual reminder to support change/focus, and to easily identify the cause or source of something.” Let's start off with Veen's Venn:

Jeffrey Veen

The Art & Science of Web Design: "As We examine the interplay between these influences, we’ll see that they not only represent a conceptual model for the Web at large, but for the [Web] pages we’re building, as well as the collaborative teams that work on them. Structure: How something is organized and optimized for ease of use and understanding. Presentation: How that organization is presented visually to users. Behavior: How those users then interact with the product and the product’s resulting behavior."


Luke Wroblewski

Site Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability: "The key to a successful user experience is a combination of interaction, presentation, and organization considerations. Presentation includes everything related to how a Web site communicates`: fonts, images, colors, and so on. The fields of sensorial, graphic, and information design provide the visual communication skills necessary to create a successful Web site presentation. Organization encompasses everything related to the structure of a Web site: information architecture, labeling systems, writing, and content decisions. Library and information sciences provide excellent references on organizing information. Interaction takes into account how users and systems behave. Human factors and engineering disciplines provide valuable resources for developing interaction models and technological solutions. On the Web, interaction, organization, and presentation are intertwined, and ceding one consideration for another is a surefire way to limit the success of your Web site."


BJ Fogg

Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do: "The functional triad is a framework for thinking about the roles that computing products play, from the perspective of the user. In their role as tools, the goal of computing products is to make activites easier or more efficient to do. Computers function as symbolic media when they use symbols to convey information (text, graphics, charts, etc.). They function as sensory media when they provide sensory information (audio, video, etc.) The third corner depicts the role that computers play as social actors or living entities. When people use an interactive technology, they often respond to it as though it were a living being."


Peter Morville & Lou Rosenfeld

The Three Circles of Information Architecture: "While this diagram was conceived with IA in mind, it's equally useful for explaining User Experience. I've found the infamous three circle diagram to be a great tool for explaining how and why we must strike a unique balance on each project between business goals and context, user needs and behavior, and the available mix of content."


Nathan Shedroff

Information Interaction Design: A Unified Field Theory of Design: "Information Interaction Design is the intersection of the disciplines of Information Design, Interaction Design, and Sensorial Design. Information Design's roots are in publishing and graphic design: it addresses the organization and presentation of data. Interaction Design, which is essentially story-creating and telling, is the most critical component to the success of interactive products. Sensorial Design is simply the employment of all techniques with which we communicate to others through our senses (writing, visual design, sound design, olfactory, tactile, etc.)."


Donald Norman

Emotional Design: "The three levels at play in design: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. Visceral design is about how things look, feel, and sound. Behavioral design is about getting products to function well, and about making that functionality easily accessible. Reflective design is about the meaning of things, about message and becomes more important as products mature. In the early days, it may be a struggle to get something to work well - the first cars, and the first computers. But when you can take functionality for granted, how do you choose between different products?"


Virgina Postrel

The Substance of Style "First, let's talk about what are the sources of value in a designed object. There are basically three of them: one is function, one is meaning, and one is pleasure. Function is important and is increasingly assumed, but it is not the differentiator. It used to be that both in culture and in business the emphasis was on function. Designers were brought in at the end of the process essentially as stylists. Now, while the function still has to be there, it is an expectation rather than a differentiator. The added value will come from meaning and pleasure, what I call aesthetics, the look and feel."


Nicholas Negroponte

Being Digital "In the late '80s, the MIT Media Lab's Nicholas Negroponte proposed his "teething-ring" theory of digital convergence, which held that the TV, publishing, and computer industries would coalesce to create multimedia hardware."

"Computing is not about computers any more. It is about living.” – Nicholas Negroponte

It’s interesting to note that within each of these models, three seems to be the magic number.