User Interface Model

by Luke Wroblewski June 1, 2005

I recently dug deeper into Bob Baxley’s Universal Model of a User Interface. It begins on the established model of structure-behavior-presentation but adds additional levels of granularity and specificity. Structure-behavior-presentation can be seen across many models of user experience as I noted in an earlier article titled User Experience Comes in 3s.

“Although the traditional delineation between structure, behavior, and presentation served as an obvious starting point, those three elements alone did not provide sufficient granularity to describe the full set of issues and considerations involved in more complex forms of interactive media such as Web applications.”

Bob’s model also does a great job of (in my mind) cementing the role of a generalist (or strong design lead) on complex product designs. Someone on the project team needs to carry the interface design from conceptual model all the way to tone and voice (the text in the presentation layer) in a consistent and cohesive manner. When each tier is owned by a specialist and no one owns the top-level interface vision, the user experience lacks the focus needed to communicate a unified and clear message to users.

“Like other sophisticated, multi-dimensional forms of communication, interactive media requires the designer to harmonize and balance a variety of differing and often opposing concerns. Even though a user encounters an interactive product as a single, unified experience, the designer has to construct and understand the experience one element at a time. This [requires] the designer to proceed with an understanding of discrete interface elements as well an appreciation of their influence on the whole.”

Check out Bob’s Universal Model of a User Interface (PDF) as well as an article describing it (PDF) and its value in more depth.