A Practical Guide to Information Architecture
Simple steps to create better information architecture in your own projects, large and small. Read it now »
A glossary of terms that newcomers to the field may find confusing.
Sometimes half the battle in learning a new field is getting your head around the jargon. UX is no exception, unfortunately—which is why we’ve created this glossary of common terms. We’ll continue to update this with more terms as we come across them.
Have a suggestion? We’d love your help. Let us know!
A theory of website navigation prevalent in the early 2000s suggesting that a user of a website should be able to find any information with no more than three mouse clicks or they would leave out of frustration. It’s now widely accepted as nonsense; usability studies disprove the theory’s link to user satisfaction or success rates and instead link these to ‘information scent’.
As the name suggests, the 5-Second Test involves showing users a single content page for a quick 5 seconds. The aim is to gather a participant’s initial impressions and assess the screen’s clarity and conciseness using simple questions like "What is the most important information on the page?" or "How would you go about achieving your goal on this screen?". The setup is similar to a standard usability test, and may sometimes be combined with one.
Like Responsive web design it is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience on different screen and devices. The difference is that adaptive design is less fluid then RWD, and ‘serves’ few fixed width versions of the design depending on viewport size. It can utilise server side techniques to ‘detect’ viewport size prior to rendering html. The advantage for designer is that it gives more control over images and typography, and hence is easier approach to ‘retrofit’ fixed width websitest to work on mobile devices.
A business tool used to organise a large number of ideas, sorting them into groups based on their natural relationships, for review and analysis.
A methodology fundamentally incorporating iteration and continuous feedback to refine and deliver a software system. It involves continuous planning, testing, integration, and other forms of continuous evolution of both the project and the software.
The stage of the UX process where insights are drawn from data collecting during the earlier Research stage. Capturing, organising and making inferences from the “what” can help UX designers begin to understand the “why”.
A broad term that encompasses a variety of tools, techniques and processes used for extracting useful information or meaningful patterns from data.
A wireframing and interactive prototyping tool, available for both Windows and Mac.
A wireframing and interactive prototyping tool, available for both Windows and Mac.
The limited launch of a software product with the goal of finding bugs before final launch.
The process of creating and marketing a consistent idea or image of a product, so that it is recognisable by the public.
A technique using either actual cards or software, whereby users generate an information hierarchy that can then form the basis of an information architecture or navigation menu.
Software that allows publishing, editing and maintaining content from a central interface. See also: Content management
Inviting input from users, stakeholders and other project members.
Performing an audit or conducting user testing of competing websites and apps; writing a report that summarises the competitive landscape.
Performing an item by item comparison of two or more websites or apps to determine trends or patterns.
The suite of processes and technologies that support the collection, management, and publication of information in any medium.
Interviewing users in the location that they use the website or app, in order to understand their tasks and challenges.
Reviewing and cataloguing a client’s existing repository of content.
an holistic, visual representation of your users’ interactions with your organisation when zoomed right out (usually captured on a large canvas). See also: Experience Map
See: User Research
The stage in a user-centred design process where ideas for potential solutions are captured and refined visually, based on the analysis and research performed in earlier stages.
Asking users to record their experiences and thoughts about a product or task in a journal over a set period of time.
An experience map is an holistic, visual representation of your users’ interactions with your organisation when zoomed right out (usually captured on a large canvas). See also: Customer Journey Map
Evaluating a website or app and documenting usability flaws and other areas for improvement.
HCI involves the study, planning, and design of the interaction between people (users) and computers.
A prototype which is quite close to the final product, with lots of detail and a good indication of the final proposed aesthetics and functionality.
Also called ergonomics. The scientific discipline of studying interactions between humans and external systems, including human-computer interaction. When applied to design, the study of human factors seeks to optimise both human well-being and system performance.
The application art and science to a product, in order to improve its aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality, and usability.
The art and science of organising and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability.
An important concept in information foraging theory referring to the extent to which users can predict what they will find if they persue a certain path through a website. As animals rely on scents to indicate the chances of finding food, so do humans rely on various cues in the information environment to acheieve their goals.
Sometimes referred to as IxD, interaction design strives to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use.
A design model that binds an application together in a way that supports the conceptual models of its target users. It defines how all of the objects and actions that are part of an application interrelate, in ways that mirror and support real-life user interactions.
The act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an iteration.
A methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analysing, and refining a product or process. Based on the results of testing the most recent iteration of a design, changes are made. This process is intended to ultimately improve the quality and functionality of a design.
Inspired by Lean and Agile development theories, Lean UX speeds up the UX process by putting less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on the actual experience being designed.
A quick and easy translation of high-level design concepts into tangible and testable artefacts, giving an indication of the direction that the product is heading.
A collage, either physical or digital, which is intended to communicate the visual style a direction is heading.
Needfinding is the art of talking to people and discovering their needs—both those they might explicitly state, and those hidden beneath the surface. It is only in truly understanding people that we can gain meaningful insights to inspire and inform a final, impactful design.
A rough, often hand-sketched, drawing of a user interface, used in a usability test to gather feedback. Participants point to locations on the page that they would click, and screens are manually presented to the user based on the interactions they indicate.
A fictitious identity that reflects one of the user groups for who you are designing.
The stage at which the high-fidelity design is fleshed out, content and digital assets are created, and a high-fidelity version of the product is validated with stakeholders and end-users through user testing sessions. The role of the UX Designer shifts from creating and validating ideas to collaborating with developers to guide and champion the vision.
The formally recognised start of a project.
An interactive design technique that helps maintain the focus of a user’s attention by reducing clutter, confusion, and cognitive workload. It improves usability by presenting only the minimum data required for the task at hand. The principle is also used in journalism’s ‘inverted pyramid’ style, learning’s ‘spiral approach’, and the game ‘twenty questions’.
A rough guide for the layout of a website or app, giving an indication of the direction that the product is heading.
A research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts for the purpose of gathering information from respondents.
The frequent and critical activities that users will perform on your site. They are complete activities, not single tasks, and will probably require several pages to execute. Defining the red routes for your site means that you’ll be able to identify and eliminate any usability obstacles on the key user journeys.
(Important roads in London are known as ‘red routes’ and Transport for London do everything in their power to make sure passenger journeys on these routes are completed as smoothly and quickly as possible.)
Often referred to as the Discovery stage. Complex projects will comprise significant user and competitor research activities, while small projects may require nothing more than some informal interviews and a survey.
A design approach that responds to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries.
A narrative describing “a day in the life of” one of your personas, and probably includes how your website or app fits into their lives.
The practice of designing a product according to the needs of users, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the users.
Usability testing software (Mac-only)
A complete list of all the pages available on a website.
The stage during which the brand, guiding principles, and long-term vision of an organisation are articulated. The strategy underpinning a UX project will shape the goals of the project—what the organisation is hoping to achieve with the project, how its success should be measured, and what priority it should have in the grand scheme of things.
A tool inspired by the filmmaking industry, where a visual sequence of events is used to capture a user’s interactions with a product. Depending on the audience, it may be an extremely rough sketch, purely for crystallising your own ideas.
An online form designed to solicit feedback from current or potential users.
Conversations with the key contacts in the client organisation funding, selling, or driving the product.
The practice of creating easily accessible information for a specific audience.
Is the ease of use and learnability of an object, such as a book, software application, website, machine, tool or any object that a human interacts with.
The practice of assessing and making recommendations to improve the usability of a product.
A design process during which the needs of the user is considered at all times. Designers consider how a user is likely to use the product, and they then test the validity of their assumptions in real world tests with actual users.
Ideas are put in front of users, who provide their feedback, which is used to refine the design, and then the process repeats.
The step by step journey that a user takes to reach their goal.
Used for understanding the tasks and motivations of the user group for whom you are designing, user interviews may be formally scheduled, or just informal chats.
Observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies which are used to focus on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations.
A user sits in front of your website or app and you have them perform tasks and think out loud while doing so.
Also called communication design. A discipline which combines design and information development in order to develop and communicate a media message to a target audience.
A sequential design process where progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards through the phases of Conception > Initiation > Analysis > Design > Construction > Testing > Implementation > Maintenance.
A rough guide for the layout of a website or app, either done with pen and paper or with wireframing software.
A graphical representation of activities and actions conducted by users of a system. (Sometimes called an activity diagram.)