User Experience – The Five Planes

The very basic of user experience is its layers. Basically, user experience is constructed with 5 dependent layers of experience. That 5 layers are well known with The Five Planes.

The Five Planes

1. The Surface Plane

On the surface you see a series of web pages, made up of images and text. You can click on some images and text, which lead you to another page. And some images or text could give you some information you want. All of user interaction happens on this layer.

2. The Skeleton Plane

Beneath that surface is the skeleton of the site: the placement of buttons, tabs, photos, and blocks of text. This layer is designed to optimize the arrangement of these elements so that you remember the logo, buttons, or link that is needed to perform the operation. The purpose is to reach maximum effect and efficiency of site.

3. The Structure Plane

Below of skeleton is the structure plane. The structure would define how users got to that page and where they could go when they were finished there. Well defined of structure would never lead user into a complex labyrinth of site that make them questioning, where exactly they are.

4. The Scope Plane

Some sites that sell books offer a feature that enables users to save previously used addresses so they can be used again. The question is whether that feature or any feature is included on a site is a question of a scope. Scope defines whether the functions and features are matched with the purpose of site.

5. The Strategy Plane

The scope is fundamentally determined by the strategy of the site. This strategy incorporates not only what the people running the site want to get out of it but what the users want to get out of the site as well.

Each plane is dependent on the planes below it. So, the surface depends on the skeleton, which depends on the structure, which depends on the scope, which depends on the strategy. On each plane, the issues we must deal with become a little less abstract and a little more concrete. Plane by plane, the decisions we have to make become a little more specific and involve finer levels of detail. That’s why user experience designer should start from the lowest to the top level of planes.

When working on one layer, the designer is given a lot of choices to be chosen. As well, when the designer step up to the next layer. Let’s say you’re working on strategy plane which gives you more than one option to be picked. After you pick one option and decide to start the new layer, you’re also given more than one option at scope plane to be picked. Every option you pick at each plane could make a path to the top of layer.

Plane Path

Even though, you need to pick an option at current and next layer, that doesn’t mean that every decision about the lower plane must be made before the upper plane can be addressed. Dependencies run in both directions, with decisions made on upper planes sometimes forcing a reevaluation of decisions on lower planes. These decisions can have a ripple effect in both directions. You can’t wait for the lower plane to be finished then you can step to the upper level. Requiring work on each plane to finish before work on the next can start, leads to unsatisfactory result for you and users. A better approach is to have work on each plane finish before work on the next can finish.

Effort and Time Required

This basic knowledge should be well understood for user experience designer. The purpose is to produce a good user experience design which can make life easier for human, to humanize people.


The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web‘, by Jesse James Garrett


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