Who doesn’t love a glossary?!

Sometimes it’s a full time job just keeping up to date with all the terminology. I’ve collated a few UX terms and definitions as a quick go to glossary. If I’ve missed anything glaringly obvious, or indeed superbly subtle, let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

Content models A content model shows all the different types of content that you will need for a given design, whether it’s a website, app or even brochure. Content items are shown together with their fields, types and the different relationships (such as ownership) between the content.
Empathy maps Empathy maps typically (but not always) accompany personas. They provide information about users, such as what they might be thinking, feeling, doing, seeing and hearing; together with pains and gains that they might experience.
Experience maps Experience maps (sometimes called ‘Customer experience maps’) show a customer’s end to end journey and experience for a given goal. For example, you might have an experience map for going on a holiday which would cover everything from researching holidays, to actually going on the holiday and then writing a holiday review. At each stage of the journey an experience map will show information such as the touch points that the customer uses, what they are doing, thinking and feeling; along with any frustrations and ideas for improving the experience.
Mental models Similar to task grids, mental models outline the thought processes (i.e. mental model) that users employ when undertaking a given goal. For example, when planning a night out with friends or deciding where to go on holiday. Mental models show the steps broken down into tasks and the sort of questions and considerations that users will make at each step. Mental models are useful for communicating and capturing user behaviour and for identifying design opportunities.
Personas Personas are fictional representations of your users (a bit like user stand-ins). They are fictional, but should be based on fact. They represent the goals, motivations, characteristics and behaviours of a real group of users. Personas help to put a human face to users. They help the project team to get consensus on who the ‘users’ are (not always an easy thing) and help to communicate important information about users.
Process diagrams Process diagrams visually show a process, including the different decision points and process flows. They are more commonly used by business analysts but can be equally used by UX designers to outline a set of user journeys, or the logic utilised within a particular part of a site or app.
Prototypes Prototypes have arguably taken over from Wireframes as the UX designer’s number one UX document / deliverable. A prototype is basically a semi-functional mock-up of the design. They are great for communicating a design, for evaluating a design (for example via usability testing) and for generally showing what should happen.
Scenario maps Scenario maps show the steps that a user will go through for a given scenario (hence the name). They not only capture the steps but also good ideas, questions and other information that might be useful when considering a design. Scenario maps can be created for current scenarios, along with future scenarios. They typically focus on what a user will do, not necessarily how they will do it.
Scenarios Scenarios either visually or narratively (i.e. using words) outline the steps that a user (usually in the form of a persona) will take for a given scenario. Like scenario maps they can either be for existing scenarios, or for envisaged scenarios. Scenarios are great for identifying the features and functionality that will be required to support the desired scenario and for bringing a future product or service to life by telling the user’s story.
Sitemaps Sitemaps show the pages and screens that make up a website or application, or a particular part of a website or app. They often indicate groupings, such as site sections and links between the various pages and screens.
Styleguide A style guide is a living document of code, which details all the various elements and coded modules of your site or application. It will often not just cover the visual look and feel of elements (such as text, buttons, UI components etc…), together with the HTML and CSS code, but also detail design patterns and correct usage.
Style tiles As described on the cleverly titled Styletil.es website style tiles are, “a design deliverable consisting of fonts, colours and interface elements that communicate the essence of a visual brand for the web. Style Tiles are similar to the paint chips and fabric swatches an interior designer gets approval on before designing a room. They help form a common visual language between the designers and the stakeholders and provide a catalyst for discussions around the preferences and goals of the client.” Style tiles are more of a graphic design deliverable than a UX document.
System maps A system map visually shows the different actors and artefacts for a given product or service, along with the relationships between them (think of it as an eco-system map). Actors might be users of the service or staff actually delivering a service. Artefacts could be everything from a website, to a physical object such as a brochure or print out. System maps are great for capturing the different elements that are involved for a product or service (either existing or future) and for taking a more holistic view of the UX design.
Task grids Task grids are often the main output of task analysis. Task analysis involves breaking down a larger task, such as sending an email into its constituent steps and stages. Task grids are very similar to experience maps, but typically show an existing task, rather than a future, desired experience. For each step of the task the sort of questions that a user might ask are outlined, together with potential pain points and feature ideas.
Usability reports Usability reports are typically used to either detail an expert evaluation, such as a heuristic evaluation or cognitive walkthrough or to communicate the results of some usability testing. The key for any usability report is to keep it as brief as possible (there’s nothing like ploughing through a 100 page+ report) and to use visuals wherever possible.
User journey Whereas experience maps generally show the end-to-end customer journey, a user journey document typically only shows part of the user journey. For example, it might be the journey through a website, or when completing a particular task. The journey is usually broken down into the steps taken by the user, often with visuals shown to help illustrate the story.
Wireframes A wireframe basically shows the UI elements (text, images, buttons, links etc…) that make up a screen, page or UI component. They are a bit like a blueprint for the UI, showing which elements make up the UI and how they should behave, but not necessarily what the UI will look like.

Thanks to Joe Natoli’s brilliant article for these explanations.

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WTF?!! Keeping up with all the Acronyms

Keeping up with all the industry acronyms can be a chore, so I’ve made a quick table of reference. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything, and I’ll add it to the list!

 UX  User Experience
 CX  Customer Experience
 IA  Information Architecture
 IxD  Interaction Design
 UCD  User Centered Design
 UI  User Interface
 RIA  Rich Internet Application
 GUI  Graphic User Interface
 PX  Player Experience (gaming)
 XD  Experience Designer
 HCI  Human Computer Interaction
 HF&E  Human Factors and Ergonomics
 KPI  Key Performance Indicator
 SEO  Search Engine Optimisation
 IoT  Internet of Things
 IED  Information Experience Design
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