"The power of frameworks is yet to be uncovered as one of the greatest opportunities for designers." - Liz Danzico
So if we are makers of frames, what sort of frameworks are we making?
Structural Frameworks: Affect the way we move through space. Creating spaces that people live in and use. Offline known as architecture. Online known as interaction design/information architecture. We create the possibilities for action. In this way a web page is like a room…with certain opportunities and constraints. You can enter through certain doors (links, search engine, form submissions, etc), perform certain actions there, and then leave. Well-designed pages (and rooms) serve a specific purpose. Eating in the dining room is the best…eating in the bathroom is…not such a good experience.
Visual Frameworks: Affect the way we see things. The visual structure we build into every design affects the way people see it. Is our visual hierarchy strong so that people see what they are meant to see in the right order? Are elements appropriated weighted so that their relationships are clear? Do people gravitate toward the most important information on the page, or are there elements that distract? Can they see what to do next?
Social Frameworks: Affect the way we interact with others. What are the opportunities for social interaction? Can you poke people? Favorite them? Favorite something they did? How is reputation managed? Are you able to import or export your relationships, and (more importantly) does it make sense to do so? This is a vast area open for exploration. We have only begun to investigate social frameworks.
Conceptual Frameworks: Affect the way we think about something. Mostly communicated through words + images. Are people “registering” for your web site or “joining your community”? Are they “sharing the love” or “creating buzz”? Does this graphic help to illustrate the idea or make it more confusing? The words and images we use shape the way people think about what we build, and, in the long run become our brand. In too many cases we shape conceptual frameworks without much thought…our primary goal must be clarity. But upon achieving that, we can begin to nudge the experience further by creating a style guide…full of language and images we use to build a useful conceptual framework.
These frameworks do not stand on their own, of course. They overlap, intermingle, and co-exist. As UX designers we deal with all of them, often at the same time!