In Jesse James Garrett's book The Elements of User Experience: User-centered Design for the Web and Beyond, there's a model consisting of 5 planes (Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, and Surface).

I know that the ripple effect means that changes on one of the planes will affect the others. But to be more specific, how would one describe the ripple effect on the Strategy level, for example, when you set out with a strategy and you end up later realizing your strategy would not work well, so you make changes to it. Of course, there are visible and invisible ripple effects.

Based on Garrett's UI Model, what can a concrete example of ripple effect be?


1 Answer 1


Generally speaking

The diagram you reference sort of hints at the impact of change within itself.

Jesse James Garrett's layers of experience design diagram

As noted on the vertical continuum, the layers represent increasing levels of detail to solve a given problem. When there is a change at any level, the team needs to evaluate if that change fits within the given parameters.

Changes at the Strategy or Scope levels are more likely to have downstream impact than Surface or Skeleton going the other way. Surface has to deal with the finer points — a lot of little things may change without deviating from the preceding definitions.

The specifics

Let's look at it from opposite ends of the spectrum. Here's an imaginary scenario:

Our e-commerce site has great conversion, moderate average order value, but low penetration into the product mix. We believe that a strategic initiative to improve product discovery will increase items per order and average order value, and enhance customer experience and loyalty.

Change initiated at the Surface layer

The interface design team was asked to design a basic product recommendation component. During their prototyping, someone on the team came up with a more dynamic solution that expands the recommendations into an immersive browsing experience.

Users responded well in a quick guerrilla test and the idea was pushed all the way up to the Scope layer. Strategy remains unchanged, but the Scope needs to be expanded for this, which will subsequently impact Structure and Skeleton.

Change initiated at the Strategy layer

In the course of analyzing test data from some early visual prototypes of the Surface solution, it became clear that the Strategy was flawed.

Increased product discovery has lead to customer indecision, browsing fatigue, and the experience team anticipates a spike in cart abandonment. The Strategy will now shift to focus on an up-sell approach targeted at lower-priced options. Everything changes ...


Let there be ripples.

In the interest of thoroughness ...

We should also include JJG's original, more complex diagram of the Elements of UX.

Jesse James Garrett's Elements of UX diagram

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    This is really, really, really interesting! Apr 28, 2017 at 17:41
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    Yes, that one is indeed useful. What else can you share about the "ripple effect"? Thanks a lot sir. Apr 28, 2017 at 18:04
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    I could go on all day ... what aspects of the idea are still foggy for you? Feel free to hit me up in a more chat-friendly format: twitter.com/plainclothes Apr 28, 2017 at 18:06
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    plainclothes: I do not have twitter, I am very sorry. Hmm not sure, if Stackexchange has chat? Apr 28, 2017 at 18:15
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    In case you didn't get a notification ... chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/389/ux-chat Apr 28, 2017 at 18:20

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