Fields of user experience – sundial model

For those just arriving, please see my freshly updated UX & IxD models at:

In this sundial model, the fields of user experience (UX) are arranged on a circular path reflecting the spectrum of product development activities, which range from:
Understanding –> Definition –> Communication –> development –> analysis –> Understanding.
These fields are all reasonably well-accepted members of the UX rubric. Each is a stand-alone discipline. However, experienced UX practitioners will be thoroughly versed in more than one field, and it is recommended for any UX practitioner to have skills across one or more disciplines. The image with orange sections reflects my own personal areas of expertise, following ten years of work experience self-identifying as an interaction designer.
More nuances, naturally, can be defined inside each of the fields. “Communication Design” is a new-fangled term for Visual Design. (UI Design is contained in there.) “Marketing” is included primarily for a small piece of the field, namely Branding. “Usability” spans a range of evaluative and analysis activities.
“Interaction Design” and “Information Architecture” are close kin, as many recent conversations attest. For me, information architecture focuses on defining structure, space, and meaningful content; interaction design focuses on defining behavior, form across time, and purposeful goals. The two seem to me virtually inseparable practices for digital product design. Within the field of interaction design, the Cooper methodology defines various interaction designers as IxDG (interaction design generators) and IxDS (interaction design synthesizers) types, which in my mind is similar to the difference between an IxD and an IA in more common parlance.
This model struck me as a positive way of representing how the fields of UX are related across a spectrum of activities. Also, this model allows an individual practitioner to illustrate their particular skill sets. Perhaps it’s an entry point to allow the world at large to better comprehend our skills. Glad for feedback!

4 thoughts on “Fields of user experience – sundial model

  1. I’d also like to add some more in here on the project management and strategic end of things. This could be added as mini-circle in the middle. At least for the solo practitioner, practitioner with >1 project, and the manager of teams, these directorial-type skills are essential to succeed in UX. Everything’s so collaborative.

  2. Oh! And (as Steve Baty pointed out at IxDA Discussion already) of course I’m missing Industrial Design. Should be there next to Service Design. Signs of a merge that’s meant to be? <:)And then somewhere, for the more nuanced versions with more detail, we shouldn’t ignore the Content Management folks! Copy writers, SEO specialists, etc. At least per UXnet, they’re in the fold and for sure they are there in web projects. The domain angle could add an interesting second dimension in here; e.g., see each discipline’s detail through a filter for web; hardware; service; environment; etc.

  3. I like the visualization, but I’m not sure it solves the problem. A lot of the questions center around skill-sets—which skills a particular Interaction Designer possesses, for example. This model doesn’t show that. I could see a similar sundial that lays out smaller wedges for things like visual design, graphics production, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, 3D modeling, video production, usability testing, technical writing, etc. Perhaps this is where project and content management could be included.

  4. Props for trying to put a visual around a complicated topic.I think "what’s in" and "what’s out" is a tough question. The two fields that jumped right out at me are marketing and software engineering. I don’t know many people who would consider those part of UX. Certainly they’re related, but I wouldn’t have thought of them as "within" UX (if that’s what you’re suggesting).In our organization (Roundarch) we consider UX to include IxD, IA, user research, usability, and visual design. You’d get a pretty good argument from many people about whether visual design even belongs there.Just my two cents – keep going and let us know when you have it all figured out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.