Level (noun.)

Definition: The position something has on a scale of amount, quantity, complexity, extent, or quality.

Also referenced as: Levels (noun)

Related to: Ecosystem, Interface, Journey, Object, Place, Scale, System



The word level was used 12 times across 6 pages


Chapter 4: Choose a Direction | Page 65

Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything connects to a larger whole. Whenever you're making something, figure out which levels you're working at:

Object: a specific thing.
Interface: a point where a user affects that thing.
Location: a particular place or position.
Journey: the steps in or between locations.
Structure: a configuration of objects and locations.
System: a set of structures working together.
Ecosystem: a collection of related systems.


Chapter 4: Choose a Direction | Page 66

Once you know what level you're working at, you can zoom in to the appropriate level of detail. Sometimes we need to zoom all the way in on an object. Other times it's more important to zoom out to look at the ecosystem. Being able to zoom in and out as you work is the key to seeing how these levels affect one another.

When you're deep in the details, it's easy to forget your broad effect. When you're working overhead, it's easy to forget how your decisions affect things down on the ground. Making changes at one level without considering the affects they have on other levels can lead to friction and dissatisfaction between our users, our stakeholders, and us. One tiny change can spark a thousand disruptions.

For example, if we owned a restaurant and decided to eliminate paper napkins to be environmentally friendly, that would impact the entire restaurant, not just the table service our diners experience.

We'd need to consider other factors like where dirty napkins go, how we collect them, how often they're picked up and cleaned, how many napkins we need on hand between cleanings, and if we should use paper napkins if something spills in the dining room.

One tiny decision leads to another, and another.



Chapter 6: Play with Structure | Page 102

Taxonomies shape our experience at every level. We use taxonomies to make sense of everything from systems to objects. It often takes multiple taxonomic approaches to make sense of a single form.

A Form is the visual shape or configuration something takes. The form is what users actually experience.

Even a simple form like this book uses several taxonomies to help you read through the content, understand it, and use it.

A few taxonomies in this book:



Chapter 6: Play with Structure | Page 111

When taxonomies are arranged hierarchically, it means that successive categories, ranks, grades, or interrelated levels are being used. In a hierarchy, a user would have to select a labeled grouping to find things within it. A hierarchy of movies might look like this:

- Comedies

  • Romantic comedies
  • Classic comedies
  • Slap-stick comedies

Hierarchies tend to follow two patterns. First, a broad and shallow hierarchy gives the user more choices up front so they can get to everything in a few steps. As an example, in a grocery store, you choose an aisle, and each aisle has certain arrangement of products, but that's as deep as you can go.

A narrow and deep hierarchy gives the user fewer choices at once. On a large website, like usa.gov, a few high level options point users to more specific items with each click.

When individual pieces exist on one level without further categorization, the taxonomy is heterarchical. For example, each lettered box in the arrangement in this illustration is heterarchical.



Chapter 6: Play with Structure | Page 116

Because your structure may change a hundred times before you finish making it, you can save time and frustration by thinking with boxes and arrows before making real changes. Boxes and arrows are easier to move around than the other materials we work with, so start there.

Try structuring the mess with common patterns of boxes and arrows as shown on the next page. Remember that you'll probably need to combine more than one pattern to find a structure that works.

  1. Assess the content and facets that are useful for what you're trying to convey.
  2. Play with broad and shallow versus narrow and deep hierarchies. Consider the right place to use heterarchies, sequences, and hypertext arrangements.
  3. Arrange things one way and then come up with another way. Compare and contrast them. Ask other people for input.
  4. Think about the appropriate level of ambiguity or exactitude for classifying and labeling things within the structure you're pursuing.


Chapter 7: Prepare to Adjust | Page 121

It's totally normal for fear, anxiety, and linguistic insecurity to get in the way of progress. Learning to work with others while they're experiencing these not-so-pleasant realities is the hardest part of making sense of a mess.

Tension can lead to arguments. Arguments can cause resentment. Resentment can kill momentum. And when momentum stalls, messes grow larger and meaner.

To get through the tension, try to understand other people's positions and perceptions: