Understanding Comics and User Experience

Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.

I work as an Infor­ma­tion Archi­tect / Devel­op­er, and I’m a big fan of comics. For my IA work I refer fre­quent­ly to the work of Jesse James Gar­rett, espe­cial­ly his Ele­ments of User Expe­ri­ence book, and as a fan of comics I recent­ly read (again) Scott McCloud’s Under­stand­ing Comics.

I‚Äôm not say¬≠ing that to boast of my geek cre¬≠den¬≠tials, but to intro¬≠duce some¬≠thing I nev¬≠er imag¬≠ined I‚Äôd find: a con¬≠nec¬≠tion between the two.

Gar¬≠ret¬≠t‚Äôs famous dia¬≠gram intro¬≠duced the con¬≠cept of the five Ele¬≠ments which make User Expe¬≠ri¬≠ence on the web:

Elements of User Experience diagram

He lat­er dis­tilled those five ele­ments to: Strat­e­gy; Scope; Struc­ture; Skele­ton; Surface.

McCloud’s book is an analy­sis of the visu­al lan­guage of comics, and he lists six ele­ments which he says make up any work in any medi­um: Idea/Purpose; Form; Idiom; Struc­ture; Craft; Surface.

Panels from Understanding Comics

I think you can see where I’m going with this; although McCloud uses six steps to Gar­ret­t’s five, the map­ping is still quite straightforward:

  1. User Needs / Site Objec­tives = Idea / Purpose
  2. Con¬≠tent Require¬≠ments = Form & Idiom
  3. Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture = Structure
  4. Infor¬≠ma¬≠tion Design = Craft
  5. Visu­al Design = Surface

Although I can’t be the first to draw the par­al­lel, I think it’s quite nice. It adds extra val­i­da­tion to both con­cepts, and helps me to con­vince my friends and col­leagues that read­ing comics isn’t a sign of arrest­ed development.

I rec­om­mend both books very high­ly, of course.

Comments are closed.