What are Social Structures?
Social structures refer to the patterns and relationships between and within groups. When social structures exist within a single group, they pertain to repeating behaviors. Social structures are vast and complex, but you can sub-divide and conceptualize them in many different ways.
For example, social structures can be both institutional and relational. In an institutional setting, behavior is influenced by norms, cultural factors and formalities. Relational social structures include any sort of relationship between people, regardless of the system they belong to. For example, a user experience (UX) designer may be friends with the janitor because they share an interest in quilting or skiing. Such a bond is included in the relationship social structure, but not in the institutional structure.
Another common approach for organizing social structures is dividing them into two tiers: microstructure and macrostructure. The microstructure contains the singular elements or components of the social structure, including individuals. Macrostructure is the relationship between distinct groups. For example, you can chart the macrostructure amongst the many design teams of different design agencies.
By analyzing networks and structures, a designer can get a deeper and more intimate understanding of the environment that their future product will have to face.
Literature on Social Structures
Here’s the entire UX literature on Social Structures by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:
Learn more about Social Structures
Take a deep dive into Social Structures with our course User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide .
User experience, or UX, has been a buzzword since about 2005, and according to tech research firm Gartner, the focus on digital experience is no longer limited to digital-born companies anymore. Chances are, you’ve heard of the term, or even have it on your portfolio. But, like most of us, there’s also a good chance that you sometimes feel unsure of what the term “user experience” actually covers.
[User experience] is used by people to say, ‘I’m a user experience designer, I design websites’, or ‘I design apps.’ […] and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! It’s everything—it’s the way you experience the world, it’s the way you experience your life, it’s the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But it’s a system that’s everything.”
— Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term “user experience”, in an interview with NNGroup
As indicated by Don Norman, User Experience is an umbrella term that covers a number of different areas. When you work with user experience, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of what those areas are so that you know what tools are available to you.
Throughout this course, you will gain a thorough understanding of the various design principles that come together to create a user’s experience when using a product or service. As you proceed, you’ll learn the value user experience design brings to a project, and what areas you must consider when you want to design great user experiences. Because user experience is an evolving term, we can’t give you a definition of ‘user experience’ to end all discussions, but we will provide you with a solid understanding of the different aspects of user experience, so it becomes clear in your mind what is involved in creating great UX designs.
If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses. This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and with a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.