The Shared Meanings Design Framework

An Overview

Co-founders: Drs French, Polovina & Vile.

Introduction to the Semiotic paradigm

SEMIOTICS ‘The Science of Signs’

•         The sign

o   The smallest unit of meaning.

o   Is a function that associates a label (signifier) with a cultural unit that acts as the signified

•         Icon - Displays Some characteristic with the signified

•         Index - Signifier and signified are bonded together through a causal relationship

•         Symbols - Signified and signifier have an arbitrary connection

•         Computer based signs: hypertext links, icons, site branding, navigation controls, metaphor used (higher level sign systems) images, GIF’s, animated objects, etc.


•         Communication, meaning-making and culture are linked through a belief in a shared understanding of signs.

•         Any semiotic element (sign or text) has at least two planes, an expression in the semiotic plane and a content in the mimetic plane.

•         Each semiotic element may be read in any number ways other than that intended by the author.

•         Texts and signs offer statements at a level of power and solidarity, and ideology.

•         There are three main categories of sign Icon, Index, Symbol. (Any sign may contain elements of all of these.)

•         Signs are not static, their meaning and their place in meaning making changes for individuals through time, cultural contexts.

SEMIOTICS of THE WEB (Client side, UX, E-Trust/Security)

To build or evaluate a web-site using the semiotic lens (analytic stance) is to:

1.      Look at the site as a self-referential ‘sign’ system

2.      Realise that your interpretation is one of many possible interpretations....depending of you, your prior experience of similar sites, your cultural background

3.      Perceive site content as a media experience: a rich mix of sign types, metaphor and meanings

4.      Realise that subtle aspects of site sign deployment (design) can effect usability, trust and security, branding, ....cultural

END USER is (as an interpretant of meanings)

•         Organisational/Enterprise Level Computer Semiotics

•         Cultural Norms

•         Concepts of Trust and Security

SMDF Phase Series of Enterprise Level SDLC Steps:

1.      Requirements Elicitation: Apply semiotic analysis of stakeholders. Check status and validity of shared meanings.

2.      HCI Design 3 Surface level-complexity: Undertake detailed semiotic analysis of signs / systems employed.

3.      HCI implementation Development and Validation of interface, semiotic compatible development tools. Cyber-security aspects.

4.      Post-implementation: Use a Semiotic Review Check-list to ensure that the system is potentially maintainable/E-trustworthy/Fit-4-Purpose for n-Tier Enterprise Architectures.

Selected Bibliography

Mingers, John; Willcocks, Leslie (2017) "An integrative semiotic methodology for IS research", Information and Organization. 27. 17-36. 10.1016/j.infoandorg.2016.12.001.


Muhammad Nazrul Islam (2013) "A systematic literature review of semiotics perception in user interfaces", Journal of Systems and Information Technology, Vol. 15 Issue: 1, pp.45-77,


French, Tim; Polovina, Simon; Vile, Adam; Park, Jack (2003) "Shared Meanings Requirements Elicitation (SMRE): towards Intelligent, Semiotic, Evolving Architectures for stakeholder e-mediated communication", Using Conceptual Structures: Contributions to ICCS 2003, Bernhard Ganter, Aldo de Moor (Eds.), Shaker Verlag, 57-68.


French, Tim; Polovina, Simon (2002) "Shared Meanings Requirements Elicitation and Evolution (SMREE): A Candidate Semiotic DNA for Software Development Success?", Symposium on Software Evolution and Evolutionary Computation, C. L. Nehaniv, M. Loomes, P. Marrow, P. Wernick (Eds.), EPSRC Network on Evolvability in Biological & Software Systems, 7-8 February 2002, 24-25.


French, Tim; Polovina, Simon (2000) "The Shared Meanings Design Framework (SMDF): Semiotics in HCI Design and Development at Last?", Proceedings of Human Computer Interaction 2000, University of Sunderland, 5-8 September 2000, volume II, BCS (British Computer Society).