Tag: methods


Design For Goals: JBoye09 Workshop Slides

November 25th, 2009 — 5:42am

I’ve posted the slides from my tuto­r­ial / work­shop Design For Goals at JBoye 09 on slideshare: they’re embed­ded below.

The struc­ture for this tuto­r­ial is part method review (on how to under­stand people’s goals in a struc­tured way), and part shar­ing of re-usable pat­terns found after research­ing goals.   Since the con­text of ori­gin for both the goals and pat­terns was com­plex inter­na­tional finance, some trans­la­tion of the raw mate­ri­als and exam­ples and the syn­the­sized pat­terns into a realm closer to home for ordi­nary peo­ple is likely in order.

As you’re going through the slides, I sug­gest using your own activ­i­ties that involve infor­ma­tion find­ing and mak­ing sub­stan­tial finan­cial deci­sions as a ref­er­ence.  Not all the exam­ples that I selected as the basis of exer­cises dur­ing the tuto­r­ial made across the cul­tural bar­rier between North Amer­ica and North­ern Europe: I was sur­prised at how many peo­ple (in a pro­fes­sional audi­ence) have never bought house or car…  Which proves yet again that this is one of the areas for user expe­ri­ence design to work on as a discipline.

And as we had a small, noisy, and rather warm room right after lunch, I should say big thanks to all the par­tic­i­pants and vol­un­teers — every­one — who made an effort to engage.

Even design edu­ca­tion is a work-in-progress, it seems.

2 comments » | Customer Experiences, User Experience (UX), User Research

Fall Speaking: Janus Boye Conference, EuroIA, BlogTalk

August 25th, 2009 — 3:23am

A quick run­down on my fall speak­ing sched­ule so far.

waffles_logoFirst up is BlogTalk 2009, in Jeju, Korea on Sep­tem­ber 15 and 16. There I’ll be talk­ing about ‘The Archi­tec­ture of Fun’ — shar­ing a new design lan­guage for emo­tion that’s been in use in the game design indus­try for quite a while.  [Dis­clo­sure: While it’s a priv­i­lege to be on the pro­gram with so many inno­v­a­tive and insight­ful social media fig­ures, I’m also really look­ing for­ward to the food in Korea :) ]

Next up is EuroIA in Copen­hagen, Sep­tem­ber 26 and 27.  For the lat­est edi­tion of this largest gath­er­ing of the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity in Europe, I’ll reprise my Archi­tec­ture of Fun talk.

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Wrap­ping up the sched­ule so far is the Janus Boye con­fer­ence in Aarhus, Novem­ber 3 — 6.  Here  I’m pre­sent­ing a half-day tuto­r­ial titled Design­ing Infor­ma­tion Expe­ri­ences.  This is an exten­sive, detailed tuto­r­ial that any­one work­ing in infor­ma­tion man­age­ment will ben­e­fit from, as it com­bines two of my pas­sions; design­ing for peo­ple, and using frame­works to enhance solu­tion scope and effectiveness.

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Here’s the descrip­tion from the offi­cial program:

When design­ing for infor­ma­tion retrieval expe­ri­ences, the cus­tomer must always be right. This tuto­r­ial will give you the tools to uncover user needs and design the con­text for deliv­er­ing infor­ma­tion, whether that be through search, tax­onomies or some­thing entirely different.

What you will learn:
•    A broadly applic­a­ble method for under­stand­ing user needs in diverse infor­ma­tion access con­texts
•    A col­lec­tion of infor­ma­tion retrieval pat­terns rel­e­vant to mul­ti­ple set­tings such as enter­prise search and infor­ma­tion access, ser­vice design, and prod­uct and plat­form management

We will also dis­cuss the impact of orga­ni­za­tional and cul­tural fac­tors on design deci­sions and why it is essen­tial, that you frame busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy chal­lenges in the right way.

The tuto­r­ial builds on lessons learned from a large cus­tomer project focus­ing on trans­form­ing user expe­ri­ence. The scope of this pro­gram included ~25 sep­a­rate web-delivered prod­ucts, a large doc­u­ment repos­i­tory, inte­grated cus­tomer ser­vice and sup­port processes, con­tent man­age­ment, tax­on­omy and ontol­ogy cre­ation, and search and infor­ma­tion retrieval solu­tions. Joe will share the inno­vate meth­ods and sur­pris­ing insight that emerged in the process.

Janus Boye gath­ers lead­ing local and inter­na­tional prac­ti­tion­ers, and is a new event for me, so I’m very much look­ing for­ward to it.

I hope to see some of you at one or more of these gath­er­ings that alto­gether span half the world!

Comment » | Uncategorized

Two New UX Books: Modular Web Design & Card Sorting

July 22nd, 2009 — 5:39am

So many good books come out every year — even in the design and tech­nol­ogy fields — that it’s hard to ‘make a selec­tion’ as they say in Europe. To help through the dif­fi­cult choices, let me sug­gest two new user expe­ri­ence books worth adding to your library.

modularwebdesignMod­u­lar Web Design: Cre­at­ing Reusable Com­po­nents for User Expe­ri­ence Design and Doc­u­men­ta­tion, by Nathan Cur­tis, of eight­shapes fame. Com­po­nents, frame­works, and mod­u­lar­ity are near and dear to my heart (when applied in the right times and places for design pur­poses), so I can say with con­fi­dence that Mod­u­lar Web Design is the best explo­ration of the what, how and why of mod­u­lar design cur­rently avail­able. It should change the way you think about archi­tect­ing expe­ri­ences of all kinds, and — if you’re on board already — help you put this approach into prac­tice with clear exam­ples, advice, and guidance.

cardsorting-mdCard Sort­ing: Design­ing Usable Cat­e­gories, from the good peo­ple at Rosen­feld Media. Card Sort­ing is a thor­ough treat­ment of one of the most flex­i­ble, afford­able, and light­weight meth­ods in the user expe­ri­ence toolkit. Use my tool, but for chap­ter and verse on card sort­ing, read Donna Spencer’s book.

Buy both, and enjoy!

Comment » | Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

User Experience: About To Be Commoditized?

October 2nd, 2008 — 7:02pm

Read­ing about the recent release of Social­Text 3 I was struck by the strong par­al­lels between the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of enter­prise envi­ron­ments in 2003/2004, and the emerg­ing pub­lic Web 2.0 land­scape. The essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics of many enter­prise envi­ron­ments are:

  • Syn­di­ca­tion: streams of mod­u­lar con­tent and func­tion­al­ity broad­cast widely to sub­scribers within the fire­wall, such as enter­prise data feeds, ERP, BI capa­bil­i­ties, CRM, cus­tom capa­bil­i­ties shared via SOA
  • Ser­vices (e.g. envi­ron­men­tal, like the bees we used to have for pol­li­na­tion): iden­tity, secu­rity, pub­li­ca­tion, data man­age­ment, cloud stor­age, imap email, etc.
  • Social Struc­tures: tan­gi­ble net­works & com­mu­ni­ties of like-minded peo­ple, ori­ented around a com­mon prac­tice, pur­pose, process, or pain; think of all the matrixed, hor­i­zon­tal org struc­tures and ad-hoc net­works encoded via inter­nal email lists, IM, sprawl­ing intranets, cor­po­rate direc­to­ries, etc.

These same attrib­utes are emerg­ing as the hall­marks of the pub­lic Web 2.0 land­scape. This is how the three S’s man­i­fest for Web 2.0:

  • Syn­di­ca­tion: A lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive tor­rent of con­tent in the form of blogs, RSS, feeds, streams, APIs, for social objects of all types, as well as cat­a­logs of rentable content
  • Ser­vices: This layer is grow­ing rapidly for the pub­lic inter­net, with OpenID / OAuth, map­ping, visu­al­iza­tion, backup, cal­en­dar­ing — the list is nearly infi­nite, and still expanding
  • Social Struc­tures: The Web (and soon the mobile uni­verse) is pro­foundly social now, and will con­tinue to become ever more so.

I think you can eas­ily see the strong par­al­lels. It’s this sim­i­lar­ity between the older enter­prise envi­ron­ments and the emerg­ing Web 2.0 envi­ron­ment that user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers, — and espe­cially any­one prac­tic­ing infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture — should note.
Why? As I’ve writ­ten before, mod­u­lar­ity is every­where in this new envi­ron­ment, it’s appar­ent at all lay­ers of the infor­ma­tion world, from util­i­ties like pro­cess­ing power, to ser­vices, to the ele­ments that make up the user expe­ri­ence. The effects of mod­u­lar­ity in syn­di­ca­tion, ser­vices, and social struc­tures on devel­op­ers and IT have been pro­found; prac­tices, processes, orga­ni­za­tional struc­tures, and busi­ness mod­els have all shifted in response.
This wave of change first affected the devel­op­ers who build and work directly with code and sys­tems. But inevitably, dis­ci­plines fur­ther up the stack are feel­ing the impact of this shift, though many of us (and I’m putting user expe­ri­ence in this class) may not know it yet.
How will we feel that impact? One obvi­ous way is in the pres­sure to adopt agile and other mod­u­lar prod­uct con­struc­tion prac­tices cre­ated by and for devel­op­ers as the pre­ferred way to struc­ture user expe­ri­ence and design efforts. This is a mis­take that con­fuses the dif­fer­ent stages of soft­ware / dig­i­tal prod­uct cre­ation (as Alan Cooper explained well at Agile2008). Design is not con­struc­tion, and shouldn’t be treated as if it is. And one size fits all does not work when choos­ing the process and toolkit used for cre­at­ing com­plex dig­i­tal prod­ucts, ser­vices, or expe­ri­ences.
One result of this mod­u­lar­ity rules all approach to user expe­ri­ence is the ero­sion of bounded or well-structured design processes that bal­ance risk effec­tively for the var­i­ous stages of design, and were meant to ensure the qual­ity and rel­e­vance of the result­ing prod­ucts and expe­ri­ences. Ero­sion is vis­i­ble the trends toward com­pres­sion or elim­i­na­tion of rec­og­niz­able design con­cept explo­ration and usabil­ity ver­i­fi­ca­tion activ­i­ties in many design meth­ods.
More imme­di­ately — in fact star­ing us right in the face, though I haven’t seen men­tion of it yet in m/any user expe­ri­ence forums — is the grow­ing num­ber of sit­u­a­tions wherein there’s “No designer required”.
Exam­ples of this abound, but just con­sider this fea­ture list for the Social Text 3 Dash­board:

  • You decide what matters
  • Cre­ate your dash­board in minutes
  • Include 3rd party infor­ma­tion and applications
  • Track & attend to what’s most impor­tant to you
  • Sta­tus updates flow auto­mat­i­cally, as you work

If that’s not spe­cific enough, here’s what comes out of the box, in the form of pre-built widgets:

  • My Con­ver­sa­tions — changes oth­ers have made to any Social­text work­space page you authored, edited, or com­mented on
  • My Col­leagues — recent updates made by peo­ple you are sub­scribed to
  • Work­spaces — work­spaces you have access to and their activ­ity metrics
  • Work­space Page — any page from any of your Social­text workspaces
  • RSS Viewer — results of an RSS feed you configure
  • Work­space Tags — a tag cloud of all tags in a par­tic­u­lar workspace
  • All Peo­ple Tags — a tag cloud of all tags on peo­ple in Social­text People

No archi­tect required for most peo­ple here… and this trend is every­where.
And then there’s the awe­some spec­tre ofcom­modi­ti­za­tion. Lis­ten­ing to a friend describe the con­fus­ing expe­ri­ence of try­ing to select a short list of design firms for inclu­sion in an RFP made the link­age clear to me. I’ll quote Weil’s def­i­n­i­tion of com­modi­ti­za­tion from the paper ref­er­enced above, to make the point explicit.
Please recall that com­modi­ti­za­tion denotes the devel­op­ment of a com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment where:

  • Prod­uct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is very difficult;
  • Cus­tomer loy­alty and brand val­ues are low;
  • Com­pe­ti­tion is based pri­mar­ily on price; and
  • Sus­tain­able advan­tage comes from cost (and some­times qual­ity) leadership.
  • Com­modi­ti­za­tion is dri­ven by excess capacity.

Please note that I’m not imply­ing user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers face overnight obso­le­tion.
But I am say­ing that I doubt our cur­rent dis­ci­pli­nary world­view and toolkit ade­quately pre­pare us for the real­i­ties of the new envi­ron­ment emerg­ing so rapidly. Code, by con­trast, is and always will be mod­u­lar. (After all, that is the defin­ing attribute of our alpha­bets.)
But user expe­ri­ence is holis­tic, and has to learn to build in its own way from these smaller pieces like a writer com­bin­ing words and phrases. Even­tu­ally, you can cre­ate works of tremen­dous depth, rich­ness, and sophis­ti­ca­tion; think of Ulysses by James Joyce, or the Mahab­harata. These are richly nuanced expe­ri­ences that are the result of work­ing with mod­u­lar ele­ments.
My sug­ges­tion for one response to the oncom­ing wave of mod­u­lar­ity and com­modi­ti­za­tion is to focus our value propo­si­tion in the cre­ation of tools that other peo­ple use to define their indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. In other words, shift our pro­fes­sional focus to higher lay­ers of abstrac­tion, and get into the busi­ness of defin­ing and design­ing frame­works, net­works, and sys­tems of expe­ri­ence com­po­nents. Prac­ti­cally, this will mean things like observ­ing and defin­ing the most valu­able pat­terns aris­ing in the use of sys­tems of mod­u­lar ele­ments we design, and then advis­ing on their use to solve prob­lems. This is the direc­tion com­mon within enter­prise envi­ron­ments, and in light of the appear­ance of pub­lic pat­tern libraries (Yahoo’s UI), I think I see it hap­pen­ing within parts of the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity. I’m not sure it’s hap­pen­ing fast enough, though.
I hoped to com­mu­ni­cate some of these ideas in my talk on why frame­works are the future (at least for any­one prac­tic­ing Expe­ri­ence Archi­tec­ture) for the 2008 EuroIA Sum­mit that just took place here in lovely Ams­ter­dam. I’ll post the slides shortly. In the mean­time, what do you think? Is user expe­ri­ence ready for the mod­u­lar­ized, enterprise-like envi­ron­ment of Web 2.0? How are you respond­ing to these changes? Is com­modi­ti­za­tion even on your radar?

2 comments » | Enterprise, Information Architecture, Tools, User Experience (UX)

Understanding Juicy Rationalizations: How Designers Make Ethical Choices

June 23rd, 2008 — 5:35pm

Under­stand­ing Juicy Ratio­nal­iza­tions, part 3 of the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series, just went live at UXMat­ters.
Here’s the teaser:
From “The Big Chill“
Michael: “I don’t know any­one who could get through the day with­out two or three juicy ratio­nal­iza­tions.“
“They’re more impor­tant than sex.“
Sam: “Ah, come on. Nothing’s more impor­tant than sex.“
Michael: “Oh yeah? Ever gone a week with­out a ratio­nal­iza­tion?“

Design­ers ratio­nal­ize their choices just as much as every­one else. But we also play a unique role in shap­ing the human world by cre­at­ing the expres­sive and func­tional tools many peo­ple use in their daily lives. Our deci­sions about what is and is not eth­i­cal directly impact the lives of a tremen­dous num­ber of peo­ple we will never know. Bet­ter under­stand­ing of the choices we make as design­ers can help us cre­ate more eth­i­cal user expe­ri­ences for our­selves and for every­one.

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Under­stand­ing Juicy Ratio­nal­iza­tions is the first of a pair of arti­cles focused on the ways that indi­vid­ual design­ers make eth­i­cal choices, and how we can improve our choices. This sec­ond pair of arti­cles is a bit of eye-opening win­dow into how peo­ple make many of the choices in our daily lives — not just design deci­sions. Or, at least it was for me… Read­ers will see con­nec­tions much broader than sim­ply choices we explic­itly think of as ‘eth­i­cal’ and / or design related.
The final install­ment in the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series is titled Man­ag­ing the Imp of the Per­verse; watch for it some­time soon.
With the pub­li­ca­tion of these next two arti­cles, the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series con­sists of two sets of matched pairs of arti­cles; the first arti­cle in each pair fram­ing a prob­lem­atic real-life sit­u­a­tion design­ers will face, and the sec­ond sug­gest­ing some ways to resolve these chal­lenges eth­i­cally.
The first pair of arti­cles — Social Media and the Con­flicted Future and Some Prac­ti­cal Sug­ges­tions for Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences — looked at broad cul­tural and tech­nol­ogy trends like social media and DIY / co-creation, sug­gest­ing ways to dis­cover and man­age likely eth­i­cal con­flicts within the design process.
It’s a nice sym­met­ri­cal struc­ture, if you dig that sort of thing.  (And what archi­tect doesn’t?)
For com­muters / multi-taskers / peo­ple who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, Jeff Parks inter­viewed me on the con­tents of this sec­ond set of arti­cles, which he will pub­lish shortly as a pod­cast.
Thanks again to the edi­to­r­ial team at UXMat­ters for sup­port­ing my explo­ration of this very impor­tant topic for the future of expe­ri­ence design. In an age when every­one can lever­age professional-grade adver­tis­ing the likes of Spo­tun­ner, the eth­i­cal­ity of the expres­sive tools and frame­works design­ers cre­ate is a ques­tion of crit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance for us all.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, Social Media, User Experience (UX)

Designing Ethical Experiences: Some Practical Suggestions Live @ UXMatters

April 13th, 2008 — 11:52am

A quick anounce­ment: part two of the series on ethics and expe­ri­ence design Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences: Some Prac­ti­cal Sug­ges­tions, is just live at UXMat­ters. In this fol­lowup to the first install­ment, you’ll find a fiarly exten­sive set of sug­gested tech­niques for resolv­ing con­flicts — eth­i­cal and oth­er­wise — dur­ing the strat­egy and design phases of expe­ri­ence design efforts. If you’ve had issues with ethics or con­flict dur­ing a design effort, these sim­ple tech­niques should be a use­ful start­ing point.
Look­ing ahead, part three of the series will explore recent research on the way that peo­ple make deci­sions with eth­i­cal impli­ca­tions in busi­ness set­tings (good for design­ers who want to be aware of their own meth­ods and states of mind, and how those drive design work), and the impor­tance of neu­tral mod­els in mak­ing eth­i­cal design deci­sions.
Here’s an excerpt:
Thank­fully, suc­cess­fully address­ing eth­i­cal chal­lenges dur­ing design does not require the cre­ation of a for­mal or detailed code of ethics–or the cre­ation of a pro­fes­sional body that would sus­tain such an effort. Design­ers can use the fact that eth­i­cal ques­tions often appear first in the form of conflicts–in val­ues, goals, men­tal mod­els, or otherwise–to man­age eth­i­cal dilem­mas as sim­ply another form of con­flict. Fur­ther, we can treat con­flict as a nat­ural, though often unex­plored ele­ment of the larger con­text user expe­ri­ence always seeks to under­stand. With this fram­ing, con­flict becomes a new layer of inte­grated experiences–a layer that encom­passes eth­i­cal dilem­mas. We can prag­mat­i­cally incor­po­rate this new layer of eth­i­cal dilem­mas into our exist­ing frame­works for user experience.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, User Experience (UX)

New Books: 'Tagging' and 'Mental Models'

March 12th, 2008 — 11:00am

If you’re inter­ested in tag­ging and social meta­data, social book­mark­ing, or infor­ma­tion man­age­ment, be sure to check out Gene Smith’s Tag­ging: People-Powered Meta­data for the Social Web recently pub­lished by from New Rid­ers. I reviewed some of the early drafts of the book, and it’s come together very nicely.
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Tag­ging takes a very prac­ti­cal approach, and pro­vides an ample set of exam­ples in sup­port of the insight­ful analy­sis. After an overview of tag­ging and its value, the book addresses tag­ging sys­tem design, tags in rela­tion to tra­di­tional meta­data and clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tems, and cov­ers the user expe­ri­ence of cre­at­ing and nav­i­gat­ing tag clouds.
Gene likes to build things, so Tag­ging includes a chap­ter on tech­ni­cal design com­plete with sug­gested tools and tuto­ri­als for cre­at­ing your own tag­ging apps.
All in all, Tag­ging is a wor­thy intro­duc­tion to the sub­ject, and a guide for deeper explo­ration.
While we’re talk­ing books, kudos to Rosen­feld Media on the pub­li­ca­tion of their first book, Men­tal Mod­els; Align­ing Design Strat­egy with Human Behav­ior, by the very tal­ented Indi Young!
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Men­tal Mod­els is richly illus­trated, filled with exam­ples, lucid, and accom­pa­nied by a con­sid­er­able amount of addi­tional con­tent from the Rosen­feld Media web­site.
Indi has con­sid­er­able expe­ri­ence teach­ing oth­ers the tech­niques and meth­ods behind cre­at­ing insight­ful men­tal mod­els for audi­ences and cus­tomers. Cog­ni­tive / frame­worky meth­ods can feel a bit heady at times (espe­cially how-to’s on those meth­ods), but Men­tal Mod­els is straight­for­ward read­ing through­out, and an emi­nently prac­ti­cal guide to using this impor­tant tool for user expe­ri­ence design and strat­egy.
Men­tal Mod­els is avail­able elec­tron­i­cally as a .pdf for indi­vid­ual and group licenses, or in hard copy; it’s choose your own medium in action.

Comments Off | Reading Room

Video of My BlogTalk Presentation

March 11th, 2008 — 2:26pm

Video of my BlogTalk pre­sen­ta­tion ‘What hap­pens when every­one designs social media? Prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions for han­dling new eth­i­cal dilem­mas’ is avail­able from Ustream.tv. The res­o­lu­tion is low (it was shot with a web­cam) but the audio is good: fol­low along with the slides on your own for the full expe­ri­ence.

More videos of BlogTalk ses­sions here.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, Networks and Systems, User Experience (UX)

Blogtalk 2008 slides available

March 3rd, 2008 — 7:12am

My slides from Blogtalk 2008 are avail­able online now: I went through a lot of ideas quickly, so this is a good way to fol­low along at your own pace…
FYI: This ver­sion of the deck includes pre­sen­ters notes — I’ll upload a (larger!) view-only ver­sion once I’m back from hol­i­day in lovely Éire.

Comments Off | Ideas, Networks and Systems, User Experience (UX)

Discovering User Goals / IR Goal Definitions

June 24th, 2006 — 12:22am

In an ear­lier post on cre­at­ing Goal Based Infor­ma­tion Retrieval Expe­ri­ences, I offered a list of fun­da­men­tal user goals that under­lays needs and usage of four sug­gested infor­ma­tion retrieval modes. In this post, I’ll share the approach employed to dis­cover the fun­da­men­tal goals of the users in our envi­ron­ment, with the aim of offer­ing it as one way of under­stand­ing goals rel­e­vant for other types of envi­ron­ments and user expe­ri­ence archi­tec­tures.
Since the root user goals we iden­ti­fied are poten­tially applic­a­ble to other envi­ron­ments and con­texts, I’ll share the def­i­n­i­tions behind the full set of root goals we dis­cov­ered. Together, the approach and def­i­n­i­tions should help demon­strate how cap­ture a sys­tem­atic and also holis­tic view of what users have need to accom­plish when under­tak­ing infor­ma­tion retrieval tasks more com­plex than search­ing.
Finally, address­ing the per­spec­tive of strate­gic design and user expe­ri­ence method­ol­ogy, fram­ing broad user goals well offers strong foot­ing for address­ing busi­ness per­spec­tives, and engag­ing busi­ness audi­ences in pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions on the pri­or­ity of capa­bil­i­ties and the func­tion­al­ity of the user expe­ri­ence.
Dis­cov­er­ing Root Goals
Begin­ning with raw goals gath­ered via a mixed palette of dis­cov­ery and user research (inter­views, task analy­sis, con­tex­tual inquiry, or other qual­i­ta­tive insight meth­ods) incor­po­rated into the project, we first called out the dif­fer­ent types or objects of infor­ma­tion users iden­ti­fied.
Our start­ing lists of raw user goals or needs looked some­thing like this (though it was con­sid­er­ably larger, and more varied):

  • Read oper­at­ing guidelines
  • Review instal­la­tion instructions
  • Scan tech­ni­cal sup­port requests
  • Review tech­ni­cal specifications

Iden­ti­fy­ing the objects in this set is not dif­fi­cult: tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, oper­at­ing guide­lines, instal­la­tion instruc­tions, and sup­port requests. The activ­ity verbs are also easy to spot:

  • read
  • scan
  • review

We then com­pared the activ­ity verbs for sim­i­lar­ity and dif­fer­ences, and refined these raw goals into a root goal of “review” that could apply to any of the objects users named.
Recom­bin­ing the root goal with var­i­ous objects yields a set of con­crete goals:

  • Review oper­at­ing guidelines
  • Review instal­la­tion instructions
  • Review tech­ni­cal specifications
  • Review tech­ni­cal sup­port requests

This approach is more art than sci­ence, but is sys­tem­atic, and is inde­pen­dent of con­text and for­mat.
Here’s an illus­tra­tion of the process.
Dis­cov­er­ing Root Goals

Final Root Goals For Our Envi­ron­ment
These are the def­i­n­i­tions we estab­lished for the root goals we found for all our dif­fer­ent types of users. [I haven’t included the objects of the goals, or the con­crete goals.]

  • To Assess means to make a judge­ment or deci­sion about, con­sid­er­ing rel­e­vant factors
  • To Com­pare means to review the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences of two or more exam­ples of the same type of thing by look­ing at them in detail
  • To Find means to learn the loca­tion and sta­tus of
  • To Iden­tify means to dis­tin­guish by the use of spe­cific criteria
  • To Locate means to become aware of where and how a thing may be found, and / or con­tacted. Locate and find are sim­i­lar, so likely reflect dif­fer­ing but sim­i­lar usages and con­texts in the minds of users
  • To Mon­i­tor means to track the sta­tus and loca­tion of
  • To Obtain means to acquire and retain for other purposes
  • To Par­tic­i­pate means to be present and recognized
  • To Review means to exam­ine in detail
  • To Save means to store and keep
  • To See means to be pre­sented with in a man­ner that makes assumed rela­tion­ships or char­ac­ter­is­tics apparent
  • To Under­stand means to con­sider all avail­able points of view or sources of infor­ma­tion on a topic / item / sit­u­a­tion, and for­mu­late an opin­ion and frame of ref­er­ence for one’s own purposes.

Some exam­ple con­crete goals for an user expe­ri­ence that addresses travel plan­ning could include:

  • Find hotels
  • Review hotel accommodations
  • Save travel itineraries
  • Com­pare vaca­tion packages
  • See optional excur­sions offered by a hotel
  • Iden­tify full-service or all-inclusive resorts
  • Locate the oper­a­tors of scuba div­ing excursions
  • Mon­i­tor the price of air­line tick­ets to Sardinia
  • Under­stand how to plan and pur­chase vacations
  • Assess the cost and value of a vaca­tion package

Sym­me­try and Men­tal Mod­els
We found the con­cept of a root goal insight­ful for help­ing to design user expe­ri­ence archi­tec­tures because it is inde­pen­dent of par­tic­u­lar user roles, infor­ma­tion types, and usage con­texts. Being root ele­ments, they point at com­mon­al­i­ties rather than dif­fer­ences, and so can help guide the def­i­n­i­tion of men­tal mod­els that span user groups, or allow the reuse of an infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture ele­ment such as a nav­i­ga­tion com­po­nent, task flow, or screen lay­out.
Build­ing numer­ous con­crete goals that are vari­a­tions on a smaller set of com­mon root goals allows the men­tal model for the envi­ron­ment to achieve a greater degree of con­sis­tency and pre­dictabil­ity (we hope — we’ll see what the usabil­ity and eval­u­a­tions bring back). This con­sis­tency helps fur­ther efforts toward sym­me­try through­out the infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture. While most infor­ma­tion archi­tects uncon­sciously reach for sym­me­try in user expe­ri­ences by design­ing repeated ele­ments such as com­mon label­ing, rules for lay­out, and com­po­nent sys­tems of fea­tures and func­tion­al­ity — sym­me­try is some­thing we should make more con­scious efforts to encour­age both within envi­ron­ments and across envi­ron­ments.
Speak­ing To the Busi­ness: Goal-based Pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of Capa­bil­i­ties and Func­tion­al­ity
With solid root goals and com­mon infor­ma­tion objects, it’s pos­si­ble to build up a sim­ple and con­sis­tent gram­mar that out­lines the set of pos­si­ble con­crete goals across user types. This set of goals is a good basis for engag­ing busi­ness stake­hold­ers in choos­ing the right set of pri­or­i­ties to guide design and build efforts. Sys­tem­at­i­cally artic­u­lated goals allow busi­ness audi­ences a com­fort­able and neu­tral basis for pri­or­i­tiz­ing the capa­bil­i­ties the envi­ron­ment will offer users. Of course, choices of capa­bil­ity directly affect costs, effort lev­els, design and build time­lines, and all the other tan­gi­ble aspects of a user expe­ri­ence. Ref­er­ence pri­or­i­ties can also help guide longer-term invest­ment and strat­egy decisions.

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