Starting next week: UX puzzles for the brainy

The puzzles

These puzzles are a recreational way to improve your product design chops. Once a week, you will be given a small UX challenge, with pointers on how to approach it.

A few days later, we will publish our response to the challenge. There is no such thing as the “right answer”, just more or less well-thought-out answers. If you disagree with our response, excellent. We are all participants in a design activity, with different points of view for generating and evaluating ideas.

The brainy

You may be experienced or a newbie. You may be a product manager, business analyst, information architect, user experience architect, or visual designer.

You want to grow your skills and make sure that your contribution is relevant and well thought-out from a user point of view.

The scope

We focus on structure and function. We consider users’ goals, strategies and knowledge to get the right foundations and shape for the solution. We do not cover visual treatment, typography, or copy.

These puzzles are in the spirit of the series Experiencing + Architecting Information. This will give you a good idea of our level and approach.

Information Places – a Unicorn Briefing Note

This Briefing Note explores the notion of an Information Place, defined as an information environment that allows users to meet their goals effectively and efficiently. They are abstractions that let us focus initially on functionality and flow, deferring interaction design and visual treatment until we know we have the right set of pages in the right relationships.

Well-designed places arise from the interplay of both user and information considerations. We illustrate two main methods for getting information into a place, programmatically and using manual curation, and demonstrate how to evaluate proposed solutions against user goals, strategies, and knowledge to achieve good usability.

Information Places – A Unicorn Briefing Note

 

 

Good grief – not ANOTHER three circle Venn diagram!

I can’t be the only one who cringes when they see another three circle Venn diagram.  You know the thing: overlapping circles for User, Business, and Information, or for Strength , Cardio, and Flexibility.

Why not just say “there are three important considerations, User, Business, and Information, and they are interrelated”?  But no, we feel obliged to use a Venn diagram.

Venn 3

Does this kind of diagram really tell us anything more?  Does the overlap of User, Business and Information mean some kind of “sweet spot” where everyone is delighted?  If so, it doesn’t say much for the other areas.  And are there really any cases where Information is not informed by User considerations?  And so on.

I have long respected a cartoon demonstrating “Be simple but not too simple”.  I wish I could find the source to give it credit, as it has been a mental companion for many years.  “Being simple” was illustrated by a diaper fastened with a safety pin.  “Being too simple” was illustrated by a diaper fastened with a straight pin.  Hahaha.

Being too simple is wrong.  The three circle Venn diagrams I am complaining about are wrong.  What is the universe?  For a good Venn diagram, a universe is implied and then subsetted by the circles.  The universe of Warm Blooded Creatures has subsets Featherless and Bipeds (we live in the intersection). What is the universe for User, Business and Information? Hard to say, but something very abstract like The Space of All Considerations In Solutions Design.

And why three circles?  Because three is easy.  Venn and others wanted to extend Venn diagrams to more sets and the Wikipedia entry for Venn diagrams shows elegant and complex extensions.  Fascinating, but they would be really scary in a blog post or book.

So yes, I personally cringe.  I am not sure whether it is because I mainly dislike the Intellectual Laziness, the Lack of Insight Provided, or the Uncritical Acceptance of This Diagram.  Perhaps I should draw a Venn diagram to help me!

Good designing.

Experiencing + Architecting Information

The Unicorn Briefing Notes give solutions designers and knowledge workers insights from modern information architecture and user centered design, to help them design better solutions and information products.

The focus is hard-core knowledge transfer, providing tools and approaches intended to give their users an edge in today’s competitive marketplace.

The learnings are cumulative, with each Briefing Note extending and enriching the others.

Experiencing + Architecting information
This Briefing Note is foundational. It explains that the user-facing view of information solutions is not great for assessing the quality of the solution and suggesting improvements.  The focus is presenting an alternative perspective, the architect view, that is much more powerful for understanding current solutions and innovating around them.

Understanding Users
This Briefing Note is foundational too.  It provides a framework for considering users in the solutions design process, focusing on user Goals, Strategies and Knowledge.  The focus is understanding distinct characteristics of the user and how they inform different aspects of your solutions.

Information Analysis
This Briefing Note provides heuristics for analyzing complex structures into its constituent elements.  These are also presented as a set of infographics summarizing the techniques. The focus is to introduce both processes and deliverables that give rigour to your intuition that information has structure.

Information Modelling
This Briefing Note provides a visual representation of an information structure known as an information model.  It introduces the notation, a small expressive visual vocabulary, and the practice the process of creating an information model.  Its focus is to equip you with the thinking to confidently create and refine an information model, using both information and user considerations.

Information Access
This Briefing Note provides a visual representation of how we access an information model, using a visual abstraction known as an access model.  This provides a systematic way of describing and assessing access methods.  The focus is to give you key distinctions so that your access design is logical, usable, and meets user needs.

Mapping Information to Experience
This Briefing Note shows how the information model can be used to generate a multitude of user interface ideas.  It provides a systematic mapping from the parts of the information model into interface elements used for information presentation, navigation, linking and filtering.

Information Places
This Briefing Note explores the notion of an Information Place, defined as an information environment that allows users to meet their goals effectively and efficiently. They are abstractions that let us focus initially on functionality and flow, deferring interaction design and visual treatment until we know we have the right set of pages in the right relationships.

Well-designed places arise from the interplay of both user and information considerations. We illustrate two main methods for getting information into a place, programmatically and using manual curation, and demonstrate how to evaluate proposed solutions against user goals, strategies, and knowledge to achieve good usability.

Information Modelling – A Unicorn Briefing Note

As part of the series “Experiencing + Architecting Information”, this Briefing Note explains the mechanics of information modelling.

  • The notation – a small expressive visual vocabulary
  • The practice the process of creating an information model – examples of the thought process showing initial creation and refinement.

This will be a foundation for the application of information models in solution design and innovation.

http://theinformationartichoke.com/wp-content/uploads/Unicorn-Briefing-Note-Information-Modelling.pdf

Unicorn Briefing Note – Experiencing + Architecting Information

Experiencing + Architecting Information

This Unicorn Briefing Note is the first in a series providing intermediate solutions designers with polished and practical insights into designing information rich systems that have a high degree of user acceptance. It draws upon insights from information architecture and user centered design.

This Briefing Note is foundational. It explains that there are two views of information, the user’s view and the architect’s view, and provides a framework for invoking them appropriately at different points in the solution design process.

Other Briefing Notes in the series will drill down in specific competency areas, providing tools and thought processes to take your solutions design to the next level.