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Using Abstraction to Increase Clarity
 

Using Abstraction to Increase Clarity

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Abstraction can be used at the beginning of a project to facilitate communication and reflection in order to establish a shared framework. This clarifies goals for decision makers and gives direction ...

Abstraction can be used at the beginning of a project to facilitate communication and reflection in order to establish a shared framework. This clarifies goals for decision makers and gives direction to the production team – preventing the project from getting stuck in the weeds.

In our everyday work, as people who create digital products, we are under a lot of pressure from clients/employers to produce concrete outputs – often with little clarity concerning goals. This leads to stress and ineffectual outcomes.

Looking at the course of human history, people have always used methods of abstraction to make sense of a complicated world (like mapmakers). As IAs we can take advantage of this natural human tactic to abstract the complex, in order to bring clarity to our work by using tools such as maps, blueprints, and personas.

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  • I’ve been at TUG for about year and I’ve been so impressed how they accomplish so much in a conversation – goal alignment, relationship building- the end of a meeting is just always so positive. Not the pangs of regret and frustration due to conversation derailment I was used to from previous jobs.
  • When I say abstraction, I’m talking about it in terms of the intentional filtering of information in a model to focus on the core goal of a conversation. Restructuring the information to focus the conversation. Abstraction is not about making things simpler, but making them clearer.
  • Richard Saul Wurman’s diagram of the Tokyo subway is a great example of the power of abstraction. He stripped away the geography layer and focused only on what people riding around underground would need to know. How the rails connect matters to the passengers. This diagram makes it clear that if you get on at Osaki, you can switch trains in Shinjuku and reach the Imperial Palace. Obviously this map wouldn’t work for the subway maintenance crew – but it serves its purpose by focusing the viewer on what’s important in this circumstance.
  • What the subway system would look like with geography…
  • Work in progress…
  • We often don’t have the luxury of time. We are asked things like “Make a thing that does this and we’ll discuss it in the meeting Tuesday”And then what happens? The whole meeting is spent on nit-picky things like “Can we change the font?” or “There is a typo in the word ‘example’”Or worst, there this is a re-design of an existing product that people are attached to and the status quo bias sets in – I liked the old formatting better.Then 2 months later it becomes clear through analytics and user feedback that the thing wasn’t the right thing to make in the first place. And you’re left wishing that discussions could have focused on what the product needed to accomplish instead of silly details.
  • When we rush ahead it often causes more work in the end. Thoughtfully producing an abstraction to guide a conversation at the beginning of a project can help avoid a lot of this pain: aligning your team, focusing the project, and resulting in better outcomes.
  • We get different conversations from depending on the medium we present things in. For instance we talk about different facets of a city if we discuss this
  • Picture of Baltimore or if we
  • Discuss this hand-dawn city map that abstracts the city to focus on major buildings and rivers
  • Or we have a very experience giving directions like this
  • Or like this
  • We certainly discuss different elements looking at something like this-Actually the wireframe discussion started with the client from this concrete point, instead of from the sketch. And you know what feedback I got? “The content is too dense” – so I had to go back and add bullet points in the loremipsum. There was never discussion around larger, experience type targets.
  • Or this
  • Now I’d like to dig deeper using 2 examples.First, let’s discuss the value of a customer journey as an abstraction of user tests.
  • Concrete section: raw data collected from user testingIf you give the all raw data, or even a more condensed version of it, to the stakeholder they are likely to succumb to confirmation bias. People come to the design table with assumptions and naturally attempt to fit data into the boxes based on their beliefs previous to testing. Its simple human nature.
  • Providing them with an abstraction to base a conversation around will help to facilitate conversations that will illuminate key issues and guide the project forwardBy getting past preconception and filtering out all but the most relevant information
  • Picking lanes importantLike WurmanJorge “diagrams so rich that it starts suggesting the solution
  • The desired outcome would be everyone on the project being on the same page
  • So if you do a bunch of stakeholder interviews you hear a lot of information, needs, and wants. All these inputs are important.
  • But what if one of those people is the boss? Maybe only their voice matters once that is revealed. But that gets us so far from the goal of understanding the true goals of this project. It can’t be dictated by one person since everyone’s input adds something important.
  • So if instead of showing the notes in general and saying “should we build to accomplish this?” It is helpful to distill those down into a goal list that is abstracted away from that original data. Now no one is more important than another. Now the realm of possible goals is clear. Taking this list back to the stakeholders and asking “is this right?” – often the priority is re-arranged, but always goals that weren’t on the boss’s radar become salient and are given a voice.
  • Now everyone feels heard. Everyone knows where the project is heading.

Using Abstraction to Increase Clarity Using Abstraction to Increase Clarity Presentation Transcript

  • Using Abstraction to Increase ClarityKaarin HoffInformation Architect, The Understanding Group (TUG)#AbstractionforClarity #AbstractionforClarity
  • Abstraction: the intentional filtering of information to focus aconversation on the core goal(s) #AbstractionforClarity
  • #AbstractionforClarityhttp://iqcontent.com/blog/2009/11/dublins-new-subway-system-well-subway-map/
  • #AbstractionforClarityhttp://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/pdf/routemap_en.pdf
  • Abstraction Best Practices• If its going to distract from the conversation, don’t include it• Use a model that fits the information, not vice versa• Clearer: not necessarily less, could even be more • Allow your models to combine information from multiple sources #AbstractionforClarity
  • Too often we are asked to jump to the detailed #AbstractionforClarity
  • Thoughtfully using abstractions can avoid a lotof this pain and keep projects from getting stuck in prior assumptions #AbstractionforClarity
  • We must choose carefully the model we use to facilitate conversations #AbstractionforClarity
  • We must choose carefully the model through which we hold conversations Marriot #AbstractionforClarity
  • We must choose carefully the model through which we hold conversations http://ffffound.com/home/vvva/found/ #AbstractionforClarity
  • We must choose carefully the model through which we hold conversations www.google.com #AbstractionforClarity
  • We must choose carefully the model through which we hold conversations #AbstractionforClarity
  • We must choose carefully the model through which we hold conversations Employment | News | Contact Us | Investor Relations EdR Logo NYSE-EDR: 1.03% Services Services Properties About EdR Home > Services Financing Introductory content about the variety of services available and the customization that is available, exclusively through EdR Trust. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing Development elit. Duis laoreet egestas neque, quis viverra ipsum vehicula ac. • Sed non justo odio. Acquisitions • Phasellus eleifend vulputate tellus sed varius. • Integer blandit tempus volutpat. Property Management Sed adipiscing consequat lobortis. Donec ultrices, erat vitae posuere porttitor, felis velit tempus magna, vel venenatis neque lectus in eros. Nam vitae pharetra dui. Etiam tellus velit, mattis a Case Studies pulvinar nec, gravida id nunc. Financing Development Acquisitions Property Management Abbreviated content specific to Abbreviated content specific to Abbreviated content specific to Abbreviated content specific to each service offering. Lorem each service offering. Lorem each service offering. Lorem each service offering. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Duis laoreet adipiscing elit. Duis laoreet adipiscing elit. Duis laoreet adipiscing elit. Duis laoreet egestas neque, quis viverra ipsum egestas neque, quis viverra ipsum egestas neque, quis viverra ipsum egestas neque, quis viverra ipsum vehicula ac. vehicula ac. vehicula ac. vehicula ac. Learn more about Financing Learn more about Development Learn more about Acquisitions Learn more about Property Management #AbstractionforClarity
  • We must choose carefully the model through which we hold conversations #AbstractionforClarity
  • Customer Journey Example #AbstractionforClarity
  • Concrete User See the things User they expected to ? see. Do the thing Stakeholder they already User wanted to do. User #AbstractionforClarity
  • Abstractions help stakeholders DISCOVER #AbstractionforClarity
  • Concrete Abstracted Plausible Improbable Narrative User Visual Client X Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Customer Journey Example 1 External Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna User aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation 8 ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit IA anim id est laborum. Property #3 3 2 10 Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa 9 qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. 3 Brain Chapter 1: Something happens 5 5 Property #2 Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. 6 Chapter 2: Something else happens 4 Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea 7 commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Property #1 4 2 11 User 1 12 User #AbstractionforClarity
  • Client X Chapter 1 Chapter 2Customer Journey Example 1 ExternalLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, seddo eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magnaaliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation 8ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duisaute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillumdolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecatcupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollitanim id est laborum. Property #3 3 2 10Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex eacommodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit involuptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa 9qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. 3Chapter 1: Something happens 5 5 Property #2Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex eacommodo consequat. Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisiut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. 6Chapter 2: Something else happens 4Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea 7commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit involuptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpaqui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Property #1 4 2 11 12 1 #AbstractionforClarity
  • Chapter 1 Chapter 2 1External 8Property #3 3 2 10 9 3 5 5Property #2 6 4 7Property #1 4 2 11 #AbstractionforClarity 12 1
  • Client X Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Customer Journey Example 1 IA External Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation 8 ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Brain Property #3 IA 3 2 10 Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in Stakeholder voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa 9 qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. 3Brain Chapter 1: Something happens 5 5 Property #2 Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. 6 Chapter 2: Something else happens 4 Nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea 7 commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Property #1 Dev- 4 2 11 12 1 eloper #AbstractionforClarity
  • Goal Alignment Example #AbstractionforClarity
  • Concrete “information” “need, need!” “want” “information” “want” “information” “want” “information” “need, need!”“information” #AbstractionforClarity
  • Concrete “want” “information” “information” “information” #AbstractionforClarity
  • Concrete Abstracted “information” “need, need!” -Goal #1 Reasons: “want” IA -Goal #2 Reasons “information” Brain -Goal #3 Reasons “want” “information” “want” “information” “need, need!”“information” #AbstractionforClarity
  • -Goal #1 Reasons: -Goal #2 Reasons IA -Goal #3Brain Reasons #AbstractionforClarity
  • Abstraction Best Practices• If its going to distract from the conversation, don’t include it• Use a model that fits the information, not vice versa• Clearer: not necessarily less, could even be more • Allow your models to combine information from multiple sources #AbstractionforClarity
  • Try it out, keep the conversation goingKaarin Hoff Groupkaarin@understandinggroup.com #AbstractionforClarity@kaarinh Slideshare #AbstractionforClarity