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The Grammar of User Experience

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User centered design assumes that a research phase with a representative sample of the final users should be the basis for the definition of the functional and soft requirements of a project. How can we translate the results of the ux research into actionable requirements?
In my talk, I wish to give you some suggestions on how to informally analyse the verbal results of the ux research to identify the schemata, the ontologies, the taxonomies and the functions of your application.

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The Grammar of User Experience

  1. 1. The grammar of user experience A cognitive grammar to translate the ux research into requrements 1 / 38
  2. 2. About me PhD in Cognitive Sciences Freelance UX designer: Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Usability Adjoint Professor in Human Computer Interaction at the Università degli Studi di Trento 2 / 38
  3. 3. The insight During my last project as ux designer (the redesign of an internet and mobile banking) I noticed that I unconsciously applied a grammatical distinction onto the main information architecture organization. The first menu of the app is a list of objects: the list of the accounts of the client The second and third menu is a list of nominalized verbs: payments and refills (to pay, to refill) trading (to trade: to buy and sell actions) 3 / 38
  4. 4. 4 / 38
  5. 5. 5 / 38
  6. 6. The questions Can this grammar distinction be generalized as a design approach? Can we image a grammar of user experience? Can this approach help us to improve the design process? 6 / 38
  7. 7. What is a grammar? 7 / 38
  8. 8. The classical grammar Set of rules of a language to which speakers and writers must conform. Online Etymology Dictionary The whole system and structure of a language ... consisting of syntax and morphology (including inflections) Oxford dictionary 8 / 38
  9. 9. Parts of speech A part of speech is a category of words (or, more generally, of lexical items) which have similar grammatical properties. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and sometimes numerals, articles or determiners. Wikipedia 9 / 38
  10. 10. Formal grammars A set of explicit rules to generate strings in a formal language Wikipedia Formal languages, like programming languages, are machine-readable Example: Java Syntax 10 / 38
  11. 11. Cognitive grammar Cognitive grammars have been developed in the context of cognitive linguistics. Some assumptions: Language is meaning and meaning is conceptualization Language is rooted in experience, shapes our wiew of the world, reflects our overall experience as human beings The cognitive grammar maps a language to the conceptualizations of the mind 11 / 38
  12. 12. Interfaces are languages An API is a subset of a language A command-line interface or command language interpreter (CLI) is a language HTML is a language, with a grammar (XHTML has a strict grammar) 12 / 38
  13. 13. UI as language Which are the advantages to see the UI as a language? Features of languages: can represent a conceptual world has a set of rules (the grammar) the rules should be used both to build a representation and to evaluate if a representation is correct it has a hierarchy of components (letters, syllables, morphemes, words, phrases, periods, texts ...) it should be possible to translate from another language, and to another language 13 / 38
  14. 14. 14 / 38
  15. 15. Similar approaches 15 / 38
  16. 16. Atomic design Atomic design is an approach partally similar. The metaphor is chemistry need for modularity: "We’re not designing pages, we’re designing systems of components." - Stephen Hay a better workflow and a shared vocabulary Modeling Structured Content - IAS13 workshop 16 / 38
  17. 17. Ooux A design methodology organized around objects rather than "actions" and data rather than logic Object Oriented UX 17 / 38
  18. 18. The AOF Method AOF stands for Activity, Objects, and Features. First you determine and research the activity you’re going to support. This helps you identify the social objects within that activity and the actions people take on those social objects. These objects and actions become your feature set. Joshua Porter 18 / 38
  19. 19. The process 19 / 38
  20. 20. How to translate from natural language to concepts when the participants use a noun, it (probably) is a concept, or a category, or an instance; a plural form of a noun is a set a verb is a function actions are often nominalizated: registration = to register, payment = to pay, submission = to submit nominalization of a verb is a symptom that the action has become a script, and is represented as a concept when the verbal form is of type "the X of Y", X is a component of Y (if X is an object) or a characteristic of Y every concept is a node in the ontology relations among concepts should be represented by arcs 20 / 38
  21. 21. A grammar for the interface every node in the ontology should have a template every object of the main concepts should have a page every category should have an index at every link in the taxonomy should correspond a (bi)directional link among the objects consider to use the concepts as the first level of the navigation 21 / 38
  22. 22. Example: slack un tool di collaborazione, funziona cross-device (pc, telefono, tablet) e ricorda in parte IRC, ma funziona per progetto/azienda. Apri un profilo slack, inviti le persone che fanno parte del progetto, poi apri tot canali tematici e ognuno decide a quali partecipare. A quel punto funziona come una chat, con condivisione di file, immagini ecc... Cosa particolare: puoi integrare dei servizi esterni, via webhook. Così quando fai, per esempio, una push su una repo di github, può arrivare un messaggio ai partecipanti a un canale A collaboration tool, cross-device, it remembers IRC , for a project or a company . You open a slack profile , you invite the people that are part of the project , then you open some thematic channels , and anybody decide to which partecipate . It works like a chat , with the sharing of files , images and so on. ... you can integrate some external services , via webhook. Doing so, if for example you push a github repo , it comes a message to the participants of a channel . 22 / 38
  23. 23. The conceptualization Concepts (objects) project profile people (a list of individuals) channels files images services Verbs (functions) open a profile invite the people open one or more channels partecipate to one or more channels share files and images integrate 23 / 38
  24. 24. The (extended) ontology 24 / 38
  25. 25. Conference As an example, I interviewed 9 people (via email or skype or facebook chat) asking them what they would expect on the website of a conference. I've listed the nouns and verbs (or nominalized verbs) the participant used, sorted by frequency speakers (7) - cv (1) - titles (1) (online) registration (7) (buy the tikets) dates (6) - deadline location (5) - how to reach (3) programme (5) costs (4) submissions (3) - procedure - I send the article contacts (3) theme - topics (2) talks (2) - abstract of the tasks (1) affiliations (2) 25 / 38
  26. 26. Conference ontology 26 / 38
  27. 27. An agile approach to ux research Yes, I'm telling the magic world: it's agile ;) interview some users create an ontology create a prototype (involving the stakeholders) recruit some more participants to test the prototype and to interview them update the ontology, the prototype test again repeat untill both stakeholders' and users' feedbacks are positive. A prototipe vs a real example 27 / 38
  28. 28. Verbs are semantically typed functions 28 / 38
  29. 29. 29 / 38
  30. 30. 30 / 38
  31. 31. 31 / 38
  32. 32. 32 / 38
  33. 33. 33 / 38
  34. 34. How many verbs in Interaction design? Grammars distinguish open and closed word classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives are open, articles, conjunctions and pronouns are closed. While preparing this talk, I was looking for the most different examples of verbs. What I realized is that the list is short. I've identified two dozens of verbs that - I believe - cover 90% of the actions/functions 34 / 38
  35. 35. Most important verbs Register Login Find - Search Check Compare Choose Decide Read, watch, listen to Create Write Update Delete Buy Download Upload Share Like Comment Give some information 35 / 38
  36. 36. Verbs, patterns, guidelines Cognitive linguistics focus their interest in studying the most important, universal semantic rules of language. What we could do, as designers and developers, is to identify the two dozens of verbs and to draft a corpus of patterns and guidelines for each of the verb. The same, of course, should be done for the nouns as well: concepts, classes and instances. 36 / 38
  37. 37. To summarize In my talk I'm doing a list of proposals Interfaces are languages Language is meaning We can identify a grammar of meaning We can identify the implicit conceptualization people have of a domain (the decoding process) We can identify a set of rules to encode the conceptualization in a visual, interactive interface We can consolidate our process, in term of research, conceptualization, design, test, implementation The process can and should be iterative, agile, lean (at least at the beginning). 37 / 38
  38. 38. Thank you Are not thought and speech the same, with this exception, that what is called thought is the unuttered conversation of the soul with herself? Sophist - Plato Let's continue the conversation: mail: twitter: @sweetdreamerit linkedin: bussolon 38 / 38
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User centered design assumes that a research phase with a representative sample of the final users should be the basis for the definition of the functional and soft requirements of a project. How can we translate the results of the ux research into actionable requirements? In my talk, I wish to give you some suggestions on how to informally analyse the verbal results of the ux research to identify the schemata, the ontologies, the taxonomies and the functions of your application.


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