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The Hidden Plot Device

Steph Troeth
November 11, 2015

The Hidden Plot Device

“Storytelling" appears to be a magic word when it comes to creating user experience—we use it to evoke design ideals, to summon the creative spirit, or to cry out for a narrative link across the complex world of devices and short attention span. But is this all there is?

Unconvinced that storytelling could be so superficial, I spent a few years learning from the art of making documentaries, crime fiction, novels and the shortest of stories. As I uncovered the parallels in the making of stories and the research/design processes of UX, I began to formulate a framework where these two worlds meet, unearthing a different angle on what do in order to take our skills to greater heights.

In this talk, I showed how understanding the essence and practice of story opens a world of possibilities and adds another dimension to your UX toolset. Better still, it’s less of a mystery than what you might think.

Steph Troeth

November 11, 2015

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  1. The Hidden Plot Device Stephanie Troeth @sniffles Beyond Tellerrand Berlin

    November 2015
  2. In the spring of 2013, I was in Belgrade for

    a conference.
  3. None
  4. Photo credit: Lošmi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgrade#/media/File:The_confluence_of_the_Sava_into_the_Danube_at_Belgrade.jpg

  5. Photo credit: Vladimir Nolic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgrade#/media/File:Belgrade_Panorama.jpg

  6. None
  7. None
  8. None
  9. None
  10. None
  11. None
  12. What is a story?

  13. “The cat sat on the mat” is not the beginning

    of a story, but “the cat sat on the dog’s mat” is. — John le Carré
  14. Are we … programmed? Hardwired?

  15. “We are programmed through our evolutionary biology to be both

    consumers and creators of story.” — Jonah Sachs, “Winning the Story Wars”
  16. The word “hardwired” crops up …a lot.

  17. None
  18. “Narrative can offer us either particular social information to guide

    immediate decisions or general principles we can apply in future circumstances.” — Brian Boyd, “On the Origin of Stories”
  19. Stories are a cognitive framework to help us make sense

    of our world across time, space and social constructs.
  20. “Stories are like flight simulators for the brain.” — “Made

    to Stick”, Chip & Dan Heath.
  21. Universal stories? Book icon by Tyrus for The Noun Project

  22. Aristotle simple tragic simple fortunate complex tragic complex fortunate

  23. Aristotle simple tragic simple fortunate complex tragic complex fortunate 4

  24. Norman Friedman action plot pathetic plot tragic plot punitive plot

    sentimental plot …
  25. Norman Friedman action plot pathetic plot tragic plot punitive plot

    sentimental plot … 14
  26. Robert McKee love story horror film modern epic western war

    genre …
  27. Robert McKee love story horror film modern epic western war

    genre … 25
  28. Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories

  29. Three lessons from Vonnegut

  30. An individual’s point of view

  31. Emotional energy time fortune

  32. Good things come in threes!

  33. Good fortune Ill fortune Beginning End "Man in hole" "Boy

    Meets Girl" Cinderella
  34. Three acts: Beginning, middle and end.

  35. Act 1: Setting it up. What is the context? Who

    is the main protagonist? What does he or she desire?
  36. Act 2: Conflict & Obstacles Crisis and escalating tension. Things

    get dramatic!
  37. Act 3: Finale Things get as intense as it can

    go. When the story finally resolves, tension dissipates. Leave your audience in a safe place.
  38. Exposition/ Set-up Confrontation / Rising action tension Resolution / Falling

    action Act 1 Act 2 Act 3 Beginning End Middle Turning point Turning point Inciting incident Second thoughts Obstacle Obstacle Obstacle Disaster Crisis Midpoint (twist) Dénouément Climax time
  39. How does this knowledge of stories enhances what we do

    in UX?
  40. problem space solution space research design modelling listening telling

  41. When we design, we are looking to help people make

    better decisions.
  42. When we conduct research, we are seeking to understand how

    people arrive at decisions.
  43. attitudinal vs. behavioural Understanding narrative-based decision making Beyond

  44. Story is the ultimate mental model.

  45. How … and when?

  46. research design listening

  47. Listening: Frame the design problem Gather information on user context,

    motivation, circumstance and behaviour Surveys interviews usability testing analytics user data contextual inquiry
  48. Use a story framework to ensure you get the full

    picture from your design research. influential people? Check Mark icon by Darren Wilson for The Noun Project causality? circumstance?
  49. character plot place Gregg Mosse’s story source triangle

  50. The Switch Interview by Bob Moesta & Chris Spiek http://jobstobedone.org/

    Audio example: http://jobstobedone.org/radio/iphone-jobs-to-be-done-interview/
  51. Timeline Jobs-to-be-done Timeline http://jobstobedone.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/jtbd-timeline.png

  52. Use stories to communicate research insights. Use your powers of

    narration. the customer documentary Check Mark icon by Darren Wilson for The Noun Project
  53. With thanks to Richard Hewitt, Aarron Walter/MailChimp and Clearleft.

  54. “What drives your train?” What produces the emotional energy?

  55. Plot, character, or question? circumstance cause time issue person

  56. research design modelling listening

  57. Modelling: Translate findings and insights Construct user models personas customer

    journey maps mental models empathy maps user journeys
  58. Use a range of story aspects as core tenets for

    a comprehensive user model, especially points of view. cover your bases Check Mark icon by Darren Wilson for The Noun Project
  59. after during before touchpoints activities emotions Customer journey maps Musketeer

    icon by Simon Child for The Noun Project
  60. Timeline Jobs-to-be-done Timeline http://jobstobedone.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/jtbd-timeline.png

  61. https://mkuphal.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/us.jpg User Story

  62. https://blog.intercom.io/using-job-stories-design-features-ui-ux/ Job Story

  63. • A persona is a model of a character •

    A customer journey map is a model of a character’s journey, therefore a plot • A user story is a description of a character’s goal • A job story describes a set of user’s situations, motivation and expected outcome — place and plot.
  64. Character User Plot Circumstance Place Context Question Issue / struggle

    Drama Consequence of decisions Characters Influencers
  65. “Drama comes from human decisions.” — Matthew Hall

  66. Victim Persecutor Rescuer Karpman’s Drama Triangle Voodoo Doll icon by

    Samu Parra for the Noun Project
  67. Part of our job is to find and document the

    points of conflict … so we can resolve them.
  68. research design modelling listening telling

  69. Telling: Explore solutions or responses Explore expression sketches style tiles

    mood boards prototypes mockups storyboards
  70. What happened to storytelling in design? Stop icon by Alex

    Audo Samora for the Noun Project
  71. http://airbnb.com/

  72. None
  73. http://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/2015-09-11/cya

  74. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/29/upshot/obamacare-who-was-helped-most.html

  75. http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world/

  76. There is a tendency to talk about story in design

    as if it’s something flattened on a screen. Devices icon by Pham Thi Dieu Linh for the Noun Project
  77. http://beyondtellerrand.com/events/berlin-2015/speakers/steve-and-mark Steve Souders & Mark Zeman

  78. In your user’s mind, the story begins before they arrive

    at your app and can continue long after they leave.
  79. encounter begins somewhere here service story time content story time

    spent on your app or your website visual story brand story
  80. hero!

  81. hero!

  82. None
  83. character place

  84. character

  85. character + place

  86. Use story elements to: a story is incomplete without an

    audience Check Mark icon by Darren Wilson for The Noun Project 1. To suggest a story, or; 2. To drive a story forward.
  87. character / role plot / time place

  88. “What drives your train?” Plot, character, or question? circumstance cause

    time issue person
  89. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02l40d5 Audio snippet: Bridget Kendall interviews Will Self on story

  90. Thank you! Stephanie Troeth @sniffles