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

    consumers and creators of story.” — Jonah Sachs, “Winning the Story Wars”
  3. “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”
  4. Stories are a cognitive framework to help us make sense

    of our world across time, space and social constructs.
  5. Act 1: Setting it up. What is the context? Who

    is the main protagonist? What does he or she desire?
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. Listening: Frame the design problem Gather information on user context,

    motivation, circumstance and behaviour Surveys interviews usability testing analytics user data contextual inquiry
  9. 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?
  10. The Switch Interview by Bob Moesta & Chris Spiek http://jobstobedone.org/

    Audio example: http://jobstobedone.org/radio/iphone-jobs-to-be-done-interview/
  11. Use stories to communicate research insights. Use your powers of

    narration. the customer documentary Check Mark icon by Darren Wilson for The Noun Project
  12. Modelling: Translate findings and insights Construct user models personas customer

    journey maps mental models empathy maps user journeys
  13. 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
  14. • 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.
  15. Character User Plot Circumstance Place Context Question Issue / struggle

    Drama Consequence of decisions Characters Influencers
  16. Part of our job is to find and document the

    points of conflict … so we can resolve them.
  17. 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
  18. In your user’s mind, the story begins before they arrive

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

    spent on your app or your website visual story brand story
  20. 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.