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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

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  2. In the spring of 2013,
    I was in Belgrade
    for a conference.

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  3. Photo credit: Lošmi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgrade#/media/File:The_confluence_of_the_Sava_into_the_Danube_at_Belgrade.jpg

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

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  5. What is a story?

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  6. “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

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  7. Are we … programmed? Hardwired?

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  8. “We are programmed through our
    evolutionary biology to be both
    consumers and creators of story.”
    — Jonah Sachs, “Winning the Story Wars”

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  9. The word “hardwired” crops up
    …a lot.

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  10. “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”

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  11. Stories are a cognitive framework
    to help us make sense of our world
    across time, space and social
    constructs.

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  12. “Stories are like flight
    simulators for the brain.”
    — “Made to Stick”, Chip & Dan Heath.

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  13. Universal stories?
    Book icon by Tyrus for The Noun Project

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  14. Aristotle
    simple tragic
    simple fortunate
    complex tragic
    complex fortunate

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  15. Aristotle
    simple tragic
    simple fortunate
    complex tragic
    complex fortunate
    4

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  16. Norman
    Friedman
    action plot
    pathetic plot
    tragic plot
    punitive plot
    sentimental plot

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  17. Norman
    Friedman
    action plot
    pathetic plot
    tragic plot
    punitive plot
    sentimental plot

    14

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

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

    25

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  20. Kurt Vonnegut
    on the
    Shapes of Stories

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  21. Three lessons from Vonnegut

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  22. An individual’s
    point of view

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  23. Emotional energy
    time
    fortune

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  24. Good things come in threes!

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  25. Good fortune
    Ill fortune
    Beginning End
    "Man in hole"
    "Boy Meets Girl"
    Cinderella

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  26. Three acts:
    Beginning, middle and end.

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  27. Act 1:
    Setting it up.
    What is the context?
    Who is the main protagonist?
    What does he or she desire?

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  28. Act 2:
    Conflict & Obstacles
    Crisis and escalating tension.
    Things get dramatic!

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  29. 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.

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  30. 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

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  31. How does this knowledge of stories
    enhances what we do in UX?

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  32. problem space solution space
    research design
    modelling
    listening telling

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  33. When we design, we are looking to
    help people make better decisions.

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  34. When we conduct research, we
    are seeking to understand how
    people arrive at decisions.

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  35. attitudinal
    vs.
    behavioural
    Understanding
    narrative-based
    decision making
    Beyond

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  36. Story is the ultimate mental model.

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  37. How … and when?

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  38. research design
    listening

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  39. Listening:
    Frame the design problem
    Gather information on user context,
    motivation, circumstance and behaviour
    Surveys
    interviews
    usability testing
    analytics
    user data
    contextual inquiry

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  40. 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?

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  41. character
    plot place
    Gregg Mosse’s story source triangle

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  42. The Switch Interview
    by Bob Moesta & Chris Spiek
    http://jobstobedone.org/
    Audio example: http://jobstobedone.org/radio/iphone-jobs-to-be-done-interview/

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  43. Timeline
    Jobs-to-be-done Timeline
    http://jobstobedone.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/jtbd-timeline.png

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  44. Use stories to communicate
    research insights.
    Use your powers of narration.
    the customer documentary
    Check Mark icon by Darren Wilson for The Noun Project

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  45. With thanks to Richard Hewitt, Aarron Walter/MailChimp and Clearleft.

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

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

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  48. research design
    modelling
    listening

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  49. Modelling: Translate findings and insights
    Construct user models
    personas
    customer journey maps
    mental models
    empathy maps
    user journeys

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  50. 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

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  51. after
    during
    before
    touchpoints
    activities
    emotions
    Customer journey maps
    Musketeer icon by Simon Child for The Noun Project

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  52. Timeline
    Jobs-to-be-done Timeline
    http://jobstobedone.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/jtbd-timeline.png

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

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

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  55. • 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.

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  56. Character User
    Plot Circumstance
    Place Context
    Question Issue / struggle
    Drama
    Consequence of
    decisions
    Characters Influencers

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  57. “Drama comes from human decisions.”
    — Matthew Hall

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  58. Victim
    Persecutor Rescuer
    Karpman’s Drama Triangle
    Voodoo Doll icon by Samu Parra for the Noun Project

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  59. Part of our job is to find and
    document the points of conflict
    … so we can resolve them.

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  60. research design
    modelling
    listening telling

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  61. Telling: Explore solutions or responses
    Explore expression
    sketches
    style tiles
    mood boards
    prototypes
    mockups
    storyboards

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  62. What happened to
    storytelling in design?
    Stop icon by Alex Audo Samora for the Noun Project

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  63. http://airbnb.com/

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  64. http://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/2015-09-11/cya

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

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

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  67. 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

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  68. http://beyondtellerrand.com/events/berlin-2015/speakers/steve-and-mark
    Steve Souders & Mark Zeman

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  69. In your user’s mind, the story begins
    before they arrive at your app and
    can continue long after they leave.

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  70. encounter
    begins
    somewhere
    here
    service story
    time
    content story
    time spent on your
    app or your website
    visual story
    brand story

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  71. character
    place

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  72. character + place

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  73. 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.

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  74. character / role
    plot / time place

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  75. “What drives your train?”
    Plot, character, or question?
    circumstance
    cause
    time
    issue
    person

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  76. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02l40d5
    Audio snippet: Bridget Kendall interviews Will Self on story

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  77. Thank you!
    Stephanie Troeth
    @sniffles

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