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UXA2022 Day 2; Matt Fenwick - Defending design: writing to influence

UXA2022 Day 2; Matt Fenwick - Defending design: writing to influence

What happens to your work when you leave the room? What can you do to help others understand and use what you've designed?

It's not enough to do the work — we must also communicate about the work, and do that in writing. In this presentation by content strategist, writer and TEDx speaker Matt Fenwick, you'll learn a new way of approaching writing at work.

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August 26, 2022
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  1. Note that this is an unedited transcript of a live

    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. www.captionslive.com.au | captionslive@outlook.com | 0447 904 255 UX Australia UX Australia 2022 Friday, 26 September 2022 Captioned by: Carmel Downes & Kasey Allen
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 99 piano and you can find a way to bring that playfulness or creativity into those designs or a parent whose deep concern poor the future can help inform your work. Your story ads to the rich tapestry of the thing we are building together because I really believe that designs are more than code in a database, they are sense-making tool, they are emotional, they are story, part of the deep interconnected fabric of our world. Thanks. (APPLAUSE) STEVE BATY: Thanks very much, Joel. Do we have - we have time for a question for Joel if anyone in the room has one? Okay. Happy birthday and thank you very much. JOEL PERIGUT: Thanks. (APPLAUSE) STEVE BATY: Our next speaker for the afternoon who will pick up on this writing theme and this storytelling theme, Matt Fenwick. Welcome. Over to you. (APPLAUSE) MATT FENWICK: Cool, good to be with you all. Who speaks for your work when you are not in the room? So when you want to explain the design - sure there are the people you have met one-on-one through the workshops and the stand-ups and the showcases and the road houses and the agile pantheon of things, what about when that person needs to explain it to someone else. So that is where writing comes in and today I'm not going to be talking about content design and content strategy and how content and UX fit together. STEVE BATY: Our next speaker for the afternoon, who will pick up on this writing and story-telling theme, Matt Fenwick. Matt, welcome. Over to
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 100 you. (APPLAUSE) MATT FENWICK: Good to be with you all. Who speaks for your work when you're not in the room? When you want to explain the design and defend the integrity of the process, how does that work if you're not there? Sure, there are people that you have met one on one through the workshops and the showcases, this is where our writing comes in. Today, I won't talk about content design and content strategy and how content and UX fit together. I am going to be talking about the writing we do as designers when we try to explain work to other people. What does this matter? I was talking about this with Donna Spencer, who is one of the cofounders of the conference and Donna said "If you haven't written it down, it is a ephemeral". That is like a boy band, it is here today and then gone tomorrow. She says "If you haven't written it down it is a ephemeral" and it is a big fat waste of time. This is the quote, so people, if you would like to take photos of quotes. When I was doing this talk, preparing for it and the workshop as well, I spoke to a bunch of designers about writing and when I heard was the people who are writing about their design work, they want to see their work being implemented because clients want to understand it and they want to feel more confident about their writing. This could apply to emails, to reports, artefacts, proposals, business cases and then when I spoke to the senior designers and design managers, what they said is "I want to spend less time reviewing my team's work" and just telling them the same stuff over and over again. Being able to add more value. Also to see our work being implemented. There is this real need there but I want to do a quick show of hands. To get where you are in your career, hands up if you have done a course that taught you how to create things? Please keep your hands up, so all right keep your hands up if that explicitly
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 101 taught you how to write about it, that course? We have been asked to do this thing that is important in our work but we are not being taught how to do it. Before I go any further, I should probably destroy any credibility that I might have to stand up here and teach you how to write about your work because a couple of months ago, two months ago, I put in a proposal and it was more a big content strategy for a government department and I have done this kind of work before, we have worked with the department before, we had relationships in there and we had an approach, so we put in a proposal and we lost - we came second. If you have ever been in that position before, you know for a while you can get tunnel vision and just see the loss. For a while I forgot about what we've achieved. I ran a team of 20 plus content strategists, content designers which tackled some of the biggest messiest content problems around and I have looked at communication and content from pretty much every angle imaginable and I lost perspective on that and I just saw the loss. Even worse, I realised that in about two months time - so today - I was going to have to stand up here and talk to you about how to write. I was thinking what right do I have to teach people about how to write, including how to write proposals, when I didn't win that one? I felt like a fraud. Then, I remembered this guy, Thomas Mann, sexy beast. Thomas Mann said that a writer is someone to whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. In other words, whatever you dedicate yourselves to - design, writing - that is going to mean that you are going to struggle with it. If you struggle with something for long enough, then you start to notice patterns and you start to see principles and so I have been struggling with writing professionally for more than 25 years and over that time I have learnt some principles, some things that you can
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 102 apply to any writing that you do in your work as a designer and there's no silver bullets. You're not going to win every proposal or convince every client, but I want to think about these principles as kind of a lens that we can use to look at our writing. I can't promise you that it will solve all of your problems but I can promise you that it will make things better. Principles. We have got the curse of knowledge, frontloading, abstraction, layering and story telling. The first one is the curse of knowledge. The best way I can explain this one is one of the first psychological studies where this was first discovered, one could imagine there is a psychological study room, it is fairly sparse and there is just a table in the room. In one of those two-way mirrors, so the psychologists can observe what is going on. Has anyone seen those? Yep, cool. Into the room with the table, we bring Joey. He is about five and he looks on the table and he sees a packet marked "M&Ms" what does Joey think is in the packet? Then they open up inside the packet is pens. So then they take Joey up and they bring him to the observation space with a psychologist. That is the end of round one. Following so far? Cool. Then they bring in Susie. She is five as well and she stands there and looks at the packet. Joey, in the observation room with the psychologist, and the psychologist says to Joey "Joey, what does Susie think is in the packet?" And what does Joey say? Who votes "Pencils?" And who votes M&Ms"? The age thing here is crucial. Joey is five so he hasn't yet developed the theory of mind. So Joey, which means being able to imagine who is going on for other people. Joey says that Susie thinks "Pencils". In other words he is projecting his knowledge onto Susie. She doesn't know what is in there. She is hoping for M&Ms. So this is the curse of knowledge. It has two implications to us as signers. Good news and bad news. The good news is that we're always going to have work because the curse of knowledge means that we will always have experts and
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 103 stakeholders and clients who are too close to their thing, in other words the curse of knowledge means we project their knowledge onto other people. We think they see the world the way we do, things that make sense to us make sense to them. There is always going to be this gap that we can fill, always going to be work. The bad news is when we come to write about our own stuff, because we're the experts in what we're meant to say. OK? This means that when we read what we have written, we don't see it as other people are going to see it, we see what we're meant to say reflected back at us. Does that make sense? Number one, this is why we need other people to help us with our writing, as indeed we do in so many other aspects of our work as designers but it also means we're not going to be able to go "Pat, help, what should I do here? What does this mean to you?" All the time because Pat is going to get annoyed. What we do instead is come back to some of the principles that I am going to share with you. Next frontloading. I say frontloading and people all mumble. This is going to be good. Thank you, it is validating. Frontloading means taking the most important interesting information, put that first, then the second most important information and put that second. Wait for it, the third most important and so on, until you get to the less important information. So it is still not irrelevant but it is just things that are more niche or a bit more peripheral. Where this concept came from is old school journalism. The journalist would get a commission to write a story which he or she would write, not actually knowing the total amount of space that we are going to have to fill. They would write it so the most important message was right there up the top, so the copy editor had to trim it, the copy editor cut off something and the story would still get across. Have you ever read a newspaper article and notice that had you can tell what it is going to say what it is all about just from reading the first paragraph?
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 104 Have you ever read a newspaper story and got a bit distracted and gone off to read something else partway through? Frontloading is a brilliant tool and metaphor for how attention works as well. You've heard the "Don't make me think", right? What this means for our writing "Don't make me read 16 pages of your report before I can figure out what the heck it's about". The tricky thing for us is that we will tend to right chronically in our experience of doing the work. We will say there was this to do, we did our research and then we thought about some stuff and here we are with the solution. He did a brilliant story on skills I did recently and the client doesn't care how hard you worked. Most of the time - not all of the time but most of the time we should be leading with the solution. What I would say to you is actually ignore what I just said because it's going to be really hard for us not to write chronologically. What I would say instead is do that, get it out of your system and then come and edit it, like what is the goal here and then bring that up to the front. The editing process comes through. The thing I love about the frontloading model is it is trap doors. How many times have we mentioned trap doors in this conference? About three. That means I can apply it to every level in your content. Let's say we're doing a report, so the executive summary, the first thing people read should give you the entire gist of the report so that the people onto reading executive summary, they are going to come away knowing what it is about. Then, the first paragraph of the executive summary should set things up. Then the first sentence of each paragraph should set up the paragraph that follows, right? Every level of your writing - and you are thinking what should we be frontloading here? Well here is an example. Doing some work with Healthier Work ACT, so it is an ACT government program, trying to change the culture of work in Canberra. It is less about let's make people
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 105 do 80 hour weeks and then give them a muffin and yoga class and call that wellness, it is more about the changing the practices of work design so employers have a duty of care to look after their employees' physical and psychological safety. We do the content strategy and this is the table of contents that I had done. Introduction, current state of your content, future state of your content, road map and I like to often show rough drafts to clients. I showed it to my client Clarice and she said "Yes, it looks fine". I was like "What do you think about the structure here?" And what she said was that "I want you to get straight into the future state, what should this look like from here and give me the current state analysis towards the end for the people who need to see it". Making sense so far? Cool. We are going to do a real life example, so if you have phones take them out, scan the QR code here. It will bring you to a sample of a proposal by a fictitious design company called Flange. Please stick your hand up if you have a view on what they should be frontloading, what they should be putting first? Sir. Requirements. Any other takers? I have seen this done a couple of times, leading with the requirements is the most common one. There are other ways of doing it. The one wrong answer is leading with "About us". The client wants to know have you understood my problem? Do you have a vision for solving it? The other thing you will sometimes see is it leading straight into the future state but never with the "About us". It is too egocentric. Frontloading, that is the most interesting information first. Next up, layer information. There is a brilliant model and it is the bite, the snack and the meal. What this means for a content is the bite is like the smallest possible unit of information, often that is going to be a heading or a really quick summary. The snack kind of expands and contextualises the bite and it also gives you a key message and the meal
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 106 is the entire thing, the whole thing. Sometimes a bite, snack and meal will be on the one page, it might be layered across an experience. Real life example, this talk. The bite was what you would have seen on the presentation listings page. There were many others but that is it. Then if you click on the "Read more" you get the snack, which tells people what to expect and then the meal is the banquet of deliciousness that we are consuming together right now. What I often see done badly is skipping the snack. Most people understand the idea of the bite, give it a heading or set it up, but a lot of the time people just jump straight to the meal, throw people into the weeds without giving them anything to contextualise that. Here is a real life example. This is a report, done by another vendor, presented to my client that my client then gave to me. Does that make sense? Yes. I have deidentified it. This is the bite. In this section is the "Audience, identify and prioritise workshop" and the next thing you see is this, throwing people straight into the meal. They are like "What do I make of this?" Layering information is considering the level of detail that you are going to give people and kind of revealing things progressively so that they can decide whether they want to explore more or not. The key thing here is that the goal isn't for people to read every single word of our content. If people skip through our content and get what they need, that's good. It is not to make people read start to finish, it is to be useful. Next one, ladder of abstraction. Does anyone have a pen I can borrow quickly? Thank you. This is a sketch one pen and then we go pens, then you go stationary and then inventory and so on. Thanks. By the way, I grew up with my grandad and my mum and all of the pens in the entire house would somehow magically wind up in my room so well done for getting it back. So what we're doing here is moving from the particular to the slightly broader, slightly broader and so on. We are
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 107 moving from - can't you see - it is cut off there, there is concrete down the bottom and abstract up the top. Concrete is the particular, abstract is the general, so if you move up, you are getting into themes, trends, generalisations and so on. Can everyone in the room, if you're able and comfortable, to please stand up for a second? If you naturally kind of a big picture thinker and you like to start with the vision and then work from there, please put your hand way up here. If you like to start with the detail and build up from that, put your hand there. I am seeing a fair bit of big picture, somewhere in the middle. Thank you, sit down. The first thing is neither is better or worse than the other objectively. I am autistic and ADHD, so I do really well at the extremes and not so much with anything in the middle. It is all about knowing where our audience is, where we tend to be and how we need to move. If you tend to be more abstract. The key question for you is what's that? Give me an example and tell me what that looks like in practice and can you flesh that out for me? Here is an example of abstract. We exist to unlock tomorrow. Have you ever seen a human-centred designed web site that looks like this, I feel so deeply moved but I have got no idea what you actually do? That's up here and then conversely, if you are too down in the weeds and the detail is in the concrete, the question for us will be "So what?". Here is an example "Australia's largest trading partners measured by trade in value and added by destination of final demand, 2011". What am I supposed to take away from this? Cause of the curse of knowledge, the "So what?" Will be obvious to us. If you come from a data or a research background, this might be a challenge for you. We are talking about the five whys just a moment ago, I would have the five so whats. So what? So what? So what, so what and so what? You keep doing that until you get somewhere sensible. Let's do
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 108 a real life example. Imagine that this was in a user testing report. The user's added an item to a cart in 20% of cases. Who can give me a so what? Please stick your hand up if you have an idea. (Inaudible answer) Perhaps people adding things to cart, so what? You see how we are going from the particular to something that is a little bit more - the bigger picture and, again, it is just about thinking where is our audience? You are going to probably need to push the so what a couple of times. Next up, story. Thank you Joel for the presentation. I really enjoyed that. Talk later. I should set this up. Life story. There's all these weird buttons, if I push one the thing will probably take wings and fly off. Why story? Number one, we are wired to learn through observation and through story. We are not wired to learn through playbooks, linking back to Rich's talk. A story on how we can bring stories into a way that we describe our practice designers will help make it connect. There's opportunities to do that in how we bring our research to life, there's opportunities certainly in how we frame the artefacts. You could also say the proposal is a story of the project as we see it. So when we got feedback on that gig that we lost that I mentioned at the start, there were two things. One was idealogical in a way and we said we would do a number of in depth interviews and someone said "We will just do a bunch of 30 minute interviews and that will be enough" but we didn't get a clear sense of how the research was going to flow through to the final product. In other words, we didn't tell a clear enough story. Again, the role of the principle is that that is something that I can work on for next time. Elements of the story. A good story has character. Someone to identify with and to care about could be the client selling the story. There is stakes so there is a reason to care, something is at stake and there is movement. Joel's talk about narrative structures, that's movement. This happened and this happened and this happened and this happened is not
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 109 movement, it's exhausting. Movement is how one thing sets up the thing that follows and in the resolution is the final so what? Where do we leave things? I want to give a special mention to case studies. They are often done terribly. The client asked us to do some work. We knew we'd be awesome going in and sure enough we were. Everything worked out exactly as expected. Nothing's at stake in that kind of story. Nothing is really learned. Sure, they got the work but nobody grows. We learn nothing. I wanted to share with you a framework for thinking about the time of communicator that you are. I just thought medieval fantasy might help to ground things. The first one is the Bard, that describes things in linear time. Start at the finish and end with how the monster was vanquished. Pay off at the end and this can work but for it to work there needs to be a very high degree of trust from the listener to the story teller but it is going to be worth it. Often, as designers, we haven't earned that trust or our clients are impatient, they want to payoff at the front like the healthy work example. Next is the Steward. They just list facts like "Your majesty, we have 500 flagons". It is a list and it is up to others to interpret. It is down in the concrete. And, finally, the Scout "We are being attacked on the western front". A payoff is up-front and this is frontloading. What happens next is disclosed progressively. You can switch from Scout to Bard "How did this happen?" It all began when we cut the military budget three years ago" or "Stewart, what are the losses?" And "We have lost so many archers" etc. The point is that one is not objectively worse or better than the other, it is about where do we need to be at any particular time? Who reckons they have a default to Bard? A couple of people. Who tends to be a Steward? I love people are honest and who cut straight to the chase,
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 110 who is a Scout? Again, when do you need to move and how? You might be listening to this and thinking that all makes sense, gosh that was a great talk, five stars but then you will go back to your desk, home office, kids' bedroom which is where my desk is and then go "What do I actually do? How do I apply all this front loading and stuff and so on?" The way you can think about this is your customer's custom journey. Different stages. Gathering support, pitching, negotiating scope, discovery, delivering a thing and nurturing and ongoing conversations. Maybe loop it back around. Let's say, for example, when you are gathering support, trying to get people excited, what do you reckon should be on the ladder of abstract, high up here or down in the concrete? Someone says way up top. By thinking about the context of your engagement, you can inform your approach. Finishing up. I wanted to stop thinking about writing has been a God-given talent that some have and some don't or think about instead as a craft that we can all get better at with practice. The question is how we get better at writing? I found this web site recently. The idea is that it uses AI to generate inspirational quotes like this one. The idea is the struggle, skip that and get to the inspiration. The struggle is the entire point, that's the thing. It is in the struggle that you iterate. I did a talk as a three hour workshop last week and delivered it for a couple of consultancies in house and then I had a break and then I came to prepare this talk today and I looked at the slides I had done back then and I was like, no. It was good, it worked, people liked it but I could see ways of making it better. The point is I needed to do that to be able to do this. There aren't short cuts. There are ways of moving faster or slower but you need to be the writer you are now so that you can become the writer that you want to be. A couple of final thoughts. Number one, writing is a team sport.
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    event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the joint property of CaptionsLIVE and the authorised party responsible for payment and may not be copied or used by any other party without authorisation. Page 111 Because of the curse of knowledge and because we have different skills to bring, I would encourage you to think about how you can lean on people in your team to help you get better. How can you bring peer-review into the writing that you do? It could be as simple as you are writing a sensitive email to a client that is being special "Rich can you please read this email before I send it?" The final thing is I am an introvert and we have limited time, I won't be able to talk to you all one on one. If you like, go to this link, you can pop in your email and it will ask you what writing things you struggle with and then I will send you a drive or answer for your question. You will not go on my mailing list, I won't send you once in a life time real estate opportunities. It is just advice, done! Thank you so much for listening and good to be with you all. (APPLAUSE) STEVE BATY: Thank you. One more talk and a break and then one more talk and we're done. Time for a drink and relax and chat and all those sorts of things. Our last speaker for this session is Jon Duhig. He will talk about transformation and getting under the skin of people and he will practice that right here. Thank you, Jon. JON DUHIG: Hello, right, 2:50 on a Friday afternoon. Your brains are full and you are about to fall asleep. I will do my best but can't promise anything. So my name is Jon Duhig. My talk is entitled getting under their skin, culture change and transformation programs which sounds pretty grand and the colours are all gone for some reason. The projector's died. Do we know why that is? >> That's how it looks on my VMix machine. JON DUHIG: I was going to say my slides a normal yes black and white