Communicating Insights with Artifacts
How forming a narrative can help your team understand an abstract problem.
Who doesn’t love a good story? You pop on your favorite Netflix show, you feel the embarrassment and shed a tear with your favorite protagonist, or wish you could be as verbose in uncomfortable social situations as your favorite antagonist.
Any way you slice it, we are consumed with and live by others’ narratives. Whether it wants, needs, motivations, or frustrations, it’s how we communicate abstract concepts to one another. Understanding someone else’s plight is a gift of being human.
It depicts a passage in the Bible, Revelation (6:9–11) describing the opening of the Fifth Seal at the end of time, and the distribution of white robes to “those who had been slain for the work of God and for the witness they had borne.”
When solving a user-centered design problem, we end up with scads of information generated by research that needs to be communicated to other designers and non-designers alike. That means we need to find a common language to help align other teams, clients, and stakeholders on abstract insights as we try to find potential design solutions.
We need an effective way to help get deeper into the mindset of the user’s behavior by contextualizing design problems in a visual and narrative form. The most digestible way to do that is with visual narratives Research Artifacts.
Research artifacts are essential components for understanding a UX design problem. Artifacts should be considered in relation to your project and your current design process’ supporting data, what problems or questions you’re working with, you’re resource and time constraints, and what is the best tool to communicate to your stakeholders, but the common theme is comprehension.
Today, I’m going to focus on artifacts that give context to a design problem by creating a narrative to connect user needs to the entire team.
***I’ll link to each article and definition per artifact so you can read from people that truly know these artifacts inside and out.****
A User Flow is a type of diagram that represents the workflow or process from the user’s perspective to achieve a specific goal. A User Flow usually includes a name, steps, users, and a description of what happens at each step in the form of a picture with blocks connected by arrows.
There are several types of User Flows:
A task flow is a single flow completed similarly by all users for a specific action.
Wireflows are a combination of wireframes and flowcharts. They can document workflow and screen designs when there are few pages that change dynamically.
If these other flows are too time-consuming or too complex or this level of design has yet to be created, check out UI Flows. They’re fast and meant to communicate the bare minimum of the interaction as a formula via text.
- Each moment in a flow is like a coin with two sides.
- The screen shows something on one side, and the user is reacting on the other side.
- Above the bar is what the user sees.
- Below the bar is what they do.
- An arrow connects the user’s action to a new screen with yet another action.
A User Story is a one-sentence long, story describing what a user’s goal is when using your product. There’s a basic template to follow:
“As a [specific user/role], I want [need based on insight] so that [outcome].”
As a frequent flyer, I want to check-in online so I can cut down on my time at the airport.
Each user story can be broken down into all the steps the user needs to do to achieve the desired outcome.
A Use Case is a written sequence of steps a user will perform when completing a task within a system. It describes one main scenario and the set of possible sequences users can take to complete that specific task, including any errors and the resolution of them that may be encountered.
A use case diagram visualizes:
1. what is being described? (system), 2. who is using the system? (actors) and 3. what do they want to achieve? (use cases)
Confused? See: How to Draw a Use Case Diagram? (I think these diagrams can get “out of control” confusing)
User Scenario Map
Scenario mapping is the process of outlining all the steps a user will take to complete a task (built off of a user story) and includes notes about what users are thinking and feeling at each step of the interaction. It can also include comments or information from the design team to clarify any possible assumptions at each step.
You can create user scenarios as highly visual narratives or storyboards with pictures of the personas you’re modeling them on. Points to consider include these:
- Provide the context of:
- Who — details of the persona.
- What their goals are.
- When they might perform tasks (including obstacles).
- Where they might do these (including obstacles).
- Why they want to do things, must perform subtasks, etc.
See: Similar to Task Analysis
A customer journey map tells the story of the customer’s experience: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.
An empathy map is a collaborative visualization used to articulate what we know about a particular type of user. It externalizes knowledge about users in order to 1) create a shared understanding of user needs, and 2) aid in decision making.
Storyboards are illustrations that communicate a story through images displayed in a sequence of panels that chronologically maps the story’s main events.
There are 3 common storyboard elements, regardless of form: a specific scenario, visuals, and corresponding captions.
When based on real data and combined with other UX activities, they can:
- Take the focus off our internal bias and help us empathize with our users
- Help clients and stakeholders remember specific user scenarios
- Help us understand what drives user behavior