Unifying content across the spectrum leads to successful outcomes for more human beings.
That’s creating an information experience framework, and that has been my life’s mission. It’s not UI copy, or docs, or blogs, or training or…. It’s all of it, each tool serves or can serve a distinct purpose. Those tools can enhance the possibility that Sari or Sam or Shaniqua will have a successful outcome.
Not every outcome will need every element, simplicity is beauty in many cases. Sometimes, however, beautiful is not beneficial it’s just pretty and not purposeful. So, let’s make a start at defining what we’ll be talking about in these next few articles.
To keep this simple I’m going to talk about four kinds of information commonly found in enterprise software.
- Disconnected internal information: Blogs, microsites, marketing, training
- In-app information: information elements that are part of the interface itself
- Transitional information: sidebar help and expanded in-app help elements, places that provide a summary and help transition those who need more information to those sources
- Connected internal information: docs but not just ABC 123, video, concepts, and other information.
When I’m designing a new feature introduction, I’m thinking about what Sari’s, Sam’s, and Shaniqua’s day are like in our software. Then I’m thinking about how this new feature will help them, then where those two points collide. Where value to the human meets function or flow within the system.
Then I think through what touchpoints are available to this person. This is where I expand the focus beyond what’s happening in the software and think about the potential needs of the human. Then how, in this transitional state, I can meet those needs and help them achieve the value this new thing offers them.
In the graphic above, I list a few of the elements that act as touchpoints. For example, an introductory modal, hotspot, or banner are very typical touchpoints. Expand the field of view a bit more and we can include things like feature announcement emails, marketing materials, microsites, and both formal and informal training.
There are dozens to hundreds of questions that can narrow or expand the field of information someone might need. I’ll keep it simple:
- What is the outcome that human is trying to achieve?
- How likely is it they understand the “why” (concept information)?
- What percent of people are likely to “just get it”?
- How does this thing connect to the other things this person does?
From those, and other questions I can begin to create an information map with what I know exists or will exist. I can then map that information to the continuing adoption path for the new feature. Back to transition and touchpoints for implementation.
At the end of the day, a poor implementation will fail our humans. To me, the ideal implementation is a consistent use of the tactic of progressive disclosure. Early in my career at IBM, I started saying the mantra, “solve the problem so close to the problem it’s not a problem,” and that is the goal.
It’s true that I never want Sari, Sam, or Shaniqua to leave my brilliantly designed (co-designed, more likely) onboarding. The happiest of paths leads from introduction to outcome seamlessly and beautifully. That’s so satisfying as a designer.
This mindset can also prevent truly helping someone succeed. What Sari needs to succeed is likely different from what Shaniqua or Sam needs. In the best circumstances, I try to provide Sari with a simple beautiful path AND give Sam ways to understand the larger concept or process using different information touchpoints. Then, I can use these same tactics to show Shaniqua some advanced information for the expert user.
Map all the available information assets to the relevant transitions and provide touchpoints that progressively disclose the information each user might need without getting in the way of those who don’t. If I do that, I’ve knocked it out of the park.
Next, I’ll write a bit about creating a simplified content model everyone can understand and apply.
Happy designing everyone,