Words About Design : Issue 01

User Story Mapping, “Smart” Coffee Scales, Bite-sized Motivation, Science of Storytelling, Neil Gaiman

I need to update the drawing. Words about DESIGN.

Someone asked, “what’s ONE book or article I should read this year?”

And I thought, “only ONE? For the whole year? Does not compute.”

Then I thought, “how about one … but every week?”

And then I thought, “you know what, you’re busy and overwhelmed. Maybe you don’t have time for a book. Maybe all you have time for is one short passage, or even just one quote.”

So here you go: a book, a piece, a thread, a passage and a quote. Choose which scale you want to engage with. Then hit reply and let me know what you thought. (I’ll be thinking of the quote below when I read what you say.)

BOOK: User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton

The humble User Story (done right) might be a sort of Rosetta Stone for product, design, engineering and business. And Jeff’s approach is the best way I’ve found to get User Stories right. If your work touches on building software and you haven’t read this book, pick it up right away.

The power of this simple (but not easy) approach continues to surprise and inspire me. It’s a flexible, adaptable way to start the conversations that matter.

In a remote workshop last week, I walked a bunch of folks from Charles Burdett’s Product Club through the Morning Routine Exercise (Chapter 5 of the book). Doing that got me all fired up about User Story Mapping again.

If you think user stories are “As a _____ I want to _____ so that _____”, don’t delay – get the book. Or let me know if you’d like to join a remote workshop some time and do the exercise together too.

PIECE: “Man with high design standards endures terrible user experiences for your enjoyment”

Whether you design things or not, this is a very fun watch. The quiet but increasingly visceral frustration that James displays really reminded me of usability testing sessions.

(Content warning: watching James Hoffmann may turn you into a coffee obsessive.)

THREAD: Optimise for bite-sized improvements

PASSAGE: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

The psychologist Professor Brian Little has spent decades studying the goals that humans pursue in their everyday lives. He finds we have an average of fifteen ‘personal projects’ going at once, a mixture of ‘trivial pursuits and magnificent obsessions’. These projects are so central to our identity that Little likes to tell his students, ‘We are our personal projects.’ His studies have found that, in order to bring us happiness, a project should be personally meaningful and we ought to have some level of control over it. When I asked him if a person pursuing one of these ‘core’ projects was a bit like an archetypal hero battling through a three-act narrative of crisis-struggle-resolution he said, ‘Yes. A thousand times yes.’

QUOTE: Neil Gaiman

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

If I were to choose a ‘favourite quote’ this would be in the running. I refer to it every time I give feedback on someone’s work. I recommend you refer back to it whenever you’re getting feedback on stuff you’ve made.

Want more words about design and product? Hop over to tomkerwin.com.

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