Communicating with logic
Video: Communicating with logicWhen we started this journey, I said a user experience is all about communicating clearly. And logic and the understanding of logic can help us ensure that when we want to communicate something, that message is understood by the people we are communicating with. If you look around you in everyday life, you'll see how a lot of things have user experiences that are based on logic. To see this phenomenon in action, look no further than the signage painted on the roads we drive on. Even to the uninitiated, it is quite easy to follow these signs and most do not require an in-depth understanding of language.
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Foundations of UX: Logic and Content looks at how designers, developers, and content creators can use the ancient art of logic and reasoning to improve user experiences and facilitate communication. Morten Rand-Hendriksen looks at the principles of logic, how computer logic and human logic differ, and how these differences can be used to improve communication.
The core idea of logic is to create a system in which communication is clear, precise, and unambiguous, which is (or at least should be) the goal of any website or other communication.
- How humans communicate
- Comparing human and computer communication
- Speaking logically
- Using logical arguments
- Understanding the limits of computer logic
- Formatting information for humans
- Communicating with logic
Communicating with logic
When we started this journey, I said a user experience is all about communicating clearly. And logic and the understanding of logic can help us ensure that when we want to communicate something, that message is understood by the people we are communicating with. If you look around you in everyday life, you'll see how a lot of things have user experiences that are based on logic. To see this phenomenon in action, look no further than the signage painted on the roads we drive on. Even to the uninitiated, it is quite easy to follow these signs and most do not require an in-depth understanding of language.
All you need is a basic understanding of symbolism and logic. A street divided by one or two solid lines, is a logical indicator that there's a separation between the two lanes, one that should not be crossed. A dashed line, or an opening on the other hand, indicates that this is an area where you can cross the line. And a dotted line indicates this is somewhere where you're probably going to cross the line. Likewise, the positioning of arrows clearly indicate what behavior is appropriate. A straight arrow in an intersection clearly tells you to go straight.
An arrow with two points, one pointing left and one pointing straight, tells you you have options. A thick arrow pointing forwards with a smaller one pointing to the right, indicates the common direction is forward, but you can optionally turn right. Logical, intuitive and a great user experience. When we create user experiences, whether they be designs or written material or both, we need to apply the same philosophy. Create your experience in such a way that whomever accesses it will be able to understand and use it the way it was intended.
There are two simple keys to achieving this. Accept you are not the typical user and assume the user knows nothing. This might seem harsh, but applying these two principles will help you introduce logic into your process. By accepting that you're not the typical user, you lock away all your preconceptions and tacit knowledge of the experience and start looking at it from the user perspective. All decisions should be tested with the question, am I making myself clear? If you are creating a search form with a drop down menu attached, is it clear that the visitor has to make a selection before making a search? If that's the intended behavior, you have to either explicitly tell the user or make it impossible not to follow the intended order.
If you're writing an introductory welcome message to go on the front page of a company website, are you using lingo and marketing jargon that looks pretty or profound. Or are you actually explaining what your company does in a way the visitor can understand? Just because you know how something works or understand what you are saying, does not mean your visitor will. Assuming the user knows nothing, does not mean assuming the user is ignorant. What I mean is, you have to assume the user does not share your background knowledge of how the experience works and what you're trying to present.
This is a common error I often catch myself making, and one I went to great lengths to avoid in preparing this course. I have a background in philosophy and when I talk about logic, I do it with years of study as my backdrop. But just because I have all this background information about the topic does not mean you do as well. To produce a great user experience for you, I have to assume you don't know anything about the topic. And find a way to present it so that I can transfer my understanding to you without requiring you to read all the same things I've read.
And to make the challenge even more challenging, I also have to make the material interesting to you if you do have a background in philosophy and logic. By assuming your user knows nothing about what you're trying to communicate to them, you force yourself to re-frame your message and boil it down to its essence. This not only makes the message easier to understand, but in many cases it will also result in a much better and simplified presentation that in the end may end up improving the user experience in other ways. Bottom line.
Using logic to communicate clearly is, to be as clear as possible, logical.
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