Pattern (noun.)

Definition: An arrangement or sequence that can be found in comparable objects or events.

Also referenced as: Patterns (noun)

Related to: Data, Heterarchy, Hierarchy, Sequence, Structure, Taxonomy



The word pattern was used 9 times across 7 pages


Chapter 2: State your Intent | Page 23

Language is any system of communication that exists to establish shared meaning. Even within a single language, one term can mean something in situation A and something different in situation B. We call this a homograph. For example, the word pool can mean a swimming pool, shooting pool, or a betting pool.

Perception is the process of considering, and interpreting something. Perception is subjective like truth is. Something that's beautiful to one person may be an eyesore to another. For example, many designers would describe the busy, colorful patterns in the carpets of Las Vegas as gaudy. People who frequent casinos often describe them as beautiful.

However good or bad these carpet choices seem to us, there are reasons why they look that way. Las Vegas carpets are busy and colorful to disguise spills and wear and tear from foot traffic. Gamblers likely enjoy how they look because of an association with an activity that they enjoy. For Las Vegas casino owners and their customers, those carpet designs are good. For designers, they're bad. Neither side is right. Both sides have an opinion.

What we intend to do determines how we define words like good and bad.



Chapter 3: Face Reality | Page 41

Beware of jumping into an existing solution or copying existing patterns. In my experience, too many people buy into an existing solution's flexibility to later discover its rigidity.

Imagine trying to design a luxury fashion magazine using a technical system for grocery store coupons. The features you need may seem similar enough until you consider your context. That's when reality sets in.

What brings whopping returns to one business might crush another. What works for kids might annoy older people. What worked five years ago may not work today.

We have to think about the effects of adopting an existing structure or language before doing so.

When architecting information, focus on your own unique objectives. You can learn from and borrow from other people. But it's best to look at their decisions through the lens of your intended outcome.



Chapter 3: Face Reality | Page 42

When you discuss a specific subject, you subconsciously reference part of a large internal map of what you know.

Other people can't see this map. It only exists in your head, and it's called your mental model.

When faced with a problem, you reference your mental model and try to organize the aspects and complexities of what you see into recognizable patterns. Your ongoing experience changes your mental model. This book is changing it right now.

We create objects like maps, diagrams, prototypes, and lists to share what we understand and perceive. Objects allow us to compare our mental models with each other.

These objects represent our ideas, actions, and insights. When we reference objects during a conversation, we can go deeper and be more specific than verbalizing alone.

As an example, it's much easier to teach someone about the inner-workings of a car engine with a picture, animation, diagram, or working model.



Chapter 6: Play with Structure | Page 111

When taxonomies are arranged hierarchically, it means that successive categories, ranks, grades, or interrelated levels are being used. In a hierarchy, a user would have to select a labeled grouping to find things within it. A hierarchy of movies might look like this:

- Comedies

  • Romantic comedies
  • Classic comedies
  • Slap-stick comedies

Hierarchies tend to follow two patterns. First, a broad and shallow hierarchy gives the user more choices up front so they can get to everything in a few steps. As an example, in a grocery store, you choose an aisle, and each aisle has certain arrangement of products, but that's as deep as you can go.

A narrow and deep hierarchy gives the user fewer choices at once. On a large website, like usa.gov, a few high level options point users to more specific items with each click.

When individual pieces exist on one level without further categorization, the taxonomy is heterarchical. For example, each lettered box in the arrangement in this illustration is heterarchical.



Chapter 6: Play with Structure | Page 114

The world is organized in seemingly endless ways, but in reality, every form can be broken down into some taxonomic patterns.

Hierarchy, heterarchy, sequence, and hypertext are just a few common patterns. Most forms involve more than one of these.

A typical website has a hierarchical navigation system, a sequence for signing up or interacting with content, and hypertext links to related content.

A typical grocery store has a hierarchical aisle system, a heterarchical database for the clerk to retrieve product information by scanning a barcode, and sequences for checking out and other basic customer service tasks. I was even in a grocery store recently where each cart had a list of the aisle locations of the 25 most common products. A great use of hypertext.

A typical book has a sequence-based narrative, a hierarchical table of contents, and a set of facets allowing it to be retrieved with either the Dewey Decimal system at a library, or within a genre-based hierarchical system used in bookstores and websites like Amazon.com.



Chapter 6: Play with Structure | Page 116

Because your structure may change a hundred times before you finish making it, you can save time and frustration by thinking with boxes and arrows before making real changes. Boxes and arrows are easier to move around than the other materials we work with, so start there.

Try structuring the mess with common patterns of boxes and arrows as shown on the next page. Remember that you'll probably need to combine more than one pattern to find a structure that works.

  1. Assess the content and facets that are useful for what you're trying to convey.
  2. Play with broad and shallow versus narrow and deep hierarchies. Consider the right place to use heterarchies, sequences, and hypertext arrangements.
  3. Arrange things one way and then come up with another way. Compare and contrast them. Ask other people for input.
  4. Think about the appropriate level of ambiguity or exactitude for classifying and labeling things within the structure you're pursuing.


Chapter 7: Prepare to Adjust | Page 123

No matter what the mess is made of, we have many masters, versions of reality, and needs to serve. Information is full of history and preconceptions.

Stakeholders need to:

  • Know where the project is headed
  • See patterns and potential outcomes
  • Frame the appropriate solution for users

Users need to:

It's our job to uncover subjective reality.

An important part of that is identifying the differences between what stakeholders think users need and what users think they need for themselves.