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New Simplifying Complexity article on shaping information into familiar schemas, especially story

Apr 18, 2018 • simplifying-complexity

In case you haven't been following previous posts, I have a microsite called Simplifying Complexity where I'm exploring various approaches for making complex information more usable and consumable. This microsite contains longer, more in-depth articles following a specific theme. My latest addition to the site is a new article called 'Reducing complexity by shaping information into familiar schemas, especially story'.

Here’s a brief summary:

In previous topics, I analyzed how integrating new information into the larger landscape and conversely distilling information from a larger landscape into smaller units both help to reduce the complexity of information. In this new article, I dive into another technique for simplifying complexity: making information fit a pattern or schema that is familiar to users, especially story schemas. Our mind constantly filters the events, objects, and information around us by ignoring irrelevant information and fitting the important details into mental schemas. These schemas allow us to operate efficiently in what would otherwise be a complex chaos of incoming sensory information. As such, using these schemas simplifies the user experience.

One approach for fitting information into the user’s mental schemas is to look at genre conventions and user expectations, and then follow these same conventions and expectations in the new information. However, this approach does little to exceed expectations in a genre of dissatisfied and frustrated users. A better approach is to fit information into a larger user journey that looks from beginning to end across topics, rather than focusing on one specific topic. This larger, more encompassing journey contains more of a story arc that resonates on a universal level with users.

You can read the article here: Reducing complexity by shaping information into familiar schemas, especially story.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical communication — Swagger, agile, trends, learning, plain language, quick reference guides, tech comm careers, academics, and more. I'm interested in simplifying complexity, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture and findability, and more. If you're a technical writer of any kind (progressional, transitioning, student), be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.