David J. Cox  Explanation by Pattern  EXPLAINER DESIGN




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HOW TO DESIGN EXPLAINERS

Many of these are suggestions apply in designing and introducing organizational changes of any sort.

Select a subject that is recognized as important.
It is difficult to sell something that, while interesting, is unimportant to an organization. Introduce a case history example of an Explainer and the results it helped produce.  Avoid 'toy' examples.

Engage interest, help, and participation of people who will be affected.
This is a motivator.

Design your Explainer with key people.
Include / consult with people responsible for related, connected areas.
Be open to finding improvements in what is being explained.

Materials: Use ink marker and sheets of 2' by 3' easel paper to sketch quick modules. Post on wall with masking tape. Look on rework as learning about connections in what you are trying to explain.
Stick with the rules. They have proven workable, simple, and clear:
 
Start at the top, move down making choices.
Don’t cross vertical lines or horizontal barriers ////////.
Follow any arrow joining two frames.
End in an endframe.
 
Design a 'How To' headline description for your Explainer.
Layout the top-row frames. They show where the Explainer connects to real situations.
Develop the main explanation path along the left side. It forms a backbone from which paths can be extended.
Develop remaining paths. Simplify. Overlap. Create finished Explainer (8 1/2 x 11" is usual).
Include escape frames: (If not sure, phone xxx.  To learn of updates, call xxx.)
Give thought to who is most likely to update the Explainer in the future.

 

Tell interested people of progress.
Include recognition for people who are helping. Answer all questions. Don't duck issues.

Test market your Explainer.
Arrange a small-scale test market trial of your Explainer before releasing it to large numbers of people. Design a questionnaire on which people can tell you how to improve clarity.
You might want to use 5-point scales of preference (very confusing/ unclear/ neutral/ clear/ very clear) rather than using only open-ended questions that are hard to tally (How did you like the new design?). To encourage openness, make it optional for raters to put their names on their response sheets. Names are helpful, though, in case you want to talk with a rater about an answer. Pay attention to and respond to suggestions by raters.

Start using your Explainer.
Think about who will announce the change. It will be easy to describe. Purpose was established and announced early. You kept people informed. Comfort level will be high.

Update the Explainer.
Since you selected an important subject, people will be apt to help with updating.

Report your experience.
Success with FLIPP will encourage use in other areas. Generously recognize the people who helped.

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