Meaning Maker


How come that this has happened?

October 04, 2018

An online shop shown as an event storming result

Event storming is a cool technique for finding out what your software solution should do so that your users can reach their goals. It has been created by Alberto Brandolini, and I teach this method a lot in my courses that I give for software development teams.

Why do I tell you this?

Well, as someone who cares about users, you might find this fact pretty cool about event storming:

Event storming causes a group of people to have fun creating software with the least amount of complexity needed to satisfy the user’s goals. #eventstorming #domaindrivendesign #UXresearch #userresearchTweet this

No more, no less. No big and speculative wish lists, no “golden” features, just the bare minimum the users need.

How can this be so simple?

Event storming is a group brainstorming exercise where the moderator gives a group the simple task:

Please think about the important domain events that the users experience in their business process. Write each event on an orange sticky note and attach it to the wall. It must be 2-3 words that sound like “something happened”.

OK, so maybe people start writing post-it notes like these for an online store:

  • Item found
  • Shopping cart filled
  • Shopping cart paid
  • Item shipped
  • Invoice sent
  • Stock emptied
  • Re-stock order sent
  • Item delivered

Online shop events

Asking backward

When the group has written many orange stickies, the moderator asks the next interesting question:

How come that these events have happened? For most of these, there must have been a user who gave a command to the system so that the system caused the event, right? Please write that user’s role name on a yellow note, and the command that she gave on a blue one. Place them before the orange ones so that the order is yellow, blue, orange (that means, a user gave a command that made the system cause an event).

So, maybe people now write yellow user stickies like

  • Customer
  • Purchaser

Online shop users

and some blue command stickies like

  • Find item by category
  • Place item into shopping cart
  • Pay with credit card
  • Send “out of stock” email to the purchasing department
  • Order new items from supplier

Online shop commands

I won’t teach you the entire method here. Instead, I’ll stop after the moderator poses this next interesting question:

Now imagine each user at the moment just before she can issue the command: What data would she need to see in front of herself to be able to give that command to the system? We call this data the “read model” because she reads it. For each blue sticky, please write a green sticky with the name of that read model and place it before the yellow one (= read model seen by a user who gave a command that made the system cause an event).

Wow, what a powerful question! Now people start writing green stickies like

  • Available categories
  • Item details
  • Shopping cart contents
  • List of items that went out of stock

Online shop read models

Results after 30 minutes

The wall will now look like this:

Online shop process

Do you see how quickly the group reached a common understanding of some important parts of the business process? It is now very clear in which steps a customer buys items and what the people in the purchasing department do when an item goes out of stock.

Not bad for 30 minutes, right? This was made possible by starting at the end and asking backward until you reach the starting point.

What it means for Meaning Maker

The system that we write here at Just Ask Users is called “Meaning Maker” because it helps you as a user researcher to reach one important, final domain event. I could write it on a prominent orange sticky note and call it

The final event: Product design decision made

This is the ultimate, most valuable event in your team’s product development process.

You could pull me into a dialogue about this event:

You: Why was this decision made?

Matthias: Because the team saw a theme in the users’ behavior.

You: How could they see the theme?

Matthias: Because they tagged the observations that they made about the users and our system helped them to create themes from tags.

You: How come that they could tag the observations?

Matthias: Because the team entered the observations, based on evidence that they saw, like photos and text snippets from interviews or competitor audits.

You: They saw such evidence? How come?

Matthias: Because they uploaded the pieces of evidence into a study.

You: A study? How was this possible?

Matthias: Because they created studies inside projects, together with information about participants and the teams who run the projects.

You: How could they possibly do all this?

Matthias: Because they signed up for “Meaning Maker” as a researcher.

So, in this 3-minute dialogue, you and I could have discovered eight more orange stickies:

  • Researcher signed up
  • Team created
  • Project created
  • Study created
  • Evidence uploaded
  • Observations made about evidence
  • Observation tagged
  • Theme discovered
  • Product design decision made

The final event: Product design decision made

For each one of these, the moderator could now ask us his second and third question (“who did it” and “what did she need to do it”), as you’ve seen above. And we would arrive at the user roles and the commands that you can give to the “Meaning Maker” system.

But this is not what I came to tell you about. Why? Because it has already happened: We already had these conversations and created “Meaning Maker” for you, the user researchers.

So WTF did I tell you all this?

Because I’m pretty sure that YOU want to reach this one valuable orange sticky note in the end:

  • Product design decision made

For this to happen, you need to sign up as a researcher, create your first project and study, upload your evidence that you’ve collected with your users, and so on.

It takes one moment of thinking and a decisive action from YOU: Sign up and start working with your team in “Meaning Maker” until you reach your a-ha moment: The next “product decision made” event.

P.S. You can get started with Meaning Maker for free today. Sign up here to get your account:

Easy setup • Free trial with one multi-study project

About us

Our goal is to help companies improve their products.

We give you a tool that shortens the way from research to design decision: Collect evidence about your users’ behavior, make observations about it, mark the observations with tags and let the machine help your team discover recurring patterns. Grasp insights easily because you clearly see what bothers your users and what delights them.

We make it simple for product developers to get to testable new ideas, concepts, and products for their target market so that they can avoid dead ends and keep building products that their customers want.

Our tool helps to make UX findings transparent. The clarity, transparency, and focus allow teams to collaborate with less friction and produce great results.

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