IA Summit: Communicating through Comics

by March 26, 2006

The Communicating Concepts Through Comics presentation at IA Summit 2006 took a look at how to communicate high-level concepts for products through the medium of comics.

The Yahoo! Local team found themselves needing to bring their stakeholders and team around a shared vision for their product. They considered using personas, uses case, and wireframes but found each of these communication medium lacking the context and level of detail they were looking for. After considering a number of other mediums including video, they settled on depicting product concepts through comics.

After brainstorming, white-boarding, and writing up some basic use cases, the team assembled a set of comics that told a story of how the Yahoo! Local product could be used. They then presented this narrative to senior stakeholders and users to gather feedback about the product vision.

The key message from their experience is:

  • Comics communicate concepts
  • You can draw comics
  • You can draw comics to communicate concepts
Why Do Comics Work?
  • Communication: very approachable and easy to digest; we want people to read our documents; a universal medium that transcends language
  • Imagination: through abstraction people engage with the concept. They interpret and add themselves into the scenario depicted.
  • You want to communicate concepts not interface elements. Show just enough UI to understand what is going on, users will imagine the rest.
  • Expression: added degree of context from image + text
  • Motion: convey time, animation, and movement. Comics provide an idea of how long or how fast.
  • Iteration: really easy to iterate comics. Think of it as paper prototyping for product ideas

You can find the full presentation at Kevin Cheng’s site: Communicating Concepts Through Comics (PDF).