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Ligature

Ligature is a new look at the advent of word processors, this time designed specifically
for the needs and tendencies of the creative. It breaks away from the linear archetype
of traditional word processors, giving you the ability to place text anywhere, allowing
for instantaneous and intuitive establishment of relationships without the need to draft and redraft transitions as concepts and relationships evolve.

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Getting your thoughts down in writing can be hard, even for professionals, which is why Anne Lamott’s advice on writing has permeated the writing society and her book, Bird by Bird, has become a staple among the members of the community, including  authors such as Tim Ferris, Neil Strauss, and Ryan Holiday.

 

Her advice revolves around two major concepts: short pieces, and “shitty first drafts.”

 

Short pieces are meant to be pieces that are focused on one incident or moment and to write about that in as much detial as possible. 

 

Shitty first drafts give the writer the permission to write any and every thing down.

 

This helps writers get their thoughts on paper, after which the writing can be edited. Creating clear phases of writing and editing— distinct phases of divergent and convergent thinking respectively.

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Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is the mental process by which vast quantities of unique solutions to a problem are created. This is main activity that initial exploratory writing entails.

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Convergent Thinking

Convergent thinking is the process by which information or solutions are synthesized and evaluated

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Freedom When You Want It 

The Board lets users capture alternate thoughts whenever something comes up. This
mind mapping format easily accommodates for divergent thinking during early
exploratory writing.

Linearity When You Need it

The compile feature allows users to organize elements on their Board into a linear document for when it’s time to make the next to editing or sharing. This process helps separate early stage writing from editing later stage writing.

Process

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Mind map from an excersize done during interviews to get 
a better understanding of how the participant approaches writing and thinking about
a singular topic.

I conducted an initial wave of interviews at the same time as I conducted literary research. The first round of interviews helped me get an understanding of the writing processes of other people. I also analyzed the various writing applications/word processors that were (are) available; the features that they offer, and how those features affected the writing process (this through interviews).

 

The second round of interviews involved much more selected participants. Participants were selected to represent a wide range of artists and designers of various demographics whose practices were focused on writing (this project was initially aimed at artists and designers). The second round of interviews had a total of 8 participants, which was limited by availability and time, although ideally this would be a much larger number.

My aim in this second round was to get a better understanding of artists’ and designers’ writing and thinking processes and how that differed from professional writers. I studied artists and designers because they were a readily available demographic that also needed to do large amounts of writing, such as artist statements and personas. Artists and designers, however might not have the same comfort in writing or the practice and proficiency at writing. This difference, might therefore cause artists and designers to have an entirely different experience with writing on the computer.

 

The same group that was interviewed also self-identified as people who thought mainly divergently even when writing. This lends them to become a sub-group representative of divergent thinkers in general, which allowed me to arrive at and tests hypothesis given the limited time and manpower.

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Low fidelity paper prototype used for usability testing.

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Interactive paper prototype used for usability testing.

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The key finding of my research was that the users/writers tended to think divergently even
when it was a convergent task. This became the primary problem area the project aimed to solve
and resulted in Ligature, which allowed for the
users diverge at will creating an environment
that doesn't prematurely restrict users into one
form of thinking.


I  built low fidelity prototypes and conducted frequent usability tests  togather a lot of user feedback, which helped inform and support design decisions. I started with paper prototypes on index cards because creating these are fast and cheap. Low fidelity paper prototypes also offer the added benefit of preventing participants from focusing on details that don’t yet matter, and instead focuses participant attention on the features and concepts being tested. At times feedback would be given (such as removing a certain element from the interface) and within seconds I would be able to adjust for and test the change.

 

Through this iterative process, I ran through 4 different prototypes that each went through several iterations changing organically based on feedback and co-design sessions.

Through usability testing co-designing, I learned that labeling (the naming of functions) was a major problem point of my project. To arrive at better labels, I conducted several informal interviews that ranged from asking participants what they associated with certain words or labels to asking participants to actively engage in brainstorming sessions.

Based on the feedback I received on my paper prototypes, and labels, that were arrived at via informal interviews, I created horizontal prototypes whereby a lot of functionality is expressed or implied, however, not actually be built in. This allowed me to test and get feedback on a wide range of features and concepts, that were impractical to build due to time restraints and prototyping-software limitations.

Usability tests using various iterations of paper prototyping.