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Function Hierarchy

Somewhere between information architecture and mock-ups, decisions around what’s most important in a given moment, what the primary actions are on a screen, or what buttons should be easiest to access on a physical product need to be made and documented. The function hierarchy serves this purpose, collecting what needs to exist and prioritizing what’s most important without making recommendations pertaining to layout or visualization.

For simple products and services, an information architecture might be enough, but for more complex experiences, the information architecture and the function hierarchy provide a complete picture of how the experience will be structured. This can be useful for ensuring alignment with stakeholders before moving to a higher fidelity or for making sure that functionality is agreed upon before exploring the more aesthetic aspects through gestural design or mock-ups. If you don’t do a function hierarchy, it will emerge through mock-ups and detailed design. Making a physical artifact simply ensures consistency and completeness with less iteration.

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Observations Suite

Observations Suite captures the first release’s feature set in the function hierarchy, highlighting what the user can do, as well as what they can see.