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Abstract Curriculum Design

Intentionally designed user education

Abstract provides version control and design system management to design teams through the use of Git-based technology. This is something that, until Abstract was created, had not been part of a design team's workflow before. It is a highly technical space that many designers aren't familiar with and as such, there is much to learn in order to be successful in adopting Abstract into a team's workflow.

As a product designer of user education at Abstract, I took on the large initiative of evaluating our training materials and methods in order to determine how to better serve our customers. I wore many hats, including project manager, user researcher, user experience designer, content strategist, technical writer, video producer, and video editor. The final product was a complete set of videos that serve as a scale-friendly curricula on how to use Abstract.

Note: This project is still in progress.

My process 

User research

The user education team had a general feeling that the way we were teaching customers wasn't working, but we weren't sure exactly what was wrong. Together we designed a quick survey, which we sent to each customer immediately after a training session in order to gather feedback.

Learn curricula design

While we continued to make minor iterations on our teaching and gathered feedback from customers, I registered for a course on how to design and teach curricula for traditionally hard-to-understand technical topics (such as math).

Project management

With the survey results in and a better understanding of the principles of teaching complex topics, I documented an OKR project plan to redesign our teaching as a true curricula.

Content planning

Next, I led the effort to coordinate with cross-functional partners, outline the structure of the curricula, and plan the information architecture of the content.

Write and refine scripts

I wrote, copy-edited, and refined nearly 40 video scripts and prepared the slides, graphics, and other visual assets that would be used for the videos.

Record, post-process, and publish

Finally, I used QuickTime, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Adobe XD, and Adobe Audition to record and edit the video and audio for all of the videos before publishing to YouTube.

User research

We used qualitative and quantitative research to inform our plan to redesign our teaching materials into a full curricula. At the time, our method of teaching was to meet each new design team with a 1-hour video call to introduce the main workflow of Abstract, followed a few weeks later by a 1-2 hour video call with a set of topics into which customers could choose to dig deeper. Our research consisted of:

  • A simple survey sent to each team after a video call that asked them to rate their trainer on a scale from 1-10 and allowed feedback in an open-ended text box.
  • Observing and documenting each team's questions and the concepts they struggled with in order to detect common difficulties.
  • Analyzing support tickets to determine which aspects of the product had the highest number of questions.


During the process of planning and outlining the curricula, we highlighted a few key principles to make sure they were maintained through to the final product.

Clear and concise

  • Avoid jargon and explain all new terms
  • Avoid overly wordy phrases and fuzzy phrases that could be interpreted differently
  • Every sentence should add value

Focus on jobs to be done

  • Each video should help users understand how to accomplish their task, rather than focusing on what the feature can do
  • The user should feel empowered to do their work

Quickly consumable

  • Videos should be 5-10 minutes long to allow for quick consumption and realization of value
  • Whenever possible, each video should be able to stand alone
  • Recap what has been covered to cement learnings

Tailored for designers

  • Use familiar references designers will understand
  • Focus on tasks and priorities that designers care about
  • Create a guided process that brings designers along from their current workflow to the Abstract workflow

Content planning and creation

The content planning process started in Google Docs, as this is our company's primary tool when it comes to writing and editing large bodies of content. I used the information and structure that I learned from my curricula design course to lay out the entire course. I started with broad strokes: the content standard, enduring learning, and essential questions that users should be able to answer. I was then able to narrow down the content to fit a rubric, and then created something similar to a lesson plan which helped me break down the videos.

It was important to me that each video would be short and complete so that the curricula would be flexible to additions well into the future, and so that it would be easy to edit videos should anything change.

Since I was responsible for most of the project myself, I was able to use the tools of my choice. I am very familiar with Adobe products, so I used Adobe XD to create the slides and animations that featured in the videos, and then recorded and edited with Adobe Premiere Pro. I planned and created all of the assets in advance so that I could iron out any awkward points or fill any gaps before recording in order to avoid redoing work.

Screenshot of Ameriprise trading webpage from 2018Screenshot of Ameriprise trading webpage from 2018

Final product

The final curricula that I created ended up as a series of 37 videos across 7 different topics. We uploaded the finished videos to YouTube in a playlist for ease of sharing with our customers. Not only does this playlist cover everything that a designer and their teammates would need to know in order to successfully get started with Abstract, it also allows us to scale our education and support to many more users. Users around the globe can access the videos on demand so we can reach people who aren't in US time zones, and YouTube's closed captioning allows even more people to learn about Abstract.

Check out the embedded video below or click through to view on YouTube.

Note: Click to view larger.


I watched the videos right away and they have definitely helped our team! They are short, to the point and you can quickly find individual answers. Great!

— Abstract Customer