Conveying a User’s Context through Storyboarding

Matthew Farleo
  • Apr 9, 2018
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How Storyboarding can play an integral part in Digital Product Design

A big part of being a successful user experience designer is building an understanding of who your potential users are. In fact, the most important tool in any UX designer’s toolbox is a soft skill that they don’t teach in any school, its empathy. Being able to put themselves in a user’s shoes goes a long way to building a successful product, but being able to communicate those emphatic ideas to project stakeholders can be a challenge. One tool for conveying these concepts to the team at whole is storyboarding.

What is a Storyboard?

Typically when someone thinks of a storyboard it is within the context of a motion picture or television show. In the case of movies, storyboards are simple graphic representations of key moments within a scene that convey the story. They are placed in a sequential timeline with notes that highlight key aspects of the shot, this allows the director a very simple way to convey the scenes narrative without having to go through and shoot it in its entirety. Storyboarding sessions include multiple members of the film’s team and its simple format allows for quick iteration to ensure that the story is being told in the clearest means. But what does being a good storyteller have to do with digital product design?

Storyboarding and Empathy

Why Storytelling is Important

Understanding your user’s personal story is important, but why convey it using a method from the film industry? Why not just relay the information to the team in a simple word document or spreadsheet, why bother creating a storyboard? To answer those questions simply, using a storyboard is a more effective means to communicate to your team. First off, a story is much more powerful than a list of facts, studies have shown that stories are much more (22 times) memorable than just plain facts. Another common adage heard is a picture is worth a thousand words, and the imagery of your story can add impact and additional meaning to your user’s narrative. It is important to remember that although a team’s user experience designer may be a master of building user empathy for themselves, a storyboard is a means to convey those concepts to key stakeholders and these ideas go a long way when building user empathy within the whole digital product team.

Using Storyboards in Digital Product Design

Using storyboards when creating a digital product serves to ensure that the team is building empathy with the users that will be using the product. Storyboards using within product design should not be confused with user journeys or red routes, which are the paths of the user through the screens of the digital product. Instead, storyboards serve as the means of telling the story of the user’s life outside of the digital product and what problems or issues have led to the user using the final product or serve as the story of how the user came to learn about the product and begin using it within their lives. Basically, storyboards provide the context within the user’s life where there is a need that your digital product can fulfill.

Storyboards are the tool with which a user experience designer can ensure the digital product team is able to understand your user’s story and the context in which they use the end product. Storyboarding as a means of conveying user empathy will allow all stakeholders to better understand the impacts of the digital product that is being built and help ensure that the end product solves the needs of the user’s it was created for.

About the Author, Matthew Farleo

Matthew Farleo

Hello. My Name is Matt Farleo. I don’t like to think in terms of titles but I guess I’d consider myself a creative immersed in all things digital. I’ve worn many hats (literally and figuratively) throughout my career, but most lead back to using technology to connect people.

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