Conveying a User’s Context through Storyboarding

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.

Design Firm How-To: Writing Your Company Story

How to Write Your Company Story

An excerpt from Drawn to Business by Go Media President William Beachy

Who are you? What do you do? What makes you different? Who is your ideal customer? What problem are you solving for them? All of this needs to be communicated in a simple story. People love stories. People remember stories. How compelling is yours?

[Tweet “People love stories. People remember stories. How compelling is yours?”]

Simply telling a customer “We’re a design firm that does branding, print design and web development,” is not enough.

You’ve only categorized your business. You’ve given them no reason to hire you over any other design firm.

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Here’s Go Media’s story: concise and compelling. 

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Go Media was started by illustrators. While we all had degrees in design, our background was drawing.

In the first six years of the company we didn’t care about making money. We only took on projects that were highly artistic. We lived on Ramen Noodles and worked insane hours designing apparel, gig posters and marketing for the entertainment industry. Our uniquely artistic design style led to incredible demand from corporate America. In turn, their needs led us to put together a robust team of web developers. That gave us the technical skills to back up the creativity of our designs. Today, 80% of our work is web development. One constant with Go Media has been our passion for professionalism. While artists are known for being emotional and unreliable, Go Media’s creative team takes great pride in delivering every project on time, on budget, with a smile on our faces.

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That’s it. That’s our Cleveland design firm’s story in less than one minute. That’s commonly referred to as your elevator pitch.

Write yours, memorize it, tell it with passion. Make sure that it’s short and compelling.

Nobody wants to hear you drone on for an hour.

For more about how to build a million dollar business, purchase William Beachy’s book, Drawn to Business.

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