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.

Why User Experience Matters and How You Win at It

Your client’s website may be aesthetically-pleasing and ranking on top positions, but does it provide a good user experience?

This is one of the things that digital marketing agencies need to understand and an important task that any white label service provider needs to fulfill. You can’t get away with simply making a website attractive. Your client’s website needs to serve the purpose of their visitors, create an emotional connection when they interact with it, and take them on the journey from being someone who’s simply browsing the website to becoming a customer. And if you’ve done it right, visitors will return to it. More visitors can lead to more business for your clients, and this means plus points for your agency. That’s what a great user experience is all about.

The moment customers lose interest in your client’s website is the moment you should start thinking about changing things up. Not only in how the site looks, but in how it makes visitors feel. Everything you do to be successful in your online marketing efforts must focus on your users. To do that, here are a few things you need to understand first:

User Experience is not All About Usability

“My website has a two-step sign up process that’s easy for visitors to use; therefore my website has a great user experience.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

It’s common for some to think that making it easier for visitors to navigate a website means having a great user experience. But here’s what you need to know about user experience: usability is not equal to user experience. It’s one aspect that affects the entirety of user experience.

To fit usability into user experience, you need to answer the following:

  • Is it easy for visitors to familiarize themselves with the website the first time they land on it?
  • Can users move through the sequence of actions seamlessly?
  • Is it easy for visitors to achieve their goals by using the website?
  • Does the website prompt user recall the next time visitors use it?

If your answer to these questions is “No”, you need to analyze the website’s usability and fine-tune it to provide a better user experience.

Don’t Just Focus on SEO

Because search engines know when you do.

One of the things Google believes to be true is you have to “focus on the user and all else will follow.” And this is why the old ways of SEO—stuffing a page with as many keywords as possible—won’t work anymore. Google knows when you’re just in it for the rankings, not for the users.

This doesn’t mean you’re going to abandon SEO altogether. You still need to optimize your client’s website to be found by customers.

When I say that you don’t only focus on SEO, what I mean is you should focus on an SEO strategy that marries well with user experience. At the end of the day, you need a strategy that brings results and will make your clients happy.

A solid SEO and user experience strategy focuses on: who the target users are, what motivates them to interact with the site, and what their intentions are (or what they hope to accomplish on the site).

1. Knowing who the users are

SEO allows you to drive traffic to a website. But, here’s the catch: you don’t just drive any traffic. You need qualified traffic. How do you go about this? By better familiarizing yourself with who the target users are.

In fact, knowing your users is not just an important step in SEO and user experience design—it provides you with a springboard for your entire digital marketing strategy. You start knowing who your users are by identifying the following:

  • Site usage patterns: Do users have a pattern they follow when they visit your client’s site? Hotjar allows you to check for a pattern that users take when they’re on a website. By knowing this, you can configure your client’s website to match user interaction.
  • First click habit: What’s the first thing they click when they land on the site? If users are able to complete one task after the other from that first click alone, you can discern that pattern and identify more opportunities from it.

2. Identifying their intent and optimizing for it

A sound SEO and user experience strategy is not just about making a website rank, but actually getting users to click. And you do this by identifying the intent behind a user’s query. After all, what good will it do if your client’s site is ranking but isn’t aligned with the intent of their target users?

How do you identify and optimize for user intent?

  • Top queries: If you haven’t dived into Search Console, now’s the time to do it. Looking at the top queries that your client’s site is getting allows you to understand what their target audience is searching for. Once you have a better grasp of this, you can start tweaking on-site elements (well-written headings, CTAs, and Meta tags) to match user intent.
  • Content: As user experience is all about making visitors feel good about the website, having content that speaks to the intent of users is crucial. Think of it this way: when a user clicks on a link and finds that your content doesn’t match their expectations, you’re bound to lose them right from the start. Just like Rand Fishkin said, content that addresses the needs of users shouldn’t get buried under tons of content that’s talking about something completely different from what they’re looking for.
  • Segmented landing pages: You can’t direct a user intending to purchase to an informational page, and you can’t direct a user looking for information to a checkout page—that simply breaks the funnel. When you’re optimizing for user intent, be mindful of where you’re directing users in the website.

The User Experience Journey Doesn’t Always Start from One Point

Most websites are designed with user experience starting at the homepage, and that’s where the problem lies. A user’s initial entry point isn’t always the homepage. If you’ve designed the user experience journey in a way that only caters to the homepage, you’re missing tons of opportunities.

This is where your creativity comes in. You need to map the flow and think of the different ways that will lead users to their goals. Combine what you’ve learned previously – who the target users are and what are their intentions. Using this as a guide, you can then determine the following:

  • Where they come from (can be through organic search results, banner ads, emails, etc.)
  • Where they will land on the website
  • What processes are needed to fulfill their goals

By mapping out the user experience flow, you can fix what’s broken in the funnel and create a solid framework that offers maximum conversions.

Why do we optimize for the best user experience? We go back to the statement: everything you do for your online marketing efforts should focus on the user. It’s not all about the brand, but what users expect from that brand. And brands have the responsibility to meet those expectations. At the end of it, the “me, me, me” strategy isn’t going to cut it if your clients are seeking more attention from their audience.

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