Sometimes, words are worth a thousand wireframes
Before we ideate. Before we prototype. We write stories. These stories are detailed narratives that walk through the user journey, step by step, annotated with context, motivation and expectation. Why take the time with this step? Because it helps us to more efficiently and effectively create truly unique and delightful user experiences.
In this, the second in our series of posts about narrative-based innovation, we’ll cover why we think stories should serve as the foundation for exploring new concepts and ideas at every step. (If you missed the first installment of this series, you can read it here.)
Story is the best way to generate, evaluate and communicate complex experiences
Stories are the basis for how we learn. Previous generations have always passed down important information to the next generation through stories. We apply these same storytelling principles to create a deeper understanding and empathy with customers to solve their problems and help organizations rally around that vision.
Stories convey vision without a limiting design
During the initial ideation and brainstorming phase of development, a well-crafted story can convey all required or desired points of interaction without unduly limiting a designer’s imagination.
Stories document emotional expectations
If a technical spec conveys how an experience should be physically coded and deployed and a functional spec conveys the interactions that code should facilitate, a story can be thought of as the emotional requirements documentation. What points in the user journey should elicit joy or delight? What points require thoughtful decision-making? Which offer relief?
Stories can present future innovations unconstrained by current limitations
The process of storytelling gives us the freedom to envision a radically disruptive user experience that may seem to be beyond currently available tools or resources. We believe that if you can create a compelling vision, technology eventually finds a way.
Storytelling forces prioritization
A story is a roadmap for the visual hierarchy to come in the final experience design. Those interface items or experiences that are critical to forwarding the narrative should, in theory, be featured more prominently in the final UX design. Those elements that are unnecessary to the story should be minimized or considered for removal entirely.
Storytelling exposes the holes
The simple act of clearly describing a user’s journey through an online experience forces the author to resolve abstractions in the requirements.
If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old…
Simply put, the act of creating and communicating a story that anyone understands and follow forces clarification of thought. In the design process, a compelling story inspires exploration of new ideas, untethered by perceived organizational or technical constraints.
Ultimately, if the story you craft cannot engage, inspire and motivate your customers and employees, the end product probably won’t either.