How to use storyboards effectively in UX projects

Comic strip of steps - step 1 man building tower from blocks, step 2 wall covered with research notes, step 3 man sketching ideas for plot, step 4 zoom in on sketched comic strip
March 8, 2018 3:08 pm

How to use storyboards effectively in UX projects



‘A picture tells a thousand words’

This is certainly the case when it comes to storyboarding. UX designers, researchers and stakeholders need to be able to put themselves into the user’s shoes to consider how they might react and engage with a product. Relying on imagery over text, storyboards can be a really effective tool within UX to: help conceptualise designs, visualise user personas or needs, aid research design and, add validation to research findings. This article will explore how to create a storyboard for UX projects and why they are effective.

What is storyboarding?

Storyboarding in UX helps us to visually explore and predict a user’s experience with a particular product. Made up of a series of images, these conceptual illustrations can collate personas, user stories and constraints, and help us to create hypothesis for potential scenarios. The process of creating a storyboard allows us to narrate these potential journey and pitfalls and make sure they are front of mind.

How to create a storyboard

When creating a storyboard, it is important to keep the purpose front of mind; this can be done by outlining the objectives the storyboard aims to answer.

Goals:

Each storyboard needs to:
• Portray a user want, need or outcome
• Identify potential problems users may run into

Comic strip of steps - step 1 man building tower from blocks, step 2 wall covered with research notes, step 3 man sketching ideas for plot, step 4 zoom in on sketched comic strip

Steps to create a storyboad

Creating a storyboard:

1. First, you need to work out the structure of the story you are trying to tell. Thinking of your user journey, What path will your user take? How does it start? How does it end? And what will happen in-between?

2. Ensure you know who the customer is or what persona the storyboard relates to. Thinking of your audience, who are they? What do they need? Where would they use your product? When and why would they use it?

3. Devise a script and plot with a variety of scenarios your storyboard will develope. Thinking of one specific user journey, what are they trying to achieve? Can they achieve this?

4. Convey emotion in the storyboard to express pain points or frustrations at key points of the journey.

Why are they effective for UX projects?

Storyboards allow us to make informed decisions throughout the planning, execution, and delivery of user testing projects.

In the run-up to user testing, storyboarding can help us to:

Conceptualise a design before wireframing

When first formulating ideas on how a product should work, a storyboard can pave the way for a great, well thought out design. Rather than jumping straight into wireframing or prototyping, storyboarding is a useful tool for ironing out a design before it gets to that stage, minimising wasted time and money. No artistic skill, or programming knowledge is needed to storyboard, so there is the opportunity for involving the wider team in the process.

Enrich personas to understand user needs

Storyboards can help us to understand users by enriching our personas. By storyboarding predicated user journeys of different personas, alongside their needs, we can get an idea of how different kinds of customer might interact with the product. This then helps in the preparation of users sessions, as it means we can find the most relevant users to take part, and we can start to identify sticking points in the journey which different users may encounter, and therefore prepare for these outcomes during testing sessions.

Visualise the aims of a user testing session

As storyboards help us envision the user experience, they are an effective tool for mapping out the stages the user may go through in a testing session. This helps us to work out how we can meet our project aims within a session, by writing the most effective scenarios and task questions to ensure we can gather the evidence to answer the research questions. Walking through a storyboard with project aims in mind can highlight areas where we might need to make changes to a session to more effectively meet our aims.

After testing a product, storyboards are still effective in helping us:

Present ideas to stakeholders

You’ve created a design, you’ve tested it, and now it’s time to share the evidence to make further improvements. Storyboards are an effective way to present ideas to stakeholders. This is because storyboards link facts and ideas with the audience’s experiences and emotions, providing a far more engaging, memorable and persuasive presentation. Sharing the evidence from testing by incorporating storyboards of the observed user experience, alongside your ideas of how to improve it, can provide a more convincing argument to your stakeholders.

Conclusion

Storyboards can be used to help conceptualise, complex and personal user experiences, by placing the researcher or stakeholder in to the users world. Using imagery over text to depict the scenario allows us to better understand the complex relationship between the user, the product, the journey they take and external factors such as emotion.
Whether storyboarding pre-research, to ensure your planned test session answers the research questions or post-research, to add wider context to findings, storyboards allow us to validate our thinking and make informed decisions with the user in-mind.