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Using Storytelling in UX Design

Updated on September 25, 2023
Posted on May 20, 2019 by Matt Stewart

Using Storytelling in UX Design

Steve Jobs once said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” Jobs was a gifted storyteller himself and sold the vision of the future to the modern world of technology users.

There are many areas in which UX design can benefit from effective storytelling, from the visual storytelling that helps graphic designers set up a landing page to the narrative logic that engineers use to create navigable web sites. However, we sometimes overlook a part of the UX design process that can benefit the most from storytelling. It is in the same place Steve Jobs used it when he sold the iPhone to the world – the pitch.

When you come to your team members, coworkers, and executives with a new idea to improve your current project, you can tell a story that helps sell your plan. You can also use the elements that make a story effective, such as strong characters and a compelling narrative, to make your team members empathize with users and find the best possible solution to the issues users face.

How Does Storytelling Help Pitch a UX Design?

Before diving into how we can use storytelling to pitch an idea to team members, let's take a moment to understand the ways in which story telling can help communicate ideas.

Since storytelling is such an integral part of the human experience, things such as character-driven arcs and narrative structures that we are familiar with produce a physiological response in our brains. Hearing emotional, resonant stories can release dopamine, which helps listeners remember the situation. A story that is centered around a human experience can also trigger the release of oxytocin, which helps motivate cooperation.

Let’s look at three specific strategies that you can use to elicit strong responses and get the best results from your pitch.

1. Craft Better Personas

Creating user personas is a basic tenet of UX design and one that is taught in almost every entry-level design class. It is common for a good reason: It would be misguided to begin designing your website without considering your end users and their expectations.

Unfortunately, the ubiquity of the practice has led to its stagnation. Too often are the personas presented to a UX design team little more than a collection of guessed motivators tied to a stock photo of the target demographic. These simple personas may be useful to asses the needs of a given set of users, but will they help identify the problems those users encounter? Probably not.

Using Journey Maps to Understand Problems

One excellent way to get more out of the personas you have put together for your UX team is to create journey maps for those personas. A journey map will take your hypothetical users through the process of encountering an issue that would lead them to utilize your product or service. Use storytelling in your journey map by highlighting opportunities to improve usability and highlight pain points. Data, research links or, even better, quotations from real users are a great way to give the journey map a human touch.

Journey maps are also great tools to use in presentations and videos. They can help you guide your audience to a greater understanding of why your users are visiting your website and how your ideas can help improve that experience.

2. Use Research and Data to Share Users’ Voices

Taking the time to go over market research and user data is another fundamental part of UX that can be improved by storytelling. As vital as hard numbers are in assessing an understanding of how users are interacting with your design, a presentation that relies simply on these numbers can become stale and unengaging for your audience.

The best way to improve data presentation is to include quotations from actual users. Find ones that include a discussion of a real problem a user has encountered or a goal he/she hopes your product can help achieve. If you can incorporate video or audio clips from customers into a video, it makes it even stronger. This not only humanizes the information you are presenting but will help engineers better understand the pathways and problems a user interacts with.

How to Find User Opinions

It may seem like a challenge to find quotations or clips of real customers talking about using your product, but in reality, your company probably has access to a wealth of this already.

Forums, product reviews, emails, and calls to your call center are all great places to find real quotations from real users. Your sales team might have a binder of difficult questions they’ve received. You can also ask to interview users to find answers to specific usability questions. Look for things you can pull out of these conversations that illustrate the issue that you are concerned with.

3. Building Better Wireframes

A well-designed wireframe can be a great way to demonstrate how your UX design will function as a final product. This makes it a great way to motivate all members for a project well before it can be presented to users. As useful as wireframes already are, you can make them even more effective by incorporating some of the storytelling strategies from above.

Using quotes from real users will create a greater understanding for why your wireframe progresses the way that it does. Even just a brief introductory quote when you introduce your wireframe can help your audience understand why you approached it in it the manner that you did.

Storytelling can even be of service if you are simply updating an existing wireframe. The narrative of old vs. new is very compelling, and showing how an old version created problems that the new version resolves is a great way to get a pitch off the ground.

Using Images to Communicate Wireframe Storytelling

Even if you are sharing your wireframe using images, you can still include storytelling techniques to help communicate your idea. Notes can include quotes or customer problem points, and many wireframe tools feature software tools to help share these issues.

Storytelling doesn’t stop at the pitch in UX design, however. Storytelling can also help you reach your customers and provide a seamless UX experience once they find their way to your site. Read more at The Creative Momentum to learn more about how to perfect your UX design process.


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