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Why stories are important in User Experience

It has been never easy for the stakeholders or the users to understand the complex flows with no previous context of the product. To pitch the idea or to sell a product it’s very important that your target audiences resonates with the concept and are able to relate the product story in their experiences.

I happen to come across this article “The Use of Stories in User Experience Design - Why Storytelling is so important in UX” from International Journal of Human Computer interaction & the authors have focused on the storytelling concepts & why stories are important in User Experience Design.

The focus today for storytelling is usually at the end of the product development process where companies need to tell their potential customers that their products exist. However, it is vital to have stories and storytelling from the initial stages of the design process. If it is used from the start of the process then at the end, the product will speak for itself.

What are stories?

Stories are the powerful tool that defines the design elements. They are very specific and they have flesh out the characters and settings in detail. Stories elaborate dramatic elements and it has well formed plot. These dramatic plots would keep the users engaged and focused on the stories and the details.

How stories help designers?

Stories help designers to make an Informed Decisions.

For example: Knowing that, a user might pursue a part time college and would get only 4 hours a week for training can help an institution or professors make an informed decision regarding content and structure of the program.

If designers know the environment or the place, then they can address the functionalities which are not dependent on that particular environment and users won’t have any issues using those functionalities in any environment or situation.

Another example, if the designers understand that an environment is crowded, loud, and fast paced, they can address those sensitivities through systems that do not rely on audio feedback yet provide quick access to system information.

Eg: Iphone’s face ID functionality


5 Important Elements of stories

  • Fleshed out characters - Who know their values, fears, weaknesses, abilities, skills and goals.

  • Detailed Settings A story to be compelling to the audience, it should have all ******information so that users could situate themselves into that place and can closely relate to the story.

  • Goals & Obstacles - Are the main reason why the product is being made or developed. What unique solution should be provided that users could choose over others.

  • Motivation - With compelling stories, it is very critical that characters should be motivated. As users would want to know the reason behind their actions and behavior.

  • Drama - The element that makes a story engaging and interesting is Drama. It gives user a sense that something is at stake and it reveals the characters core values as well.


Benefits of using stories throughout the process

  • A focus point for customers or the users. Stories let users focus on the experiences rather than unfamiliar technologies, which prompts more accurate and detailed feedback.

  • Due Diligence ensures that the research homework for having necessary effective solutions has been done.

  • Stories also sometimes Prompts for innovations, that means, if thought about a specific user performing a task in detail and asking “How will my product or a system will help at each point?” This way of thinking prompts innovations into the features and functionalities.

  • Storyboarding sessions across multidisciplinary teams Establishes a shared vision, as stories are understandable across different cultures and languages.

  • More the Compelling stories, the more will be the compelling designs, stories can be used as a reference document or a template to ensure that the team has done proper research and thought through all the elements required for a successful product.

  • Another critical factor of the development process is Management buy-in, where all the people involved in marketing, planning, development can understand and agree on the same goal.

  • Once the product is ready to launch in the market, stories are helpful for the marketing teams as well to create flyers and other marketing materials as Starting point for other product externals.


Two major type of stories

  • Fictional story can be used when designers are designing a solution to a problem in a new space. That means, designing a solution to a problem that even customers don’t know yet that they have. For example: Try describing the usefulness of mobile phones devices or the internet back then to people who never anticipated that they would need those devices.

  • Customer stories have two different approaches. One is using a single real story of a consumer and it is known that there are hardly any differences in practices between the customers, or visiting multiple customers and collecting many stories across common subjects and creating a meta story.

“Customer stories may require more planning than fictional stories”.

Stories are a very powerful tool to understand the overall user experience of the system and they are understandable, appreciated and empathized by everyone.
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