Storytelling for UX designers

13 sierpnia 2018

As UX designers a central element of our work is advocating for problems you need to solve. Every meeting is an opportunity to advocate for users who use our digital products every day.
To advocate for users Vivienne Kay recommends in an article using storytelling techniques to persuade our teammates and stakeholders.

Kay points out that UX designers would have more impact if they incorporated storytelling techniques into the design process. Storytelling techniques can range from incorporating narrative arcs to framing real-world experiences, to including anecdotes, user quotes or using figurative language to bring the data to life.
As IDEO Design director Jenn Maer says, "the brain secretes oxytocin after hearing a character-based story. Oxytocin encourages cooperation, because if you want someone to support your cause, make the story more human-centered.”
Kay explains that a UX designer who generates empathy for the problems of real-world users is a designer who can motivate the team to solve these problems. And storytelling techniques provide a method to achieve this goal.

Kay gives us three techniques to incorporate storytelling into the design process:
1. Sharing the user's voice with data and research
2. Creating people
3. Share wireframes

Share the user's voice with data and research

There is no substitute for a powerful piece of data or first-hand research from surveys or interviews.
To bring this data to life in front of a group, add several user quotes about the product or feature you're focusing on.

With a phrase or two, your data comes to life including the voice of your users. Imagine a statistic followed by a phrase from a user who endorses it. That has a more persuasive power than statistical data per se. Also imagine that the quote contains an emotional description of a moment of frustration. This moment suddenly becomes a story in a presentation. And that story has a character with real emotions, struggles, triumphs and goals. And that character's voice becomes a tool to create empathy and motivate teams to solve real problems.
If you want to give it even more impact, you can use fragments of audio and/or video from real users. Look for quotes that are succinct but have an emotional call. They describe a problem or a pain point and explain the impact they have on your workflow or your experience with that product or functionality.

Create people

People can be valuable tools for building empathy and sharing context with your team. But without real-world scenarios, people quickly fall into metaphorical faces. When people don't have real workflows they look like fake characters that are created from a pile of assumptions. Unfortunately this is often true.

An alternative to people is to draw real workflows based on data and observational research. The best for these cases are the customer journeys maps.
The journey maps can be shared and printed for all team members to see.

Share wireframes

Wireframes are fun to make and equally exciting to receive. Wireframes are the crystallization of research and the manifestation of a deep thought on a given problem. They show the possibility of how a future product can look, feel and function. In high fidelity wireframes, they show exactly what a product will look like after it is built, which can motivate product managers and engineers.
Wireframes depend on the frame and presentation. If you include quotes in your journey maps and presentation you have half the work done.
If you present it to an audience, take your time to remind your audience how your designs attempt to solve real-life problems. You might start the presentation with a quote and some facts to remind your audience why they should be concerned about solving this problem.

If you are showing an improved version of the current workflow, you may want to compare the old version with the new designs. This comparison shows a history of past and future that gives you the opportunity to show if your designs are more usable, faster and more valuable.

These strategies of telling stories about the design process and incorporating the user's voice along the way can transform a wireframe into a compelling narrative that excites the team and brings them together to solve specific problems.