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What is Storytelling and how can I apply it to User Experience?

Maria Pretel
December 12, 2023

Storytelling is a communication technique that consists of telling a story in order to capture the attention and interest of the audience. This technique has been used for centuries to convey messages and teach lessons and is very effective in connecting with people emotionally.

In the field of user experience (UX) research, storytelling can also be a very valuable tool that can be used for multiple aspects. In this article, we are going to focus on the application of storytelling to UX research and UX design:

In terms of applying storytelling to UX research (User Experience Research), it can be an effective strategy to communicate research findings in a more impactful and understandable way.
Just as it is for user experience design, for example, by telling a story through a product or service, it is possible to create a deeper connection with users and make them feel more involved in the process.

For example, imagine you are creating a mobile app for a travel company. Instead of simply displaying a list of destinations, you can use storytelling to tell travel and adventure stories that inspire users to explore new places. This can make the app more engaging and can help users see the company as a trusted source of travel inspiration and advice and may end up as the preferred booking company.

Storytelling is not only a powerful tool for conducting UX Research, but it also serves as a great resource for designers in their creative process. By storytelling, designers can immerse themselves in the end user's perspective, understanding their needs, wants, and challenges. This approach allows them to create solutions that are not only aesthetically appealing but also meaningful and relevant to those who will use them. By building a narrative around the user experience, designers can guide their design process more effectively, ensuring that each element contributes to a cohesive and compelling story that resonates with their audience.

In addition, it can also serve as a strategy for conducting and reporting the results of a design process research. There are some necessary guidelines for incorporating storytelling into the UX research process:

ilustración de una mujer seleccionando varios perfiles de personas. Audience segmentation abstract concept vector illustration. Customer segmentation, digital marketing tool, target audience collection, targeted message, digital ad campaign abstract metaphor.

1. Identifying the Audience:

Before you begin, understand who the recipients of your story are. Are they designers, developers, product managers, or executives? Tailor your story to be relevant and meaningful to your audience.

ilustration of a team of three people looking at a target and talking about work

2. Define a Purpose:

Clearly establish the purpose of your story. Are you trying to highlight a specific problem, identify improvement opportunities, or demonstrate the impact of a proposed change? What questions need to be answered in the report? What is the priority? Defining the purpose will help you structure your narrative effectively.

ilustration of 5 people waving hi dressed in yellow and purple tones3. Characters and Context:

Introduce users as the main characters in your story. Create detailed profiles that include demographic information, needs, goals, and frustrations. Provide context about the environment they are in to convey information more easily and be understood clearly and simply.

three people arguing about a problem and trying to find a solution. 4. Conflict and Resolution:

Create a conflict that illustrates a specific problem related to the user experience. Perhaps this conflict is about the specific aspect that has initiated the research. It could be a big research question. Then, present the research as the path to resolving the conflict or answering the main question. Highlight how the research findings offer solutions or improvements.

illustration of a woman working with different cards and organizing them5. Temporal sequence:

Organize your research story in a way that is easy to follow. One way could be chronologically, however, it's not the only one. We can also order the story following a non-linear structure, adding mystery and tension. It could also be with a flashback structure. Within this last structure, the main results will be presented at the beginning and then explain the entire process and complementary analysis that has been carried out to make such statements exposed at the beginning.

a compilation of several graphs in different colors6. Visual Elements:

Visual elements are of great relevance and help when the audience understands the research results. Use graphs, diagrams, and other visual elements to support your points. Images can make the story more attractive and easy to understand. The more text, the harder it will be to read and therefore understand the report.

7. Emotions and empathy:

Integrate emotional elements to connect with your audience and help them perceive the problem. Show how users feel in certain situations and how the proposed improvements can have a positive impact on them.

8. Understandable language:

Avoid excessive use of technical jargon. Use clear and understandable language so that all team members, regardless of their experience, can understand and appreciate the story.

two people standing at a crossroads. Illustration. 9. Iteration and Continuous Improvement:

Refine your story as you gather more data and feedback. UX research is a continuous process, and your narrative should reflect the evolution of user understanding.

With all these aspects, we ensure that the story is coherent and easy to follow since we don't want to confuse users with a story that jumps from one topic to another senselessly. It's important to have a clear storyline and maintain a logical structure so that the story is easy to follow.

 

By incorporating storytelling elements into your UX research, you can make the information more accessible and engaging, facilitating understanding and the adoption of suggested changes

Conclusions

In summary, storytelling is a powerful communication technique that can enhance the user experience by creating a deeper connection with users and making them feel more involved in the process. By using images and multimedia and maintaining a logical and coherent structure, it is possible to tell compelling and relevant stories that guide users through a process or task in a more interesting and motivating way.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that storytelling is not suitable for all products or services. Some may be more suited to a more technical or informative approach, while others may benefit more from a more emotive or personal story. It is important to assess the needs and target audience to determine which approach is most appropriate for a particular product or service and, therefore, use storytelling in a balanced manner.

Resources of Interest

To learn more about how to use storytelling in UX design, there are many resources available online and in books. Some examples include:

cover of the book

The book "Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design" by Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks.

cover of the book "the art of story telling"

The book "The Art of Storytelling" by John Walsh.

The book "Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals" by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic.

And the article "Storytelling: The importance of knowing how to tell stories in UX" by Paulina Pimentel in the Medium magazine.

 

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