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Storytelling: A Way to Improve User Experience


Everyone of us has heard a story before. Stories command attention and draw persuasion. They can be deep, persuasive, and of course, enjoyable. A life without stories would be a life with only road signs, calculators, numbers, spreadsheets, graphs, and short sentences that would even bore even Alexa and Siri. They have been with us since the dawn of communication, from cave walls to tales around the fire. If we recall we might find it interesting and our attention is drawn to the person who tells the story and this might get overwhelming sometimes.


Designers can take the skills of storytelling and build an atmosphere of empathy and make user needs and pain points memorable. Today the information around us is fragmented across media channels and delivered in fast-changing technology. We have lost our personal touch to find an emotional connection that makes us care. Storytelling puts these fragments together into a common thread. We can make a connection with the real people around us. 

According to Dan Gruen of IBM, stories are ‘a design communication tool that transcends cultural divides of multidisciplinary teams and intertwines a technology with its user’s goals’.

What is Storytelling?

Storytelling is a way to capture your user’s attention. Stories can be happy, sad, thrilling, horror, and educational. A story can boost someone’s imagination and uplifts creativity and add more inspiration. It enables us to take others on a journey, to galvanize your team, and build bridges of understanding together. Making the use of narration, analogies, metaphors, memories, and fiction we can provoke an audience to think and engage with our designs. 

Stories are how we remember. We tend to forget bullet points.

(Robert McKee on HBR).

Using bullet points into our design makes it quite boring and monotonous; it makes as little of a good story as multiple isolated touch-points don’t make a good overall experience of a product or service.

Applying this method of storytelling techniques and methods helps us in UX Design and the process in many aspects. This designed product/experience can then offer meaning and emotion for its users. The professionals that are currently using the power of narrative in their projects are doing it in a different dimension.

As a designer, many of us might use UX storytelling methods when we think about UX design. Some of the noticeable ones are User persona, Scenarios, User research, Storyboards, Customer journeys, Story maps.

A compelling story can shape how other people see you. Their perception of you will determine whether they’ll read your great content, comment on your blog posts, refer others to your blog or your social media channels, hire you, or buy from you. 

Neil Patel

Why does storytelling matter in UX design?

Storytelling matters a lot in real-life products. It helps in adding the users into the conversion funnel and transforming it to our potential customers. GrooveHQ increased their blog engagement by 300% with the use of storytelling can be found here. Storytelling provides clarity and memorability to our readers rather than with blocks of text paragraphs or making bullet points for conveying the information. Here are some of the points listed to know why it matters:

Stories make users entertain

When we hear a good story, a story that resonates with us, a hormone called oxytocin tends to increase. Oxytocin boosts good feelings like trust, compassion, and empathy. It motivates us to work with others and influences our social behavior. If we infuse storytelling into your product design, your users would more likely love your product, become your advocate, and spread your story.

Attaches the bond with the readers

We find the story totally overwhelming and we might try to finish the novel in just one day without sleeping. Well, that’s what gets us through in reshaping the decision we make and reinforces the readers.

Capture attention

With the average human attention span dwindling to less than that of a goldfish, stories are a way to break people free of distractions, draw them in, and get them to pay attention to you.

Digest better

With the help of storytelling we can digest information much better. A block of paragraphs and bullet points seems an old fashioned way of presenting content to the readers. So, this can be a better way to convey and become noticeable.

Inspires to act

This is one of the powerful aspects we have in storytelling. We may have read a book, watched a video, or listened to someone speaking and we were inspired to action because of the stories they told? There also may be times when we cuddle and the emotions behind them are coupled within, this also may send us a spine and give us goosebumps. This can be powerful if we do this right.

The Fundamentals of Storytelling

We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.

 John Gottschall

There are some of the essences of things that need to be incorporated into the act of storytelling. We will go through some of them:

Make Structures

Our story needs to be created with proper structuring in mind. We need to make a connection mapping plot in between the scenarios we are navigating into. There should be an obvious start, middle, and end to the story. This can be a video explanation, introductory art, call to action, or something more interactive scrolling parallax with characters and animation into it.

Add Relevancy

The content from our design to the copy must captivate our visitors. This needs to add a touch of relevancy to the users’ mind. They should be realizing this is something that matches their lives. If it’s not relevant to their lives, they have no reason to stick around.

Transparent reasoning

We need to make clear transparency on what the users are going to get from the story, what we are telling about. Why is this worth a wait to watch and use? These questions must be answered without the users to form a dilemma and questions in their heads.

Become Authentic

Is our story true to us? Are we putting up a facade, or writing something that doesn’t make relevant to us or our brand, our users will be able to tell. The story we make should cover these answers.  

Cutdown complexity

We need to make our story straight simple to the point. Cutting down the extra fat which can make the users think and make the use of their brainpower can lead it another way. No matter how good images, illustrations, narrations, page, or interactivity is used if users don’t find and understand the underlying value of it we must be willing to remove it. Less is more.

How can we use them?

There are millions of ways to tell a story. Storytelling can make us move. They can be taken from watching, reading, and listening. Storytelling is a multi-faceted experience, meaning you can combine stimuli to weave together a story stronger than the sum of its parts.

There may be a memorable good movie you have watched. There may be some colors, words, sounds, music and faces, and people.

Tempo and pace

We need to be steady and gradual to pace up the conversation and scenario we are using. The questions are, Are we going to move quickly in topics or will we choose to be more relaxed and organized with a better sequence? The pace, context, and speed needs to be adapted to the characteristics of users we are trying to focus on as well.

Voice and tone

We also need to choose the voice and tone we are using. Are we having a business-level conversation to express our story or use a casual tone to communicate and take users through the story? This also purely depends on the type of relationship you want your customers to have with your brand, and you’ll want it to be consistent across different touchpoints.

Adding fun with Gamification

Gamification involves the process of taking our product and adding the game elements to it. Something like progress points, rewards, social unity, and a competitive approach to our website. This totally works well to enhance our story because it engages visitors in a way passive design can’t achieve it. 

You can still learn about ways to add gamification in an article here.

Language, Words and Sentence Structuring

It’s easier to tell an engaging story with suitable words and a better one would be with pictures whenever possible. But we can use Illustrations, images, videos, and words in crafting our storytelling better. 

We can make the story stand out by using words like instantaneous, gradually, abrupt, critical, slistic. We can make our sentences shorter and more conversational rather than using technical jargon so that the users will be able to understand our complex wording terms. Also, we need to bear in mind about the brand story and personality of our product in conveying this message.

Adding better interactivity 

We can still implement adding some interactivity to our design elements. This can be a smooth parallax website with some storytelling in action or maybe video in playing the sequence of the story. We still can make the use of illustration to represent and mimic our users’ representation.


One of the good examples of storytelling with parallax can be found in thebestreason. Where the interactivity meets storytelling.

Conclusion

Storytelling may not come naturally to most of the UX designers but behind every design decision, there is an equal opportunity to persuade and captivate our users so that they can feel the impression and memorable experience in using our product. There is still a lot that goes deep within storytelling, we have just scratched the surface.

Ultimately storytelling has a lot of benefits for users and business itself. This enhances engagement, uplifts user experience, and makes our users become our brand advocates. 

When it comes to design, it helps us speak to your users and create something that makes your users’ life easier and delightful. This is where we unlock the true beauty of design which is not only on the aesthetics but it lies inside the solution of our product.

Reference Reading:

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/persuasive-storytelling/

https://hbr.org/2003/06/storytelling-that-moves-people


About the Author

Ishan is a Product Designer at Leapfrog Technology Inc. You can reach him out on his twitter handle ishan02016.


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