Some of the best pieces of literature and television have complex plots that boggle the mind. Consider the Game of Thrones television series, for instance, which spanned 8 seasons and contained at least 52 significant characters. Or Lord of the Rings, a plot so rich that its author, J.R.R. Tolkien actually created an entire book just of his characters’ genealogies. When wrangling complicated works, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything in your head.
And here’s a secret: no writer or director keeps massive plots in their head. It’s all written down. Creativity thrives in organization, even if that sounds counterintuitive. So if you’re a UX designer or product manager who wants to understand your customers better and design great experiences, you’ll find that harnessing the methods of successful visionaries will yield similarly excellent results.
The most common tool these creative titans use is storyboarding.
We’ll walk you through why a technique that’s primarily used in film, television, and writing is actually a tremendous asset for creating incredible products.
What is a storyboard?
A storyboard is a shot-by-shot breakdown of every plot point. The end result looks something like a comic book, minus the dialogue. It’s a visual representation of a journey. It often contains notes about each step of the journey to accompany each picture of the storyboard.
Why you should use storyboards in UX design
Storyboarding brings the user journey to life. Here’s why that matters:
Storyboards allow you to show and tell
It’s much easier to show a picture of a crocodile than to try and explain what a crocodile looks like. Similarly, it’s much easier to show how your user will interact with your product than to just describe it. It’s a faster and cleaner way of presenting information, and it’s much easier to absorb.
Everyone can see your vision
When large teams are working on the same project or product, it’s difficult for everyone to see the same vision. Unless, of course, you show them that vision. When you use a storyboard, there’s less room for misunderstanding or individual interpretation. Which means you can spend less time explaining and more producing.
Storyboards help you get buy-in from stakeholders
There’s a reason home design shows use 3D models to present their ideas to homeowners: it’s one thing to say you’re going to rip out the wall between the living and dining room and quite another thing to show the remodel. The same goes with stakeholders. You can explain the new check-out process for hours, or you can present a handful of visuals. When stakeholders can see your ideas in action, they’re much more comfortable giving their approval and lending their resources to help.
Pinpoint errors ahead of time
With storyboarding, you can quickly pinpoint any flaws in your design. You can fix them on paper long before you need to fix them in the product, and that means saving time and money.
How to make a storyboard
Now that we’ve convinced you storyboarding is a great idea, here’s how to create your own:
1. Analyze your data
You’ve likely already done a fair amount of research for your product like focus groups, customer interviews, and surveys. This is the data you’ll lean on when you start storyboarding instead of relying on conjecture.
2. Choose a focus
Different types of users will interact with your product in different ways. For your storyboard, just focus on one use case and one user journey at a time. There are no limits to how many storyboards you can create, so if you want to create a storyboard for every use case, go for it.
3. Explain your character
Who’s using the product? What kind of solution is the customer looking for? By coming up with user personas who seem like real people, it’s easier to create a believable storyboard that solves real problems.
4. List important touchpoints
Some people prefer to list every point of interaction, but if you start with the important touchpoints first, they’ll help guide the rest of your user journey. It’s smart to start off with a list instead of jumping straight into the storyboard. Otherwise, you may need to move boxes around down the road.
5. Show the product context
Say you’re developing a translation app. In your storyboard, you may show a recent high school graduate taking a trip to Morocco. You might show the recent graduate packing, arriving in Morocco, and then attempting to purchase something at a bazaar. Next, you’ll show how the graduate uses the app to translate. Storyboards tell the entire story so you can see how the product will work in the real world.
How Lucidspark can help you create storyboards
Perhaps the biggest drawback to storyboards is that, until now, they’ve mostly been a pencil and paper affair. Make a mistake, and you’ll need to erase and reconfigure. Or, if you’ve attempted to storyboard with basic computer software, you’ve probably noticed that most solutions are clunky, have a steep learning curve, and aren’t easily shareable.
Lucidspark is different. Here’s why it’s a great choice for UX storyboards:
Makes it easy to get started
Lucidspark guides you through the storyboarding process with an easy-to-use storyboard template. Easily rearrange your ideas, save automatically, and stamp out frustration.
Facilitates freeform creativity
Lucidspark doesn’t get in the way of creativity—it promotes it. Often, designers spend a lot of time getting software to work correctly instead of fostering ideation. With Lucidspark, documenting your storyboard is intuitive and seamless with features like online sticky notes and freehand drawing.
Provides a truly collaborative workspace
Getting remote and distributed teams on the same page can be a hassle. While you’re storyboarding in Lucidspark, other team members can contribute ideas in real time. Plus, there are ways to communicate directly within the solution through comments, @mentions, and chat. It’s easy and fun to collaborate on a storyboard and it encourages a sense of ownership. This kind of real-time storyboard creation helps ensure everyone understands the larger vision.
You may even wish to present a first draft of your storyboard to the team and challenge them to identify creative enhancements to the user experience. Take the translation app mentioned before. Maybe the app could also be used as a currency converter. Storyboards make the product come alive and this allows your team to get innovative.
Takes your project from ideation to delivery
Once you have your storyboard ready, you can create a user story map and other assets to start taking action and building out the UX. In fact, the storyboard can even be used to help determine the most important features of a product and dependencies. Even though storyboarding may seem like an additional step, it’s well worth the extra time spent to make your product and the user journey come to life.
Now that you know how to storyboard, try it for yourself using our storyboard template in Lucidspark.Try it now
Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.
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