The Strides of Storytelling in UX
Everyone loves a good story!
From fairytales to biographies a good story is what gets us hooked. “Then what happened?” that’s the key question every creator aims to create in the mind of their audience. But what exactly consists of a great story? And how does it come into play in UX?
That’s exactly what I’ll walk you through in this article. So tighten your seatbelts cuz it’s about to be bumpyyyy riiideeeee.
Your Average User
If we talk about your average user, most of them aren’t viewing facts and design aesthetics on your website. They’re looking for something to relate to — a story.
This is also where storyboards come into play. “How exactly is your product/service going to help the user?” That’s what you should be focusing on.
Your average user is looking for a story to connect with on your website much more than just viewing facts and reading content. In fact, conversion rate experts claim that:
“You cannot have a page that’s too long — only one that’s too boring.”
So when you’re starting to design your digital touch-points, put storytelling at the top priority. What’s my user going to do here? How does this help them? What am I leading the user towards?
How does storytelling work?
Our minds love making connections. The better story you give to your users, the easier it’ll be for them to make that connection. Let me explain with an example:
“The Dancing Train”
After reading this title your mind automatically assumed that there’s a train that’s having a great time and dancing around or may the people in them are having a party. Right? That’s how our brains connect the dots to form a connection.
Daniel Kahneman, in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” talked about two ways our minds make connections:
- Temporal Sequence: Everything happens in a linear sequence
- Casual Connection: When one event causes another event to happen
The bottom line is our minds use stories to understand complex and abstract concepts. But it’s not as easy as it seems. Writing a good story involves capturing your audience’s emotional appeal. That’s the tricky part.
So here are four strategies to help you build better stories in your UX journey:
- Choose your stage
- Do some homework
- Create your content
- Talk in your user’s language
Choose your stage
A fish can never climb a tree and a lion can never soar in the skies.
Similarly, the first thing you need to be an effective storyteller is the right stage. Most designers make the mistake of assuming the industry is the same as your stage. Your stage is where you thrive so it needs a strong ‘why?’ In one of her articles, Marli Mesibov added a very simple equation that can help designers like you and me find our genre of storytelling.
“We want to be the _____ of __________.”
Here’s an example of an ice cream company:
“We want to be the Tesla of the Dairy industry. That means we want to be known for providing the most innovative ice flavors with the best quality worldwide.”
Note: When setting the stage for your product, it needs to be agreed upon across departments and hierarchy.
Do some homework
Before you actually start writing, it’s critical to evaluate your user’s needs as well. The best way to find out is to research them directly and find their needs and wants. Let’s walk through an example.
Let’s say you have a Bubble Tea delivery app and your start noticing a downward trend in your loyal customers. So you ask your UXR team to investigate. After multiple interviews and surveys, they come back with insights that most of the customers had no way to input their discount codes in the mobile app. This was creating a lot of friction with the users.
Here’s the problem that your UXR team comes up with:
Based on your findings from user research, you can now know what your users are expecting. With that, you can come up with ways to improve your storytelling experience so that it caters to your user's needs.
Create your content
Now that you’ve set up your stage, it’s time to start planning your experience. It’s important to understand that when I say ‘Content’, I’m not just talking about words and visual elements. Your entire digital experience has to be backed by:
- Descriptors: Describes what’s happening
- Context: Describes why should you care
For example, what does this text make you feel:
What will Jenny do now that her father has been killed in a tragic car crash?
There’s a high chance, you won’t be that hooked to it. Why? Because it has the descriptors but lacks context. Something like this would be more suited.
Jenny is your average 21 year old currently pursuing her bachelors from Harvard. However, her world was recently crumbled when her father, the only family member she had left, died in a fatal car crash.
Chances are you’ll find this approach a bit more engaging as a reader. That’s because here you have the descriptors and context. So when we’re building an experience we need to first provide some context and then use that to build a story around it.
Talk in your user’s language
Every industry has its own norms and lingo. You as a designer need to be absolutely adept in their language. Our primary goal when building digital experiences is to resonate with our uses. That can only be done when we talk in a language the users understand.
For example, if you’re working in the long-haul trucking industry, you’ll want to use terms and jargon that a major chunk of users are comfortable with and use frequently. When you don’t use the language your users use, you risk losing their attention.
Without their attention, no matter how good of a story you’ve made, it’ll never click.
Now, this is not an exhaustive list, we could talk a lot more about storytelling techniques in UX but hopefully, this would push you in the right direction. If you’re enjoyed reading this article, give me applause 👏 .
Well, that’s all I have for you today. If you’ve enjoyed reading this far, take a look at some of my other work::
Struggles of Creatives — The Dark Side of Design
“We’re hiring creative designers.” — Said every company ever.