The way we tell stories may have shifted over the millennia, but the importance of storytelling to humanity has never wavered. The benefits of storytelling even extend to UX design. Not only does storytelling help create a narrative flow for users, it also helps the user feel like they have completed a journey. What’s more, storytelling stays with users longer than non-linear experiences, meaning users are more likely to retain information and memories about the experience than they do otherwise.
Before you begin crafting your UX narrative, make sure you understand your target audience. Conduct appropriate market research and then craft a user persona, the composite representation of the real person who will be using the product. The characteristics for each persona you create will represent a larger category of people, and you should use these characteristics to guide the story you are creating with your design.
To help guide your narrative thinking, here are the six main components of storytelling and how they can fit into your next UX design project:
Uncover your reason. Every good story has a reason or purpose behind it: to educate, to amuse, to evoke a feeling. The same thought needs to be put into UX design. What is the ultimate goal of the product or service your design is supporting? Start with the “why” behind what you are creating. This will help guide your storytelling rationale.
Decide on a hero. A story is nothing without a main character, a hero that guides the plot. It can be tempting to think of the brand or product you are creating as the hero to the customer’s sidekick, but the reality is the end user of your design is the protagonist, and your product or service helps them achieve their goals.
Solve the problem. Without a conflict, a story is merely a string of random incidents. UX design, like a good story, needs a problem to solve. Think about the pain points your user may be experiencing and then brainstorm on ways to help them.
Build a structure. Stories typically are formed around three parts: a beginning, a middle and an end. You can do the same with your UX design. The beginning is the recruitment phase, when you acquire your user; the middle is retention, when the customer uses your product; and the end is recovery, when the user moves to advocating for your product or brand.
Create awareness. Good stories evoke feelings, whether they be joy or sorrow, laughter or fear. The same holds true for UX design, which needs to create feelings of relief, comfort, and trustworthiness for customers.
Pay it forward. Before writing, beloved tales were passed down verbally. We still remember the most popular of these stories today—the analog world’s version of a viral moment. Good UX design should also promote sharing. If you’ve created a tool, product, or service that easily and seamlessly solves user problems, they are more likely to recommend that experience to others, creating a more modern viral moment.