The concept, first developed at Walt Disney Studio today extends itself to being an inseparable process in driving user experience. Whether it’s software products, TV advertisements, radio jingle, movies, or any products we use.
We as humans relate and respond too well to stories. For or against, doesn’t matter. But we relate to stories. And we can consume the message better and communicate our feelings better if something is presented as a story.
In context of the software world, we seek user needs and then assess them. But it is quite easy to get lost in drawing software parallels to the technology we are trying to build to solve the user need. More often than not, our biased understanding of the functionality, features and the interface results into something that has enough gaps to become mediocre.
The real world user needs are best articulated in form of a story. You don’t need to be an artist or hire one, to do so. Just that the thought process should follow the philosophy and drive it through simple cartoons and sketches.
People spend lots of time building a real prototype and then try to convince the users (and themselves) that it is the best form of getting rapid feedback before building the system. It’s partially true. However, if we just squeeze in the storyboarding before the prototype, we will almost certainly spend less time later on not “inventing” a user need while prototyping.
I got my first chance to try my hand at storyboarding in HCI course at Stanford University. And I know what I had been missing as a discipline in my process of design. At first, I was not keen in displaying my artistry (or lack of it), but since the assignment rules threatened to shower less scores in absence of the artifact, I caved. And I am grateful for the book: Understanding Comics and the Stanford faculty to strongly attract me to the storyboard concept. The connection that I have achieved from user needs to storyboard to prototype to a semi-functional web application is quite encouraging.
Sharing a storyboard of mine
The sequence captures the morning of an IT professional in my network, whom I used as one of my subjects of observation:
I strongly recommend, as others do too…in embracing storyboards in your professional life. It is not only for designing user interfaces; it is useful in all aspects wherever there’s need to understand the real-world user better.