Storytelling & UX: How to Improve User Experience by Telling a Story

The goal of user experience design is to create an efficient and pleasant online experience for users. Every brand has a story to tell—and that story can be told through...

Anissa Maligat
Anissa Maligat November 12, 2018

The goal of user experience design is to create an efficient and pleasant online experience for users. Every brand has a story to tell—and that story can be told through compelling content and strategic UX design.

Just like the stories we read in fairy tale books and epic novels, a UX story should have an exposition, which is when you ease the user into the story by introducing them to the fundamental elements of your brand; a climax, which is when the user ultimately makes the decision to patronize your products or services; and finally, a resolution, which is everything that happens during and after a conversion.

UX designers can inject various UX storytelling elements—including pop-ups, blog posts, calls-to-action, and push notifications—into their mobile and web apps. These elements can make the user journey easier and persuade leads and prospects to convert.

The Key Difference Between UX Design & Storytelling.

While UX design and storytelling definitely have a lot in common, they don’t always see eye to eye on how goals should be achieved.

Writers create conflict in order to challenge the characters in the story. They spend a lot of time making sure that the pathway to the end goal isn’t always easy, for these obstacles help the protagonist grow.

On the other hand, UX designers aim to minimize conflicts and create a positive experience for users as they interact with your website or app. The easier it is to navigate around your site or app, the more satisfied the user will be.

How Do You Add Compelling Stories to Your UX Design?

UX designers create experiences with the end-users and customers in mind. Writers, on the other hand, narrate the events that the main characters experience. When the two disciplines are fused, the protagonists become the website’s users and potential customers.

Creating effective UX storytelling involves some key steps. These include the following:

Identify your target audience & your brand’s purpose.

The first step to creating UX stories revolves around knowing your target audience and your brand or product’s purpose. It’s essential to find out who your target users are before making your UX story—and this can be achieved through market and user research. Once you’ve gathered enough information on your target audience, you can create a variety of user personas or fictitious characters. These personas symbolize a group of individuals who might use your app, site, or product in similar ways.

Here are some of the major questions that a writer/designer can ask to get personal with users:

Who is the protagonist or main character of the story?

Go deeper than just getting to know their real or full names. The creators of the story should ask questions that will contribute to the personality of the protagonist. Maybe they can ask about what the users do for fun, where they live, or what their daily routines are. Doing so can create a clearer picture of who the designers and writers are working with.

What are their motivations?

It’s important to know what motivates your protagonist so you won’t miss the best part of the story. This will also allow you to understand their actions and the reasons behind those actions.

What are their hopes, dreams, and fears?

Every person’s personality is like an onion. Underneath the layer of motivations are a set of hopes, dreams, and fears that give an individual a myriad of emotions. Uncover them and you’ll understand what influences their acts and decisions.

What are their struggles?

Identifying the struggles of your protagonist is what makes a story interesting because these are the reasons behind every character’s growth. Without this, the story will definitely fall short and will look flat. This is also where your product can be inserted. It’s either you make your product the hero or make the protagonist who is using it the hero. Either way, as long as it’s smoothly incorporated, you won’t have any problem.

Aside from identifying your target audience, you also need to understand your brand, product, or service’s purpose. Simply put, you have to understand the higher purpose of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Thus, it’s great to begin your UX story creation with the “why” question.

Create a compelling UX story by utilizing plot and conflict.

Next, you need to utilize plot and conflict in your UX story. But what exactly do these two elements mean in terms of UX storytelling?

In a typical story, authors use the plot to chronicle a chain of events through a timeline. But in UX stories, the “plot” represents the user’s journey as they use your brand, product, or service. Keep in mind that the circumstances surrounding their interaction with what you’re selling or offering can create tension and crisis as the user reaches the story’s end on many occasions.

Conflict in UX storytelling, on the other hand, revolves around your user’s problem and how they expect your product to solve that problem. Thus, you should have good insights on your user and their pain points in order to resolve any difficulties that they might encounter while using your product or service.

Add structure to your UX story.

Designers use the three-act structure to incorporate structural elements into their UX stories. The three-act structure has three elements: the beginning, the middle, and the end. These align well with the normal customer journey.

UX designers can utilize the three-act structure as an overarching framework for UX journey mapping, which incorporates the following aspects:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Retention
  3. Recovery

Recruitment refers to user acquisition, while retention pertains to the customer’s act of using your brand, product, or service. Finally, recovery is where the user ends their product or service usage, thus opening up possible renewal and advocacy on your part.

Enhance your UX story using aesthetic elements, interactivity, & others.

Storytelling is a multi-dimensional discipline, and the storyteller can combine stimuli to weave together a truly compelling narrative. In terms of visuals, you shouldn’t underestimate the significance of colors, fonts, layouts, and other essential components of your UX story. These details shape the very first impression your users will have of your brand, product, or service.

You can also incorporate interactivity into your UX story to give users a more engaging experience whenever they click on or scroll through your website or app. This is important as various user actions online tend to be fairly predictable. For example, you can emphasize parts of your website that users can go to for specific actions and their end results through pictures or images. You can also make your visuals responsive to user activity, or even utilize gamification on your site. Gamification happens when you incorporate a variety of gaming components on your website or app, such as progress bars and reward points.

Lastly, you should determine your UX story’s language, pacing, as well as voice and tone. Words make it much easier for you to tell a gripping and interesting story. Thus, you have to know your brand’s story and personality in order to figure out the proper wording and sentence structure for your UX story.

In terms of tempo, you’ll need to gauge if you should tell a fast-paced or slow-paced story. However, it’s a different story for voice and tone. You’ll have to base these aspects on your brand’s desired relationship with your users. From there, you’ll be able to determine the general impression of your UX story—whether it’s casual, formal, or something in-between.

More From Growth Rocket