Storytelling in Product Design

Storytelling in Product Design

As designers, we’ve heard this buzzword for quite some time. But how do you put storytelling into action?

Are we crazy?

You’ve no doubt heard people talk about user flow. Storytelling and user flow are very closely related. I’m no literary mastermind, but I do understand that every good story, book or film involves:

  • The beginning, setting the scene and introducing us to the specific scenario
  • Conflict, making you aware of the conflict or problem the characters must solve
  • Rising action, the characters addressing the problem
  • A high point, reaching and touching the core of the problem
  • A falling or tipping point, the characters rush to solve the problem or conflict
  • The outcome, the conflict is resolved, and everyone walks off into the sunset

If you strip away a few words from my breakdown above and replace them with words like ‘user’, ‘flow’ and ‘journey’, you will start to notice how close the relationship between storytelling and product design is.

Every product design and story workshop should begin with a need to understand the problem we’re trying to solve.

Storytelling in practice

Personally and as a studio, product and user experience storytelling is our bread and butter. Having a story or user flow documented for all to see helps us see the broader picture at a glance and easily allows onboarding and involvement of other team members.

With this information being so easily accessible, it allows for creative and analytical thinking from all. Flipping the points of good storytelling to product design is straightforward.

  • Beginning. Create documentation and perform research. Who is our target user? Create and champion personas/user groups.
  • Conflict. Identify the problem you’re aiming to solve.
  • Rising action & high point. Generate small and large issues that hinder a possible solution.
  • Falling or tipping point. After identifying and agreeing on the problems, we ideate solving these in multiple ways.
  • Outcome. You determine the best way to solve the problem and take action.

Let’s not forget about emotions.

I would argue that this is more important than getting the user flow or story correct the first time. It’s a well-known fact that if you enjoy something, as frustrating as it may be to use, you will try harder to get on with the product and return to it. Countless books, case studies, and research back this up.

Creating a great story will involve different skill sets within your company, and you should include all team members on the project.

With emotions, your goal should be to ensure that when your product becomes part of the narrative, it creates positivity and enjoyment.