Book Summary: Storytelling for UX (1/3)

This is book is the first book chosen for Oslo’s UX book club. It was a quite interesting book about using stories and storytelling techniques in different steps of the User Experience design process. The following is the first part of my (long) summary of the book. The summary is mostly intended to remind me things I read, but probably/hopefully it will be interesting and useful to others. As the book is more or less divided in four parts (introduction, listening, how to fit stories in the process and how to create a story), I’ll cover the introduction and the notes on listening in this post, and will leave the other two parts to other posts. Edit: see parts two and three.

Introduction (chapters 1-2)

Stories help keeping people at the center (p. 2). There are different types of stories (p. 5):

  • Those that describe context/situation: describe the world today. Not only sequence of events, but also reasons and motivations.

  • Those that illustrate problems: show a problem that a new product or design change can fix. They should describe it in a way that opens the door for brainstorming.

  • Those that help launch a design discussion: starting point for a brainstorming session. Enough detail to make sense but leave room for the imagination.

  • Those that explore a design concept: explain/explore idea or concept and its implications for the experience. Helps shape the design by showing it in action.

  • Those that prescribe the result of a new design: describe the world as it will be in more detail. Similar to the 1st, but describe a user experience that doesn’t exist yet.

Interesting quote in page 10, with the message “until you hear a story, you can’t understand the experience”.

Stories are interactive, change with the audience (p. 14). They also not only describe actions, but add context and why (motivation). There is a fine line with how many detail to include in motivation, because of shared cultural understanding and other things (p. 17, 19).

Stories have different roles:

  • Explain: give context and sensory experience, not just events. This is different from use-cases.

  • Engage the imagination: surpass linear logic and evoke new ideas.

  • Spark new ideas: as we fill in the gaps, we can hint details but let people come up with their own ideas.

  • Create a shared understanding.

  • Persuade.

In any case, stories are not “made up”: they’re based on data.

Listening (chapter 3)

Really listening to users (e.g. in interviews and such) gives you access to a lot of info you can’t get anywhere else. Open questions are very important for this. Giving time to answer sometimes gives people time for second thoughts (not just what they think you want to hear), which has more value than the first reply. Also, pay attention to the context, people forget to mention “obvious” (for them) everyday facts.

Practising active listening is very important, see the following links:

And that’s it for the first part. Stay tuned for the rest of the summary.