Book Summary: Storytelling for UX (2/3)

This is the second (and longest) part of my summary of “Storytelling for UX” (see the first part). It will cover how to fit stories and storytelling into the UX design process.

There shouldn’t be “a storyteller” in the team, as many as possible should be familiar with the technique. Prototypes based on stories allow exploration of new ideas, esp. if they’re big changes.

There are several parts of the UX process were stories are useful:

  • Collecting input from users. You’re already hearing those stories. Do it consciously.

  • Exploring user research and other data. Summary of hard data.

  • Experimenting with design ideas. See stories that help launch a design discussion (type) and the role “spark new ideas”.

  • Testing designs. They can evaluate if you have stayed true to original needs and if they will work with real users.

Collecting input

Being in the user work environment helps noticing things people don’t mention. When you just arrive, everything is unfamiliar. Take notes then. If you can’t talk to your users, you can get some limited info from: search/server logs, customer service records, people who do training and sales demos, market research and satisfaction surveys.

Getting people in groups can help make people talk (build on each other). Also asking people to recall specific events is really useful.

Tip: be open to tangents, but don’t waste too much time in them if you don’t see value. Also, a user avoiding talking about what you want is information, too.

Tip: Use a structure for the interview (first closed questions, then open), see p. 82. Try to have the interview in the context the product will be used.

Selecting stories

Characteristics of good stories:

  • Heard from more than one source

  • With action detail

  • Make user data easy to understand

  • Illustrate an aspect the UX team is interested in

  • Surprise or contradict common beliefs

They should help explain something about UX beyond data, bring data to life. They should also connect with other stories and resonate, leading to action.

Experimenting with design ideas

Three possible uses of stories: brainstorming, concept and specification. When no user research is available, you can brainstorm to create user stories. See a good technique/game for it on page 111.

When you do have user research, you can develop those stories. For that, some rules: (1) defer judgement, (2) encourage wild ideas and (3) build on the ideas of others. See adaptation of the game for this case, p. 118. Concept stories should include: (a) focus on activity set in a specific context, (b) description of motivations that trigger action, (c) describe the characters well enough to set them in context.

Specification stories are useful to summarise results. They are included in specs. They keep the real-world context available for reference.

Testing/evaluating designs

Three uses of stories: create scenarios/tasks for usability testing, serve as guide for expert reviews, and quality testing.

If in usability testing you ask the user first what her interests are, you can turn that story into a usability test task.

Stories and personas from them are very useful to set a context for expert reviews. Give each expert a persona and make them try to complete a task from that persona POV.

[I didn’t really get the “quality testing” part, whatever that means, so I don’t have notes about it]

Sharing stories

When communicating with people, stories get the audience attention, set context and inspire action.

Listening exercises make you understand your audience, and make them understand how diverse/similar they are.

There are three typical types of audiences:

  1. Strategic leaders: generate and maintain a common vision (p. 143). Things that work for them: identify point of pain and offer a solution, identify gap in market and show how to fill, show new approach by reconfiguring common/existing components, and identify UX trends and show impact on business.

  2. Managers: have a mission and have to make decisions (p. 146). Don’t have time to spare, prefer short meetings to brainstorming sessions. If you bring bad news, show why it’s important to care. Don’t go into much detail.

  3. Technical experts: implement a vision (p. 149). Can be difficult to reach them with stories, esp. if not grounded in details. Tips: (a) use representative characters and situations and be ready to back up with hard data, (b) make the action of the story specific and tangible, (c) keep the story on track, (d) use technical terminology accurately.

And that was the end of this part of the summary. In the next and last post I’ll cover the tips about creating stories and will write some sort of mini-review and conclusions.