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Using storyboards in UX design: a tool to enhance user experience

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A picture tells a thousand words

UX designers, researchers and stakeholders need to be able to put themselves into the shoes of their users to consider how they might react and engage with a product. Storyboards can be an effective tool within UX, helping to conceptualise designs, visualise user personas or needs, aid research design and add validation to research findings.

What is storyboarding?

Storyboarding in UX visually explores and predicts user experiences with a particular product. Through a series of conceptual illustrations, storyboards can collate personas, user stories and constraints to help us to create a hypothesis for potential scenarios. Creating a storyboard allows us to narrate this possible journey and identify any pitfalls along the way.

A 4 picture storyboard. The first box shows a man sinking, trying to stay afloat with tetris bock. The second block shows a mindmap on a wall. The third box shows a man starting to draw storyboard. The fourth box shows a close up of the storyboard he's drawn.

How to create a storyboard

When creating a storyboard, you must focus on the purpose - outlining the objectives the storyboard aims to answer.


Each storyboard needs to:
  • Portray the user's wants, needs or outcomes.
  • Identify potential problems users may run into.
Steps to creating a storyboard:
  1. 1. First, you need to work out the structure of the story you are trying to tell. Thinking of your user journey: what path will your user take? How does it start? How does it end? And what will happen in between?
  2. 2. Ensure you know who the customer is or what persona the storyboard relates to. Thinking of your audience: who are they? What do they need? Where would they use your product? When and why would they use it?
  3. 3. Devise a script and plot exploring a variety of scenarios your storyboard will develop. Thinking of one specific user journey: what are they trying to achieve? Can they achieve this?
  4. 4. Convey emotion in the storyboard to express pain points or frustrations at key points in the journey.

How are they effective for UX projects?

Storyboards allow us to make informed decisions throughout the planning, execution, and delivery of user testing projects.

In the run-up to user testing, storyboarding can help us to:

Conceptualise a design before wireframing.

When formulating ideas on how a product should work, a storyboard can pave the way for a great, well-thought-out design. Rather than jumping straight into wireframing or prototyping, storyboards iron out a design before it gets to that stage, minimising wasted time and money. No artistic skill or programming knowledge is needed to storyboard, so there is the opportunity to involve the whole team in the process.

Enrich personas to understand user needs.

Storyboards can help us to understand users by enriching our personas. When storyboards predict the user journeys of different personas and their needs, we can understand how different kinds of customers might interact with the product. This is an effective precursor to user sessions: allowing us to find the most relevant users to take part. It also helps to identify the different sticking points in the journey that users may encounter and prepare for these outcomes during testing sessions.

Visualise the aims of a user testing session.

As storyboards help us envision the user experience, they are an effective tool for mapping out the potential stages a user may encounter in a testing session. This allows us to work out how to meet our project aims within a session by writing the most effective scenarios and asking questions to ensure we can gather the evidence to answer the research questions. Walking through a storyboard with the project aims in mind can highlight areas where we might need to alter a session to meet our aims.

After testing a product, storyboards are still effective in helping us:

Present ideas to stakeholders

You have created a design and tested it. Now it’s time to share the evidence to make further improvements. Storyboards are an effective way to present ideas to stakeholders. They link facts and ideas with the audience’s experiences and emotions, providing a more engaging, memorable and persuasive presentation. Sharing the evidence from testing by incorporating storyboards of observed user experiences with your ideas for improvements can provide a more convincing argument to your stakeholders.

Storyboards help conceptualise complex and personal user experiences by placing the researcher or stakeholder into the user's world. Using imagery over text to depict the scenario allows us to understand the complex relationship between the user, the product, the journey, and external factors such as emotion.

Whether you are completing your storyboarding pre-research to ensure your planned test session answers the research questions, or post-research, to add context to findings, storyboards allow us to validate our thinking and make informed decisions with the user in mind.