Muriel Rukeyser was right when she said – “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms”.
In our day-to-day lives, we consume a steady stream of stories – be it while reading a book, listening to a colleague explain a business concept, or even while watching an advertisement. There’s a reason why humankind chose to use stories and illustrations to pass on knowledge; even during times before language made its debut.
But why build stories, you may wonder. Stories have an innate tendency to stay in our minds in ways that hardcore facts and statistics cannot. They are more understandable and memorable because they appeal to the human mind in a way that it functions – state a series of actions/experiences/facts → attach meaning.
Brands have identified the potential of storytelling and are optimizing it to lure potential customers. The idea is to weave a story around their products and the problems they solve and make the user go through a journey before he/she falls for that CTA. Now, this can be done through ads and blog posts, but the real deal lies in using visual storytelling through your website design. Users tend to check websites more than social media platforms or blogs mainly because a website is the one property that validates the authenticity of the brand. If done right, visual storytelling can compel users to act in the way marketers want them to act without using over the top visuals, loud colours, or annoying pop-ups.
According to Don Norman, great products and services always affect us on three levels – visceral, behavioural and reflective. Using these touchpoints, infusing storytelling in UX can help users in a host of ways. Let’s go through the top 3, one by one:
1. Stories help us understand
Stories are replete with emotional triggers. These triggers give rise to feelings, these feelings resonate with our experiences from the past, and thus, help us understand the idea better. Shoving the product in your users’ faces won’t cut the chase. It’s imperative that your design speaks to your users.
2. Stories help us remember
We have a tendency to process stories deeply; and that’s what helps us remember them. Your users may not be able to recall your product at the top of their mind, but they will always remember a web page/design that carved its impression on their minds.
3. Stories help us decide
A well-told story has the capability of influencing our minds. Much like how we expect a story to end with a hard-hitting moral, a story-bound UX design can help users in finding a purpose to their scrolling. A convincing story will always attract a reaction.
What can you do to achieve this impact?
As a UX/UI designer, there’s a lot you can achieve by simply setting a flow to your website. Just like any good story, your web page design must consist of 3 sections – a beginning, a middle, and an end. Other than this, there are a couple of formulae which can prepare you to come up with a convincing story-laden UX design:
1. Your user has to be the hero
Your users need to feel important. They are the ones who the story is meant for, so it matters what they like, what they dislike, what makes them comfortable, and what they are looking for. As a UX designer, your job is to help them get to the end of the story. Precisely, customer is king. Period.
2. Your product has to be the supporting character
Without your users, your story won’t have a purpose. However, without your product, your users won’t be able to overcome their shortcomings. Hence, your product/service offering has to be the enabler that helps your hero i.e. your user accomplish what he/she has set out to achieve.
3. Begin with a conflict
The whole point of having a product to sell is to solve the users’ problems, or in some cases, to help them overcome a challenge. Conflicts are where stories begin. As a UX designer, it’s your responsibility to understand your users’ pain points, create a conflict, and use it to tell a story with the help of your design.
4. Context is key
Do not forget where your users are coming from, what are they looking for, where are they headed, and where do you want to lead them. This makes the flow of your website design incredibly important. Your story must speak the language of your users and convince them that they are in the right place.
5. Do not overdo it
Just like most things in design, it takes great skill to do more with less. The attention span of your users is (sometimes) less than that of a goldfish. You want to make the most of it, but that does not mean that you cram your design with a million elements and too much to read between the lines (or scrolls, in this case)
6. Aesthetics go a long way
Although the real deal here is your user, your product and their story, do not underestimate the power of your design elements. The font styles, font sizes, colours, and your theme in general, lay the foundation of your story.
7. Aim to get a reaction
Stories are meant to make you feel empathetic and experience all the emotions that flow with the story. If you want your users to do what you’re asking them to do, you need to tell them a story that resonates with them.
8. Take your feedback seriously
Feedback is invaluable. There’s only so much a designer, or anybody for that matter can view from their own viewpoint. Get people – your client, your users, the guy sitting next to you, etc. to scroll through your design. Watch their reactions, gather these insights and decide what you need to do with them.
The point we’re trying to make here is that crafting a good user experience is akin to telling a good story. Unless the experience doesn’t mean something, you won’t be able to create a need for a user who has landed on your website.
Do you have your preferred storytelling principles that you love to incorporate in your UX efforts? If yes, then we’d love to hear them! Do not forget to leave some of those in the comments section below. Also, it would be great if you could give us some feedback on the way we have covered this topic, and suggest topics that you would want us to cover on our blog.