Tell the user experience

Tell the user experience story

Graphic designers show mockups of single pages.

But are they making connections between those pages?

A blog post by Braden Kowitz recently woke me up to how important that is.

He says that the designer (or rather the whole product development team) has to tell a story – the story of the user experience.

Experience is the key word here. An experience is not an isolated moment. It arises from a series of events, a process:

Where does the user start?

What will he do next?

Why will he do it and how will that feel for him?

That is the story that every design has to tell.

How it works

The risk with isolated mockups is, to use Braden words, that “you’re only building an understanding of how the product looks. You’re not focusing on how the product works, and you’re not simulating how customers interact with it.”

I’ve always believed that design is not just about how it looks but how it works. But how do you make a design that works? Braden offers a wonderfully simple way: map out every step that the user will take.

A rough sketch on paper gets you started and therein lies a strength of the method. It keeps you from going too deep too early. It forces you to clarify which steps you need and, just as importantly, which steps you don’t need. It really does force you: you cannot help but see the story when you map the process.

Wave the red flag

Process thinking isn’t new to me. For example, I use storyboards for texts, concepts and videos. But I never used a story-centred approach in the sense that Braden means it: as a culture that guides the project.

“It’s a big red flag if someone sends just one or two mockups for review,” Braden says. He’s right, painfully so. I’ve worked on many projects where that’s exactly what happened. And I see it clearly now: every one of those projects would have benefitted from a story-centred approach.

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