boy reading a story and having an experience via UX Design

Storytelling & UX Design Part I: Why They Go Hand-In-Hand

Welcome to our two-part series on storytelling through the eyes – and talents – of UX design. In Part 1, I’ll share with you WHY UX design needs to consider effective storytelling as synonymous with effective UX design. In Part 2, we’ll explore steps a UX designer can take to get better at storytelling to create amazing journeys for their users. To start, indulge me in a quick thought exercise:

Which of the following two paragraphs do you find more intriguing ?

Paragraph 1

Stacy arrived at the airport. She checked in, went through security and waited for her plane. After a half hour or so, they began to board her group. Her plane was last in line to take off and had to wait on the runway for 45 minutes. Because of this, Stacy was late to her meeting in Denver.

Paragraph 2

Stacy arrived at the airport a bit nervous. She hadn’t been on a plane for many years, and she was heading to Denver for a meeting with a large potential client. Despite arriving plenty early, Stacy waited in a ridiculously long line to check in for her flight. Once her turn was up, it was pretty clear from the expression of the attendant and people in line behind her, that Stacy had no idea what she was doing – which made her face get red and her palms get a bit sweaty. After checking in, Stacy raced to the security area, only to see that the line was even longer there.  Even though she knew in the back of her mind that she had time before her flight took off, Stacy began to feel as though this whole day was going to go terribly wrong. While she waited in line, she decided that she was going to review her pitch in her head. She had been practicing for weeks and really wanted to land her first big deal. But Stacy’s train of thought kept getting interrupted by the stop and start of the security line. Finally, it was her turn. Learning her lesson and following the cues of the people in front of her, Stacy’s trip through the checkpoint went relatively quick. As she found her terminal and sat down, Stacy was beginning to feel a little better about the day. Little did she know that what was about to happen next was going to make her late for her big meeting in Denver.     

Both paragraphs have essentially the same information. In fact, the first paragraph has slightly more. However, the second paragraph is much more interesting because it is a story.  Some may argue that the first paragraph has a beginning, middle, and an end – so is, therefore, a story. But REAL stories are meant to connect with us emotionally, and the first paragraph is simply a list of facts. In the second paragraph, we feel Stacy’s stress. We experience her physical response to embarrassment. We understand her excitement to land her first big deal. And we empathize with her obvious inexperience and remember a time when we were that worked up over something we wanted and worked hard for. We are intrigued and want to find out what happens next (even though paragraph 1 contains spoilers).

So what does this exercise have to do with UX Design? Everything. The point of UX is to connect with your users and create lasting impressions. This means the UX designer’s list of talents MUST include the craft of storytelling. If we consider UX through the periscope of telling a good story, we are much more likely to create with a human-centered approach, therefore moving people to action through more memorable experiences.

Why Storytelling and UX Design go Hand-in-Hand


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Let’s think about the fundamental goal of UX design: to improve customer satisfaction and engagement through the utility, ease of use, and enjoyment provided by interacting with a platform, product, or service. When we think of the process of UX design like the craft of telling a story, a few things happen.

  • We remain focused on our users. This may seem obvious because users are always SUPPOSED to be at the center of the design process. Still, it can be very easy to let our ideas and preferences muddle what the users not only need – but what they want. Stories are rooted in characters and maintaining focus on the story we are telling makes it almost impossible to remove characters from the process.
  • We create a meaningful buyer’s journey. The most effect product experiences will take the user on a journey. Some journeys take the user where they already want to go. The best journeys take them where they don’t even know they need to go – yet convinces them it’s where they need to be. The worst ones, however, will involve a series of unrelated actions that take the user somewhere they may or may not have expected – and moreover – don’t understand. If we envision our user flow as a story involving step-by-step events in a cohesive narrative (and even a more traditional story arc), we all but eliminate the confusion and disjointed nature of a seemingly random set of tasks.
  • We make a lasting emotional impact. The truth is, most products and services do not elicit an emotional connection. They make no long-term impact on the user, nor do they create a sense of anticipation for the returning or (better yet) the loyal customer. But stories – good ones – have the capacity to do all of these things.  

As human beings, we have stories ingrained into our very being. This makes us literally hard-wired to respond to them. On the flip side, humans are NOT wired to connect with digital products. Effective UX design marries the two and creates more meaningful user experiences.  

In this part one, we explain why you should wrap UX design in an effective story. In part two, we’ll discuss how. Keep an eye out and take this journey with me!