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Frequently Asked Questions

These common questions and their short answers are taken from Donna Lichaw’s book The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. Is this book about storytelling?
    No. And yes. This book is about much more than what you traditionally think of when you think of storytelling. It won’t teach you how to tell a story. Rather, it will teach you how to use story and its underlying structure to craft intended experiences of use that are optimized for audience engagement, similar to what screenwriters and TV writers do with short- and long-form movies and TV shows. Plot point by plot point.
  2. Why story?
    We use story because it’s one of the oldest and most powerful ways
    that humans have to communicate with and understand the world. It governs how we do or don’t see meaning, value, utility, and affordances in both ideas and things. Story structure and its underlying principles will help you build better products. And it’s how you can get your target audience to relate to your product (see Chapters 1 and 2).
  3. Is everything a story?
    Yes. Walking down the street? Story. Using an app? Story. Thinking about a product? Story. Using online checking through your boring old bank? Story. Once you start thinking and working like a storymaker, you will ask yourself not if something is a story, but if it is or should be a good story. The better the story, the more engaged your users will be. Structure is how story engages the human brain (see Chapter 2).
  4. Who is the hero of the stories you map: the business or the user?
    As much as you want your business to be the hero of the story, your users are the real heroes. Imagine if The Wizard of Oz were about Dorothy, a damsel in distress who is saved by a knight in shining armor. It wouldn’t be her story—it would be the knight’s story. Dorothy needs to be the hero as much as your customers need to feel like heroes when they find, use, and recommend your product to their friends and family. When you map stories, you’re mapping the story you want someone to have with your product. Think of your product as Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Without your product, she would never be able to solve her problem. Chapter 2 goes into more detail about how to engineer heroes.
  5. Is storymapping some new process I have to learn?
    No. Storymapping is something you can and should seamlessly weave into your existing practice. I want you to start thinking like a storyteller—or storymaker—so that you can create products that resonate with your target audience. When you start thinking about the story, you’ll find that it’s the first thing you do at the beginning of any project and something you can easily fold into your existing process. What’s the story? You will answer this question by uncovering, mapping, and then testing the story until you get it right (see Chapters 6 and 7).
  6. How do I get started with storymapping?
    All you need are some Post-it notes or note cards, a wall or table, some markers, data, and an imagination and understanding of how story works. Once you start seeing stories in your favorite products, you’ll see them everywhere. Once you start seeing them everywhere, you’ll see how to weave stories into your own work so that you create more successful and engaging products that people love, use often, and recommend to others. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 walk you through how to map different types of stories to solve different types of business and user engagement problems. Chapter 6 tells you how to find stories through research and hypothesis development. Chapter 7 shows you how to use your stories once you’ve developed them.
  7. What is the difference between storymapping and Agile user story mapping?
    While many people often use the shorthand storymapping when referring to Agile user story mapping, they are quite different. Storymapping is as simple as it sounds: literally mapping out an intended experience of use just as you would a story—plot point by plot point. Agile user story mapping is a method that Agile developers use to organize and chart the course for large bodies of work comprised of smaller “user stories (for more on incorporating story development into Agile development, see Chapter 7).” Although the two approaches look similar (Post-its on a wall or cards on a table), they are quite different. Storymapping is a way to engineer increased engagement in your products. Agile user story mapping is a way for engineers to work.

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