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Frequently Asked Questions

These common questions about storytelling and their short answers are taken from Kevin Brooks & Whitney Quesenbery’s book Storytelling for User Experience. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. Why stories in user experience design?
    Stories have always been part of user experience design as scenarios, storyboard, flow charts, personas, and every other technique that we use to communicate how (and why) a new design will work. As a part of user experience design, stories serve to ground the work in a real context by connecting design ideas to the people who will use the product. This book starts with a look at how and why stories are so effective.
    See Chapters 1 and 2.
  2. Is storytelling a new UX methodology?
    No. We are not here to promote a new methodology based on using stories. Whether you believe in user-centered design, goals-based design, or even a more technical approach like domain-driven design, stories have a place in your work. Stories can be a part of almost any user experience activity. The middle section of the book is arranged in a loose lifecycle, so you can dive in at whatever point you are in your current projects.
    See Chapters 5-10.
  3. Can I start using stories in the middle of a project?
    Yes. Although user experience is improved by having good user research (and the stories you will collect), there are many reasons why you might find yourself working on a design or running a usability evaluation without a good collection of stories to draw on. The chapter on using stories in the design process includes several techniques for working with, or creating, stories.
    See Chapter 8.
  4. I don’t think I tell stories well. What do I do?
    You may not think you tell stories, but you probably already do. Most of us tell stories as a way to explain a perspective on a problem or describe an event. The goal of this book is to help you learn to use stories in a new way. We hope the varied stories in this book will be an inspiration. Your storytelling will improve with each telling opportunity.
    See Chapter 2.
  5. How do I create a good story?
    Creating a story isn’t hard. Your first ones may feel awkward, but storytelling gets easier–and your stories get better–with practice. Storytelling is a craft as much as an art. If you start by knowing your audience, add character, perspective, context, and imagery, and put it all together within a structure, it will all come together.
    See Chapters 11-15.
  6. How much does the audience matter?
    Knowing your audience is critical. Whether you can plan in advance, or have to adjust on the fly, you can’t tell a good story unless you can get the audience involved. After all, the goal of the story isn’t to tell it, but for the audience to hear it and take away something new.
    See Chapters 3, 10, and 12.
  7. Is it OK to use other people’s stories?
    When we do user research, one of our goals is to bring back a useful picture of the people we design for. Telling their stories is one way to share what you have learned. But you have to remember that they are human beings who must be treated ethically.
    See Chapters 4 and 6.
  8. Is this a book about performing stories?
    Not really. For performance storytelling, the crafting and telling of stories is a goal in itself. Nor is the book about scriptwriting or writing short fiction. While some of the story structures and ingredients covered in the last section can help add drama to stories, that is not our focus. When we use stories in user experience practice, we borrow from these worlds, but put them to use in new ways.
    See Chapter 15.
  9. Do you cover storytelling in games?
    This is also not a book about narrative hypertext, games, interactive fiction, virtual reality, or immersive interfaces where stories and storytelling are a central feature of the user interface. Although we believe that every interaction tells a story (even if only a mundane one), this book is not primarily about how to weave stories into a digital interactive experience.If you are interested in how stories are woven into user experience and hypermedia narrative, we can recommend two excellent books: Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet H. Murray, which looks at how hypermedia and other new technology can make new forms of story possible, and Computers and Theatre by Brenda Laurel, a seminal book on Aristotelian storytelling as the basis for user experience design.
  10. What’s next for storytelling in user experience design?
    While working on this book, we have been excited to watch storytelling take off as a useful concept in many more aspects of user experience design. People have started talking about how to make the product tell a story or use story structures to help structure the user experience. Others have borrowed ideas from filmmaking to add emotional resonance to applications and make the concept of designing a better experience more concrete. And there’s a swarm of people writing on the topic of storytelling and business management, which touches on some of the same issues as user experience. There’s always another story waiting to be written.

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