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Sex, Money and Storytelling

Improving your user experience work with the power of storytelling

We know you like sex, and we all like money, but... storytelling? Yep. Storytelling. It's a way to open up to new ideas and new ways of listening to users. And that leads to a better user experience. Learn the importance of stories and storytelling in the design process, will learn the basics of telling stories, and leave having crafted several UX stories.

Half Day Tutorial by Whitney Quesenbery (WQusability), Kevin Brooks
6:30pm to 9:30pm on Monday, May 24, 2010

About the Half Day Tutorial

This tutorial is hands on. Come prepared to work. Although we do talk a little bit, most of the time is spent in exercises, in discussion, and in demonstrations.

We start by introducing out background and collecting a little bit of information about the participants: What are your goals and interests?

The topics in the tutorial are:

  1. Why stories work – We introduce storytelling as a way of communicating. This includes a little bit of background about stories, but is primarily focused on what role stories can play in usability/UCD.

The first exercise is a listening exercise. The participants listen to a story and then discussion how information is communicated in it.

  1. Stories in user experience design – An overview of how stories can be part of a UXD process. What kinds of stories can you use where in the process. We use a large (flipchart-sized) diagram.

During the discussion, we ask people in the tutorial how they have used stories. Often, they discover that they have been using them all along! We add notes about their experience to the flip chart, to show how many different ways stories can be used.

  1. Collecting stories - Stories start with listening. It may sound contradictory to talk about listening as the most important part of storytelling, but how will you find great stories if you don’t listen.

This is mostly an exercise on improving listening skills. The follow-up discussion re-emphasizes how many ways you can add “story collecting” to normal user research and usability activities.

  1. The story triangle – First, we describe the story triangle – the relationship between storyteller and audience. Then, we talk about the role of the audience for both oral and written stories and how that changes what kinds of stories you might tell.

The discussion for this section is a chance to confront questions about whether (or how) to use stories in different professional or corporate situations.

  1. Story ingredients – Here, we begin to introduce the craft of creating stories, and the ingredients you have to work with: Perspective, character, context, imagery


6.Stories and personas – One of the most obvious places to use stories is in personas. We use examples of our own, and from the audience for this discussion.

This leads to an exercise showing how the ingredients work, by telling the same story with different ingredients and comparing the differences.

  1. Using stories to spark design ideas – one of the roles for stories is to help spark design ideas. We will use an exercise that participants can take back to their work to show how stories can be used in design brainstorming.

The participants will work in groups to create stories, then share them with the whole group. The feedback session will focus on analyzing the ingredients they have used and ways to make these stories more effective.

  1. Adapting to your audience. Finally, we return to the question of how to tell the right story to the right audience in the right way. We will Discuss ways to transform the story for different audiences using examples from the exercise

We end with final thoughts and questions