In UX Stories Communicate Designs, Sarah Gibbons shares with us:

Stories are a natural part of our lives. We tell, read, and listen to stories every day — from listening to the news to recounting the events of the day. These stories are our way of remembering and communicating experiences.

Studies have shown that people’s memory is better when facts are laced together in a coherent story than when they are presented independently, in isolation from each other.

A UX story is an account of events from your customer’s perspective. The events in the story show the evolution of your experience you deliver to them. UX stories create a shared vocabulary, add to the organizational memory, focus the team on a common goal, and ignite the audience’s imagination.

A UX story has the following components:

Main Character (the persona). Compelling stories must have a clear, main character or characters. Same is true for a UX story. Except our main character is our persona, representing our target customer. Framing your story from this perspective allows your audience to relate to your customer.

Goal and motivation. The goal establishes a clear understanding of the task at hand, while the person’s motivation helps the audience see the meaning behind their behaviors and decision making. For instance, in a UX story about a teenager, her goal, like downloading a new app, is just as valuable as her motivation, which could be social acceptance or making friends.

Context. Context is the setting (time and place) in which the UX story takes place. Providing an environment for the story aids in understanding where the designed experience fits into your customer’s life. This context can also act as the starting point from which the plot can be built — it can be the source of story conflict or obstacles that the character must face before achieving their goal. For example, imagine a busy father. If this character is surrounded with context such as a barking dog, full hands, and a sick baby, the team can understand the environment that it must design for: chaos, high stress, and little time.

Plot. A plot describes a series of events along a timeline. Often, these events build tension and crisis as the main character (the persona) heads towards the climax in the story.

Insight. Insight are the “aha moment” of the story — the pain point that the team didn’t know existed, but has been uncovered through research, or the design breakthrough that is going to change the customer’s future experience.

Spectacle. Spectacle refers to the visual portion of the story. This could be props, drawn illustrations, or video. The spectacle usually makes the story more memorable and enjoyable, and keeps the audience interested and involved.

UX stories have several benefits:

Keeping your customer at the center of the conversation. Make sure the point of view and focus never shift from your customer.

Discuss topics you may not be able to address in direct ways. Stories let you bring up controversial topics in a neutral way.

Concretizing abstract design notions. By tying these elements into a story, you create a context that allows for a shared understanding of otherwise hard-to-grasp concepts.

Facilitating comprehension and memory. Stories improve the ability to recall information.

Setting the stage for a call to action. When an audience is invested in the story, characters and plot will be more persuasive and more likely to generate empathy for the customer.

UX Stories are a powerful tool throughout multiple stages of the design process and can serve accomplish each of the following goals:

Summarizing user research. UX stories naturally exist in observations, survey data, interviews, customer-service transcripts, research notes, and/or conversations. UX stories ca build a compelling narrative that capture the insights gathered from your research to: illustrate your customer’s pain points; reflect the current experiences of your real customer (not ideal experiences that you may want for them); bridge multiple sources of data; and avoid prescribing a design solution.

Generating ideas. Start by taking your as-is story (from user research) and asking yourself “what-if.” Brainstorm as a group by storytelling in a circle, each person adding to the story as it progresses will generate new ideas that lead to innovative solutions.

Conveying abstract concepts. Focus on the customer value that will be derived from the experience. Rather than describing the details of how a customer may move through an app tap by tap, tell a story about what the customer was doing before the app existed, the pain they experienced, and how the app alleviated that pain. A story that shows how a new offering will be used is more cohesive, comprehensive, and meaningful than a to-do list of functional requirements or proposed features.

Common understanding of your customer. UX stories help transcend expertise and bias. They enable everyone to understand and agree on common goal; they help the audience empathize with the customer.  The story can also become a tangible artifact that can be distributed or referred to as needed.

Evaluating designs. Stories can serve as a baseline for measuring success. Try re-telling the story from the same customer’s perspective but using your updated design. Have the pain points been removed? Have new pain points arisen?

UX stories are a communication tool that provide a natural, engaging way to share behavior, perspectives, and attitudes. User-experience stories are ultimately about knowing your audience and how to engage it. Be sure to consider the audience’s awareness about the story’s context. Finding a way to end the story in a settled, memorable way can facilitate conversation around the topic of your choice.

Reference: Quesenbery, W., & Brooks, K. 2010. Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design. Rosenfeld Media, LLC.