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Storyboard 101

Since I made up my mind to go into the field of user experience and design, I’ve been constantly amazed by how many different concepts and terminologies we have come out in different professions to mean the same thing.

One of them is the concept of a storyboard.

Today I joined a design meetup event by “Design by Night”, the theme of which is to draw a painting to illustrate how we solve a problem using a possible solution. We drew the problem and solution from two boxes and no matter if they make sense to us or not, we have to build the connection.

The problem I drew was mosquitos, and the solution, Jack Ma.

Just the perfect solution.

I can think of a zillion ways how he can solve the problem.

One possible way is for Alibaba to sell Mosquito Repellent to everybody in the world, delivering through ship, plane, truck, motorbikes and even on foot. We will apply them to ourselves and to all animals around us. Mosquitos will have nothing to eat and die.
Another solution is for Jack Ma to give a public speech to all Mosquitos about how much their existence has threaten peoples life, and how they can change their life by joining Alibaba group to deliver products for small and medium sized merchants across the world. Mosquitos will be inspired and join the great army of delivery companies under Alibaba.

Yet another one can be Alibaba to develop a super sonic sound that broadcast through its Taobao and Alipay APP; it kills all Mosquitos on earth. Since the majority of people on earth use some kind of Alibaba product (Taobao; Tmall; Ali Express), all Mosquitos will die.

Just to list out a few.

Towards the end of the Meetup, Lou, the lady who hosted the Meetup, introduced the concept of storyboard. From the way she talked about it, it looks like I am drawing the problem and solution, then figure out the user action which is what users need to do; and then service action which is what the solution does to solve the problem; and of course, eventually, what is the user benefit.

I’ve heard the word of Storyboard many time, so when I came home today, I went online to do a bit more studies on Storyboard.

Appearantly most of the time storyboard means something different. 

For software companies, a Storyboard is a visual representation of the appearance and flow of your application. It is similar to wireframe or part of the interactive documentation. It rather focus on the “Service Action” from Ms Lou.

And thus many things i learnt in my product manager profession applies:  

Have a clear idea of your goals and objectives beforehand.It’s essential to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve by creating a feature or a product. Identify exactly what the user needs to take away from their experience and why they come to you in the first place. Research to find out what needs to be covered and what can be left out, so that you can determine what you are working with in advance.

Know your target audience.Research is key to creating a successful storyboard. Learn as much as possible about your audience while focus on answering the question of why and how will they use your product. Also, assess previous strategies that the client has used to identify what worked and what did not, so that you can develop a more effective storyboard.

Figure out when and how you will assess your audience.While many people might assume that adding assessment is one of the final stages in the planning process, it should actually be one of the first. While you are creating your storyboard figure out where you need to test them, The concept of testing is rather board. you can ask for feedback straightaway, or you can ask a bit of “favor” (e.g. complete profile information; share on Facebook); if users take a positive action it is good indication you are doing well;

Write content for each of your objectives.Writing content for each of your objectives will help you keep your storyboard flow natural and your audience focused. State your topic, explain your idea, focus on key points, and maintain a conversational tone by using simple language, short sentences, examples, or metaphors, and asking questions. 

Be as detailed as possible when storyboarding interactions.As your progress through each screen of your storyboard include every interaction that needs to be integrated into the final design. For example, if you need to redirect to the “add a payment method” under “My Account" when they click on a button, mention that in your storyboard. Do this for every activity, assessment, and navigation icon  so that you don’t run the risk of broken hyperlinks or a disorganized navigational flow.

Prevent cognitive overload.Bear in mind that the storyboard is going to serve as a guide as you move forward in the development process.  So, now it's time to take your final decision about how much content you are going to include on each page and how you are going to deliver the information. If you have a message that may be lengthy or contain an abundance of text, then break it down into more paragraph and only include the key takeaways. By taking cognitive overload into consideration at this stage you can create an application that is concise and cohesive instead of having to make major modifications during the final revision process. 

Map out the navigation.Decide where to put next or back button, what graphics you will use to denote these actions, and how your solution will respond to specific behaviors of your audience. For example, you can outline what will happen if a user clicks on a link that redirects them to a third-party site. Creating an outline for all of these branches will make the design process much easier, as you will already have a clear idea of which navigational elements belong on each page.

Complete Content StrategyI need to decide what to show on what page and on what interaction as it determine how the interface will be built, what calculation is needed, I need to determine what is captured in each step. I can;t emphasize more  how important these things are; consider all the edge cases and how to treat them, at least common situations such as no record found, upload fail; text too long etc; you cannot be vague;  

No matter if it is a mobile app, a website, an open-API, storyboard is very important; or in other words, think through is important; every product is different, and the solution is case specific, but every product should begin with a good storyboard.

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