From WikID

What is a Storyboard?

A storyboard is a valuable aid to the designer, because it provides a visual description of the use of a product that people from different backgrounds can ‘read’ and understand. A storyboard not only helps the product designer to get a grip on user groups, context, product use and timing, but also to communicate about these aspects with all the people involved. With a storyboard the powerful aspects of visualisation are exploited. At a glance the whole setting can be shown: where and when the interaction happens, the actions that take place, how the product is used, and how it behaves, and the lifestyle, motivations and goals of the users. Storyboards allow you to literally point at elements, which helps during the discussion.

However, the visualisation style of the storyboards influences the reactions, e.g. open and sketchy storyboards elicit comments, sleek and detailed presentations can be overwhelming. Storyboards used for analytical purposes, to map situations, problems and feelings, typically have a factual style of visualisation. Storyboards used to conceptualise ideas have a rough visualisation style. Storyboards used to evaluate design ideas are often open, bringing together different points of view. They have a sketchy, incomplete style of visualisation in order to invite reactions. Storyboards intended to transfer or present concepts often look polished.

Figure 1: Example of a Storyboard (from student report)

When Can You Use a Storyboard?

Storyboards can be used throughout the entire design process, from ideas about the interaction with a product to ideas and concepts and also for product concept evaluations (see for example ‘Product usability evaluation’).

How to Develop a Storyboard?

Starting Point

Used as a tool for developing ideas, a storyboard starts with a first idea about the interaction between product and user.

Expected Outcome

The outcome of a storyboard is a good conceptual idea about the interaction, as well as visualisations or written descriptions of the interaction. Both visualisations and written descriptions can be used for communication and evaluation purposes.

Possible Procedure

  1. Start from the following ingredients: ideas, simulations, a user character.
  2. Choose a story and a message: what do you want the storyboard to express? Limit your story to a clear message (e.g. 12 panels).
  3. Create sketchy storylines. Don’t build the story one panel at a time. Design the time line before detailing. Use variations in panel sizes, white space, frames, captions, for emphasis and expression.
  4. Create a complete storyboard. Use short captions to complement (not repeat) the images. Don’t make all the panels the same: use emphasis.

Tips and Concerns

  • Comics and movies are a great source of expressive techniques. Some of these can be applied to product design scenarios and storyboards, whereas others are less suitable. Think about camera position (close-up versus overview), sequence and the style in which you visualise the storyboards.

References and Further Reading

  • Stappers, P.J. (2004) ‘Storyboarding’, In: Stappers, P.J., (August 2004) Context and Conceptualisation.
  • Jacko, J., et al. (2002) The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, New York: Erlbaum and Associates.


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