The Power of Storytelling for the User Journey

Storytelling is a great tool to help you understand the user journey.

Every user is the hero in his or her own story. Every visit to your site or app starts as a story with a goal and inciting incident, crisis, climax and an end. How we craft the user journey through the site will depend on the user goal. If we don’t understand the user or their goal how can we craft a user journey that helps them get to their a resolution of their goal.

To determine the goal of each user, we must first create personas to attach predefined goals to. A persona may have several goals and each needs to be factored into the crisis and climax moment. Personas is not the same as demographics. Personas takes much more thought and interacting with the user than just looking at analytics. Well defined personas are designed around goals, psychological profiles and user context.

In order to improve engagement and loyalty, we need to carefully create a crisis moment in the user journey. When a user overcomes the crisis, their loyalty to the story increases. They feel a sense of accomplishment. This crisis should be created in such a way that every user can overcome it, without creating a cliffhanger. This does not mean we create temporary painful user experiences only to manufacture a false sense of accomplishment. The crisis moment could be that they can’t find the right product and your site helps them navigate to find everything they needed and more. The crisis moment could be financial in origin. Just when the user thinks they can’t pay for the products they want, you present them with a coupon or bonus item or some content to move them beyond the crisis moment to a climax moment.storyarc-green-eggs

The climax is the resolution of the initial goal. They found the product or service they were looking for. Your site or app helped them accomplish this goal.

However, if a user arrives at the crisis moment and you do not help them to move to the climax moment, their story may result in a cliffhanger (ie. exit site or app). The crisis/climax transition needs to be crafted in such a way that the user knows you will help them through it and quickly. They must see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Once you feel you have the major elements of your story outlined, you can begin mapping that user story through storyboarding. As you map this out you may come across “subplots” and need to map those out as part of the journey as well. All goals, plots and sub-plots must find resolution to bring about a satisfactory conclusion for the user and build that loyalty to your product or service.

The user story could be episodic (a single visit) or a fully mapped user journey (life goals) with multiple crisis/climax moments. Each is important and should be mapped for each persona.

Defining the user journey through storytelling will not only help you to better understand your user and help them reach their goals, it will help you present these ideas to key stakeholders in your organization, either through storyboarding or user journey maps. As design and development get underway to support the user journey, each stakeholder can reference the story to determine if what they are designing and building matches the story arc and helps the user accomplish their goal.