July 23, 2019

Storyboarding In UX Design: Tools & Tips To Get Started

Anya Elgueta
Lead UX Strategist and Design Sprint Facilitator

Designers rely on storyboarding to outline the key concepts and user experience (UX) design elements to include in their designs. In the context of UX design, a storyboard is like a script or blueprint for the design team to follow when building a prototype of a digital product. There are many benefits to storyboarding in UX design, but perhaps the most impactful is that once the storyboard is finished, every single person on the team can articulate the steps a user will take in product.

At Checkmate Digital, we take a three-step approach to storyboarding in UX design. In this article, we break down our process and share UX storyboard tools to help you get started. 

Our Process For Storyboarding In UX Design

We’ve worked storyboarding into the second day of our five-day design sprint process. Storyboarding is actually the most difficult part of any design sprint—it’s when we take super abstract concepts and turn them into something concrete. This is probably the most unstructured part of the design sprint process because it’s an open discussion. Storyboarding in UX design is integral to the design sprint process and results. It’s the design sprint facilitator’s responsibility to make sure all the necessary questions are answered for the design team to build a clickable prototype.

The UX storyboard template we start with is eight empty boxes, with six steps to fill in and two extra boxes if additional space is needed. Our storyboards almost never look aesthetically pleasing—in fact, most of them look pretty messy when they’re finished, and that’s perfectly fine! Storyboarding in UX design is very different from other types of storyboards because drawing skills are not important. Rather, the goal is to outline a storyboard flow of the solution that helps people visualize UX ideas, provides clarity on copy and images, and outlines the sequence of steps users will take to complete specific tasks in the prototype.

We do three runs for the storyboard, which are highlighted below.

  1. Version one outlines the basic user journey, or the steps a user will take to get from point A to point B in the prototype. For example, the first box is likely an onboarding page that will showcase the key concepts to include in that process.
  2. Version two takes the original concepts from the first run and builds on those ideas. Rather than doing the same work twice, if somebody already drew or wrote an element in the first run that we would like to include, we either copy/paste if we’re working remotely or move sticky notes if we’re working in person. 
  3. Version three is for filling in all the content and details that weren’t outlined in the first two runs. During this stage, it’s essential that the team makes aligned decisions on copy, images, and layout of each storyboard step.

Storyboards during phase 1

Completed storyboards after phase 3

UX Storyboard Tools & Tips To Consider

There are a few tools and tips to keep in mind for storyboarding in UX design. Mural, an online brainstorming solution, is one of our favorite UX storyboard tools because it allows us to conduct design sprints and collaborate on storyboards remotely. Boords and StoryboardThat are other UX storyboard tools to try; however, we’ve found that a basic UX storyboard template is all we really need to get started.

Let’s turn your storyboard into a clickable prototype that’s tested by real users—and validate your idea in the process.

Something to keep in mind is that the storyboard will never be 100% finished. Even if it doesn’t feel perfect, it’s important to roll with it and keep the process moving forward to stay on track. The storyboard is meant to be a guide for creating a prototype—not the final design or content for a product. With that said, you do want to solidify content, such as copy, images, and main bullet points to include. Aim for your storyboard to be as detailed as possible, without getting hung up on the aesthetic. 

While it’s essential that the team is aligned and able to make quick decisions regarding the copy, design, and layout of each step, it can definitely be challenging to ensure the team is aligned and able to make quick decisions. That’s why we always appoint a decider, or a person who is responsible for signing off on final decisions. This keeps the process moving and helps avoid delays caused by disruptive individuals. 

Prototype & Test Your Idea In Record Time

If you have a digital product idea that you’d like to explore, our intensive five-day design sprint process might be the perfect next step. During our design sprint workshops, we work with our clients to align on a user challenge and solution, outline a storyboard flow, create a clickable, high-fidelity prototype, and then test that prototype with potential users to gain critical feedback. Let’s talk about your big idea and how we can achieve data-driven validation in record time.

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