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  • Writer's pictureDevin Weiss

What do you mean, "What is a storyboard"?

Yeah, I have talked with people who had a design job and don't know what a storyboard is or how it is used. I can't say they were really in their prime when they said that, but I can only assume they were just starting out. I don't mean to be crass in writing this post, but if you are looking to be hired for any kind of design or development job I would hope you have a concept of what a storyboard does. Well, maybe you just don't use that term. How about "A Plan"?

Yes, a plan is something a fighter has when entering the octagon, or an astronaut has the moment the warning alarm says he is approaching the station, a flight attendant has when the cabin loses air pressure. As an instructional designer, or any designer for that matter, what makes you so special that you don't need one? Well, if you had an answer to that one I can't imagine you have much experience designing or working with a group on a project.

It is not just for video development

Storyboards are used and NEED to be used for any team environment where content is being developed. Absolutely, storyboards are useful for video development! However, to say you don’t use them because you are making a Captivate or a podcast would be a mistake. The concept is the same… You have images, audio, and or an interaction all timed out and placed intentionally for a user experience.

Plan it out!

Jumping right into Development does NOT save you time

Designers of all kinds are forced to restrain their eager selves from immediately starting development. You skip steps like this in your project and the product will suffer. And when I say suffer I mean that anyone who ever works on that project, for the shelf life of that project, will suffer for your decision.

Storyboarding allows for you to produce the best product possible

Being intentional and planning out any size project is a necessity. From what I have seen in my own experience and from observing our team develop, countless hours are waisted developing something that ends up being scrapped because the client didn’t like it, it didn’t work properly, or it was too difficult to maintain. These are just some of the more common reasons, but there are more where those came from. Can you think of a project that has taken weeks to develop only to be tossed or reassigned to another designer to remake? I can. I can also tell you the root cause of why it failed… Planning.

Pointers for Storyboards Use

Ensure your SMEs know how to read and provide feedback/edits to “Your” storyboard.

  1. The design of your storyboard should be simple and easy to read. Not every aspect of your storyboard will apply to all readers, but all readers should find what they need on it.

Do not start development until you have all “key” stakeholders involved in the review or until you have a confirmed “Green Light” from an established authority.

  1. This is so important! When you start working an begin putting hours of your time in on a project that has not been planned or properly viewed by those who have a dog in the fight. Which brings me to my next point.

Keep the peanut gallery out of the storyboard review process.

  1. It should go without saying that the project lead or the client ordering the project to be developed is a “Key” stakeholder. This anyone who will be directly involved in the project’s development.

  2. This may or may not include selected reviewers, but when inviting people to review, do so with caution. There are those that are able to provide constructive feedback and there are those that derive considerable pleasure in tearing you and your project apart.

Ensure you storyboard outlines what your project will do and when.

  1. If your proposed project contains text, video, audio, interaction or any combination of those; clearly outline each aspect in the storyboard. It can be as simple as labeling a description as what will be seen, said, and/or done. Your storyboard layout should also clearly indicate progression and order. I do this by writing in a table that asks as an ordered list.

Interactions can get pretty detailed, that just means your storyboard needs to be more detailed.

  1. If your project includes a user experience and interactive features, you will need to provide a detailed description of the interaction and how it should work. The more detail you provide is support for your proposal and can have the power of converting a sceptic to your side with a well-supported rationale.

Set clear reviewing guidelines and limitations.

  1. This is something that, unfortunately, seems to be one that most people take issue with. You are the designer and in most cases the main developer on your storyboard. If that isn’t the case that means your storyboard has to be even better than if it was just you interpreting what to design and develop. But when you are asking a SME to review the content of your design it is important that you communicate what you want them to do and try and keep them focused on that goal. Everyone likes to tell you what color they want the text or how quickly they want something to move across the screen, but only they can tell you “what” it is they need their user to see/learn/experience.

  2. Don’t allow them to randomly go “open season” on your project. Open season implies a time factor. If they review your storyboard and then are allowed to push the door open whenever they see fit to change everything again and again. Well, no one gets work done in that kind of environment. If you find yourself in a situation like that and you’re able, cut your losses and run for the hills because people that constantly waffle on their own content they have provided to you will just start doing that to your work whenever they want.

Maintain your storyboard

  1. Projects need to be managed. Your time is an investment and unless you just don’t care that your project lives or dies this may not work for you. But if you are needing to maintain your work as something you can edit or reused then you will want to make sure your storyboard is an accurate reflection of your project at whatever stage it is in. If it is still at the drawing board your storyboard should reflect that. If it is out in production, then it should reflect that.

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