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Storyboarding in UX Design

To come up with a proper design, UX designers use a lot of different research techniques, such as contextual inquires, interviews and workshops. They summarize research findings into user stories and user flows and communicate their thinking and solutions to the teams with artifacts such as personas and wireframes. But somewhere in all of this, there are real people for whom the products are being designed for. In order to create better products, designers must understand what’s going on in the user’s world and understand how their products can make the user’s life better. And that’s where storyboards come in.

In this article, we’ll focus on storyboards as a means to explore solutions to UX issues, as well as to communicate these issues and solutions to others.

What Is A Storyboard?

A storyboard is a linear sequence of illustrations, arrayed together to visualize a story. As a tool, storyboarding comes from motion picture production. Walt Disney Studios is credited with popularizing storyboards, having used sketches of frames since the 1920s. Storyboards enable Disney animators to create the world of the film before actually building it.

Storyboards have long been used as a tool in the visual storytelling media. Here is a Peter Pan storyboard. (Image: Wikia)

Stories are the most powerful form of delivering information for a number of reasons:

  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Illustrating a concept or idea helps people to understand it more than anything else. An image speaks more powerfully than just words by adding extra layers of meaning.
  • Storyboards help people relate to a story. As human beings, we often empathize with characters who have challenges similar to our own real-life ones. And when designers draw storyboards, they often imbue the characters with emotions.
  • Stories capture attention. People are hardwired to respond to stories: Our sense of curiosity immediately draws us in, and we engage to see what will happen next.

What Is A Storyboard In UX Design?

A storyboard in UX is a tool that visually predicts and explores a user’s experience with a product. It presents a product very much like a movie in terms of how people will use it. It can help UX designers understand the flow of people’s interaction with a product over time, giving the designers a clear sense of what’s really important for users.

Why Does Storytelling Matter in UX?

Stories are an effective and inexpensive way to capture, convey and explore experiences in the design process. In UX design, this technique has the following benefits:

  • Design approach is human-centered. Storyboards put people at the heart of the design process. They put a human face on analytics data and research findings.
  • Forces thinking about user flow. Designers are able to walk in the shoes of their users and see the products in a similar light. This helps designers to understand existing scenarios of interaction, as well as to test hypotheses about potential scenarios.
  • Prioritizes what’s important. Storyboards also reveal what you don’t need to spend money on. Thanks to them, you can cut out a lot of unnecessary work.
  • Allows for “pitch and critique” method. Storyboarding is a team-based activity, and everyone on a team can contribute to it (not just designers). Similar to the movie industry, each scene should be critiqued by all team members. Approaching UX with storytelling inspires collaboration, which results in a clearer picture of what’s being designed. This can spark new design concepts.
  • Simpler iteration. Storyboarding relies heavily on an iterative approach. Sketching makes it possible for designers to experiment at little or no cost and to test multiple design concepts at the same time. Designers can be shot down, move on and come up with a new solution relatively quickly. Nobody gets too attached to the ideas generated because the ideas are so quick and rough.

Storyboarding in the UX Design Process

A storyboard is a great instrument for ideation. In UX design, storyboards shape the user journey and the character (persona). They help designers to string together personas, user stories and various research findings to develop requirements for the product. The familiar combination of images and words makes even the most complex ideas clear.

When Is Storyboarding Useful?

Storyboarding is useful for participatory design. Participatory design involves all parties (stakeholders, UI and UX designers, developers, researchers) in the design process, to ensure that the result is as good as possible. With a compelling storyboard that shows how the solution addresses the problem, the product is more likely to be compelling to the target audience.

It can also be helpful during design sprints and hackathons, when the prototype is being built by multiple people in a very short time. Communicating design decisions with a storyboard really comes in handy.

When Is There No Need for a Storyboard?

If everyone involved in creating a product already shares a solid understanding of how the product should be designed and agrees on the direction of the design and development, then there’s no need for a storyboard.

Use Storyboarding To Illustrate Experiences

Before you start creating a storyboard, it’s important to know exactly why you want to do it. If you don’t have a clear goal in mind, you might end up with a few attractive storyboards, but they won’t give you important insights into the user’s experience.

The Primary Purpose of Storyboards Is Communication

When you search for storyboards online, they always look really nice. You might think that in order to do them properly, you have to be really good at drawing. Good news: You don’t. A great storyboard artist isn’t necessary the next Leonardo da Vinci. Rather, a great storyboard artist is a great communicator.

Thus, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a skilled illustrator. What is far more important is the actual story you want to tell. Clearly conveying information is key. Keep in mind that a designer’s main skill isn’t in Photoshop, but rather is the ability to formulate and describe a scenario.

When thinking about storyboarding, most people focus on their ability (or inability) to draw. The good news is that you don’t need to be good at drawing in order to create storyboards. This example is a storyboard frame from Martin Scorsese’s film Goodfellas.

How to Work Out a Story Structure?

Before drawing a single line on a piece of paper or whiteboard, prepare to make your story logical and understandable. By understanding the fundamentals of the story and deconstructing it to its building blocks, you can present the story in a more powerful and convincing way.

Each story should have following elements:

  • Character. A character is the persona featured in your story. Behavior, expectations, feelings, as well as any decisions your character makes along the journey are very important. Revealing what is going on in the character’s mind is essential to a successful illustration of their experience. Each story should have at least one character.
  • Scene. This is the environment inhabited by the character (it should have a real-world context that includes a place and people).
  • Plot. The plot should start with a specific event (a trigger) and conclude with either the benefit of the solution (if you’re proposing one) or the problem that the character is left with (if you’re using the storyboard to highlight a problem the user is facing).
  • Narrative. The narrative in a storyboard should focus on a goal that the character is trying to achieve. All too often, designers jump right into explaining the details of their design before explaining the backstory. Avoid this. Your story should be structured and should have an obvious beginning, middle and end. Most stories follow a narrative structure that looks a lot like a pyramid — often called a Gustav Freytag pyramid, after the person who identified the structure. Freytag broke down stories into five acts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action (resolution) and denouement (conclusion).

Freytag’s pyramid, showing the five parts, or acts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. Ben Crothers has drawn in a quick story about a guy whose phone doesn’t work.

To make your story powerful, account for these things:

  • The main thing is to make the character, their goal and what happens in their experience as clear as possible. The outcome of the story should be clear for anyone who sees it: If you use a storyboard to communicate an existing problem, end with the full weight of the problem; if you use a storyboard to present a solution that will make the character’s life better, end with the benefits of that solution.
  • Honor the real experiences of the people for whom you’re designing. If you’re writing a story that isn’t faithful to the product, it won’t bring any value to you and your users. Thus, the more realistic the storyboard is, the better the outcome will be.
  • Each detail in the story should be relevant to the experience. Cut out any unnecessary extras. No matter how good a phrase or picture may be, if it doesn’t add value to the overall message, remove it.
  • Bake emotion into the story. Communicate the emotional state of your character throughout their experience.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own Storyboard

With so many things to take into account, creating a storyboard might seem like an impossible task. Don’t worry, the following guide will help you turn out a good one:

  • Grab a pen and paper. You don’t have to use special software to leverage storyboards in the design process. Start with a pen or whiteboard marker, and be ready to experiment.
  • Start with a plain text and arrows. Break up the story into individual moments, each of which should provide information about the situation, a decision the character makes and the outcome of it, whether a benefit or a problem.

Lay out each story as a sequence of moments. (Image credit: Nick Babich)

  • Bake emotion into the story. Next, convey what the character feels during each step. I add emoticons at each step, to give a feeling for what’s going on in the character’s head. You can draw in each emotional state as a simple expression.

The same sequence of moments but with emoticons added will give the viewer a sense of what’s going on with the character’s emotional state. (Image credit: Nick Babich)

  • Translate each step into a frame. Roughly sketch a thumbnail in each frame of the storyboard to tell the story. Emphasize each moment, and think of how your character feels about it. Visuals are a great way to bring a story to life, so use them wherever possible. You can leave a comment on the back of each frame to give more context. You can also show a character’s thinking with thought bubbles.

Storyboard frames

Story told in frames (Image: Elena Marinelli)

  • Show it to teammates. After you’ve drawn the storyboard, show it to other team members to make sure it’s clear to them.

A Few Notes on Fidelity

High-fidelity storyboards (like the one in the example below) can look gorgeous.

A smile or frown can add emotion to the story and make it come alive for the audience. Image: Chelsea Hostetter, Austin Center for Design

However, in most cases, there’s no need for high-fidelity illustration. The level of fidelity will determine how expensive the storyboard will be to create. As I said before, conveying information is what’s important. A more schematic illustration can do that perfectly, while saving a lot of time.

Real-Life Storyboard In Action

Airbnb is a great example of how storyboarding can help a company understand the customer experience and shape a product strategy. To shape the future of Airbnb, CEO Brian Chesky borrowed a strategy from Disney animators. Airbnb created a list of the emotional moments that comprise an Airbnb stay, and it built the most important of those moments into stories. One of the first insights the team gained from storyboarding is that their service isn’t the website — most of the Airbnb experience happens offline, in and around the homes it lists on the website. This understanding steered Airbnb’s next move: to focus on the mobile app as a medium that links online and offline.

An example of a storyboard. Image credit: Airbnb


Dieter Rams once said, “You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.” Storyboarding in UX helps you better understand the people you’re designing for. Every bit you can do to understand the user will be tremendously helpful.

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Taking education higher with Google Cloud Platform

Editor’s note: This week the Google team is in Philadelphia for the annual EDUCAUSE conference, a gathering of higher education technology leaders. If you’re at the event, visit us at booth #1100 to see the latest demos of Google Cloud Platform (GCP), G Suite, Jamboard, as well as virtual reality and augmented reality tools. Or follow the action on our @GoogleForEdu account, using the #EDU17 hashtag. If you want to connect with our team but can’t make it to Philadelphia, contact us.

I’m continually inspired by all the ways that educational institutions use Google Cloud to expand learning for everyone. Today, eleven years after San Jose City College and Arizona State University became the first to adopt G Suite for Education, we’re announcing that more than 80 million students, faculty and staff now use these tools in higher ed and K12.. Meanwhile, Google Cloud’s product portfolio continues to expand, helping us keep up with educators’ and students’ limitless ideas. Below are a few recent highlights of what institutions have been doing with the help of Google Cloud.


Northeastern researchers understand the spread of Zika using GCP

Amidst the spread of the Zika virus, the Modeling of Biological and Socio-technical Systems (MoBS) lab at Northeastern University, created a model to better understand the deadly virus. Using a mathematical and computational approach powered by GCP, the team studied different scenarios under which Zika could spread, projecting its impact on affected populations. The model is based on the initial spread of Zika in Brazil, and allows researchers to predict the impact of new infections in other locations by introducing additional data layers, including temperature, number of mosquitoes, population size and people’s travel patterns.

With Google Compute Engine and Preemptible Virtual Machines, MoBS has run more than 10 million simulations and drastically reduced the time needed to analyze data.

“Time is vital when confronting disease outbreaks,” says Matteo Chinazzi, Associate Research Scientist at Northeastern University, “and GCP gives us the tools we need to move quickly at scale.” To read more about MoBS Lab’s  Zika research and analysis, check out “Spread of Zika virus in the Americas” and our full Northeastern case study.


This incidence map of Zika infections, created in December 2016 by the MoBS lab simulation model, is a spatial projection of the median number of infections by February 28, 2017. The inset maps provide detailed projections for the areas of Recife and Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

MIT professor pushes computing limits

Andrew V. Sutherland, a computational number theorist and Principal at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is part of the team behind L-Functions and Modular Forms Database (LMFDB), a detailed atlas of mathematical objects and the connections among them. This database is used by physics, computer science and mathematics communities around the world.

The calculations to create the objects in LMFDB are complex, time-consuming and expensive to perform. Sutherland uses Compute Engine and Persistent Disk to calculate some of those objects. One tabulation required 580,000 cores of preemptible VMs to compute—the largest known high-performance compute cluster to ever run in the public cloud.

LMFDB also uses Google Cloud to host its web servers, as well as GCP tools like Google Stackdriver, Google Cloud Console and Google Cloud Load Balancing. Running on GCP supports countless daily searches, and allows people in multiple countries to easily administer the system.

We’re excited to see how the team behind LMFDB continues to push the limits of what is possible. See the full MIT LMFDB case study.


City College of New York and Howard West use GCP Education Grants to equip students with hands-on learning

GCP Education Grants are putting the cloud in the hands of future researchers and computer scientists at more than 500 higher education institutions.

At City College of New York (CCNY), GCP Education Grants provide computer science (CS) students with hands-on experience with virtualization, containers and other cloud technologies. Peter Barnett, Adjunct Associate Computer Science professor, uses GCP Education Grants for students in his Senior Project capstone course, whose software projects have great scientific, social and entrepreneurial potential.  

His teams’ projects include:

  • using machine learning to advance the optical character recognition of handwriting

  • assisting trainers, physical therapists and their clients to develop and maintain correct form in exercise

  • enhancing patent search using content analytics combined with machine learning

  • interior mapping of subway stations and other public places to assist visually impaired people

  • generating quasi-random music with AI that changes in response to user feedback

These students think big, and the GCP grants can help them move from big ideas to new creations.

Across the country, Gloria Washington, a computer science professor from Howard University, helped students in her summer course at Howard West in Mountain View tackle machine learning problems using Cloud Datalab and TensorFlow. These tools allowed Gloria to design a course that was hands-on and project-based, helping students focus on machine learning rather than spending all their time setting up the technology.

“For us, [saving time] was really crucial because we only had five weeks for this course. If you spend a week trying to get them to download the libraries and then make sure that they have the right commands to be able to run it from the shell, that just creates a whole level of complexity that we didn't want to deal with. The complexity was really cut down.”

Professors teaching courses in computer science and related fields can apply for free GCP Education Grants. Learn more about eligibility and apply for grants and see the full case studies about the experiences of Howard West and CCNY.

10 things to know about our latest dynamic duo, Google Pixelbook and Pixelbook Pen

This week we’re debuting our newest hardware star to hit shelves: Google Pixelbook. Pixelbook combines the best parts of a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone into a new, high performance Chromebook that’s designed to fit how we use technology today. And now Pixelbook can be yours, starting at $999. Here are 10 ways Google Pixelbook, along with its companion the Pixelbook Pen, are standout performers.


1. Does it all. Pixelbook is fully convertible so it can adapt to any situation or task. With a 4-in-1 design, you can use it as a laptop for work or school, as a tablet to read a book or take notes, in tent mode as you follow along with a recipe in the kitchen, or flip the keyboard underneath and prop it up to watch your favorite show or movie.

2. This show goes on the road. Pixelbook is our thinnest and lightest laptop ever—just 10.3mm thin and about 1 kilogram light—making it super portable.


3. Knows its lines (even without the script). With Google Drive, Pixelbook automatically backs up your most recent Google Docs, Sheets and Slides files so you can keep working, even without an internet connection.

4. A VIP pass to all the best apps. Pixelbook supports Google Play, so you can use all the apps you know and love...right on your laptop. Download Netflix to watch your favorite series on the commute, even offline, or use Adobe Lightroom to edit a photo before you post it to Instagram, right from your Pixelbook.

5. Roll out the red carpet. Pixelbook is the first laptop with the Google Assistant built in. Just say “Ok Google” or press the dedicated Google Assistant key to send a quick email, create a new doc, get the details of your next calendar event and more. With Pixelbook Pen, you can simply press and hold the button on the pen and circle text or images on your screen to get more information or take action.

6. The show must go on… and on. Pixelbook boots up fast and keeps going, with up to 10 hours of use. When you’re low on juice, just 15 minutes of charging will get you up to two hours of use.

7. Everything’s buttoned up backstage. Your Pixelbook comes with the speed, simplicity and security of Chrome OS, which means it will automatically update when online with the latest software and it won’t slow down over time. It’s also protected from malware with multiple layers of protection and encrypted data with tamper-resistant hardware.

8. Autograph-ready. Pixelbook Pen gives you a natural writing and drawing experience with virtually no lag—plus tilt-support and pressure sensitivity. Take notes right from the lockscreen with Google Keep, draw with Infinite Painter, and more.

Pixelbook-Process Sketch.jpg

9. Has its own entourage (just like the biggest stars). Your Pixelbook works seamlessly with your Pixel phone so if you’re not within range of a Wi-Fi network, you can use Instant Tethering to automatically connect your Pixelbook to your phone’s mobile data connection.

10. Can fit your whole reelPixelbook comes with three storage options going up to half a terabyte (that’s a lot) of on-device storage so you can easily store your favorite shows, movies and music too. 

[Editorial] Samsung Envisions Life Transformed by Artificial Intelligence

Just about every industry today is being transformed by Artificial Intelligence (AI). From retail and entertainment to transportation and healthcare, AI is seeping into our world in ever more profound ways, revolutionizing the way we go about our daily lives.


At Samsung Electronics, we share in the vision of a fully open, intelligent and connected world. A world where AI will play an integral role, where one day everything from our phones to our refrigerators will possess some sort of intelligence to help us seamlessly interact with our surroundings. To bring the company closer to realizing its vision, we are working tirelessly to develop technologies that can help us take this first leap into intelligence.



AI – Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going?


Since it was first envisioned in the 1950s, AI has made a palpable impact on our lives, giving us practical speech recognition, more effective web search and self-driving cars, among other innovations.


Earlier this month, Google’s AlphaGo AI program made news by mastering the ancient Chinese board game Go in just three days without any human assistance. This major advance comes just two decades after Deep Blue crushed chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, illustrating that AI has not only come a long way in a short time, but is on track to creating unthinkable opportunities across all industries that will add new value to our lives.


The recent explosion in AI is enabled by a number of factors including a wider availability of GPUs, virtually infinite amounts of data, and more advanced machine and deep learning algorithms. Additionally, investments in AI have tripled from $26 billion in 2013 to $39 billion in 2016, further propelling the development of new intelligent technologies.


Despite these advancements, there are very real challenges that are hindering the development of AI technologies, including the lack of the required talent pool in the AI industry. Furthermore, many device manufacturers haven’t quite figured out how to best optimize the user data they receive from their sensor-equipped products. As a result, enterprises struggle to determine what AI is capable of and what kind of value it can bring to consumers.



Bixby – Bringing New Value into the Smart Home


Samsung, too, has contemplated how AI can deliver real value to its users, and in doing so have developed Bixby, a bold reinvention of its intelligent interface that’s even more ubiquitous, open and personal. Powered by the Samsung Connect, Bixby will act as the controlling platform of your connected device ecosystem, including mobile phones, TVs and even home appliances to make the smart home experience even smarter.


In fact, we are adding Bixby Voice to our Family Hub refrigerator. Now, you will be able to check the weather, build shopping lists and order groceries with the power of your voice. So, for example, if you were running low on milk, you would just say, “Hi Bixby, order milk” to order food directly from the screen.


The integration of Bixby Voice and Samsung Connect into the Family Hub refrigerator marks a big step – one that will offer developers tremendous opportunities to develop new content, applications and experiences in areas such as food, health, home management, entertainment and more.


We think this could be the fourth wave, where you have programmable objects dispersed throughout your entire home, seamlessly connected and communicating in a personalized and intuitive manner. In this way, we are moving beyond simply connecting devices to the Internet and are taking the next step by connecting devices to intelligence. This new era is what we are calling the “Intelligence of Things.”


Smarter World, Better Life

A world powered by the Intelligence of Things will open up entirely new possibilities. In this world, every machine around you is intelligence-enabled, capable of understanding and anticipating your needs. In this world, mundane tasks are a thing of the past, allowing you to spend more time doing the things you enjoy with the people you love.


We know that we have a long way to go to fully realize our vision. But we are wholly committed to building upon our heritage of creating meaningful innovation and driving digital transformation to advance technologies in artificial intelligence. We could not be more excited to help lead the changes that will define this new, transformative era.

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