Tell A Story With Our Designs – For A Better Future?

I love to write songs.

My best songs are story-based…you know, in verse one we meet the character, the bridge describes what their struggle is, and the first chorus what they’re feeling. Verse two brings in detail or a new wrinkle to the story, followed by a slightly altered chorus that applies to the situation. Of course after that is a killer guitar solo, and then verse three or a B-section brings a surprising twist…that not only makes the song memorable, but by the end of the final chorus makes the listener think about how it applies to their life in hopes that they will become a little bit better person.

I’m starting to wonder: should our user experience designs tell a compelling story, too?

In this case, instead of the story being about a character we hope the listener likes, the story told by our designs would be about the users data, or their systems, or even the users status updates, photos, and chats. We know these are things our users are already passionate about and they are rooting for to win!

…so why do some of my designs seem like a documentary? “Hmm, your system is this, that, the other thing. You data takes up this much space.” …Distant…sterile…


In these standard designs, there is nothing to connect our user emotionally to their data/systems…nothing to draw them in so they WANT to invest their time helping the story along.

Instead, what if I told a story? What if I introduce their systems as characters in a story…knowing that there are challenges ahead, relationships to nearby networks and storage that deepen the story? What if I make the user interface react to what the characters want instead of asking what the humans that use the product want?

For example, I currently define a target user (persona) along with what goals they have. I then design the software to help the human accomplish their humans goals. What if I turned it around and defined my central character as the users data or the systems they are managing, and then showed in the UI what the characters need?

I know the first push-back would the classic rule saying that I shouldn’t personify a non-living object…

…but what if this is what our next-generation of IT professionals need?

Maybe our future IT professionals need software that help them relate to the datacenter systems…help them connect on some emotional level so they will want follow the systems status, help the system through struggles, and feel empowered and feel some deep satisfaction when their systems succeed and thrive.

Stories have been powerful tools to help motivate and capture human attention for centuries…maybe it’s time we start telling stories with our software?

What do you think?

What if we started our software experience with, “Once upon a time…”?

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