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EMPATHETIC BUSINESS DECISIONS
Storytelling for Product Design
By Manivarma, Design

Storytelling leverages an inherently human function—interesting communication—to build emotional connections. But how does this underrated tool drive critical business decisions when building products?

In ambiguous situations with too many variables and endless discussions, storytelling can present noise-reducing patterns for immediate resolutions. Teams can shape user insights, build empathy, and factor in levels of conflict that better explain what users want from a solution.

In the long run, it helps create a culture of empathetic business decisions.

We've employed this design strategy in many projects, particularly Simple, to bring ourselves up to speed on key user journey points and critical interaction patterns.

Drawing from our 4-step storytelling framework thoroughly outlined in our playbook, here's a TL;DR:

Step 1: Understanding the principles

People remember stories vividly. To ensure your story creates that long-term impact, we'd recommend: being authentic, having a purpose, driving towards clear patterns, and sticking to a simple story-line.
Step 2: Building the story-line

This step anchors the whole process — finding the right theme and questions to ask, structuring the narrative, using relatable language, identifying pain points and driving towards a resolution.
Step 3: Enhancing with visuals

Visuals can enhance a well-told story (but not replace it!). While drafting visuals, we'd recommend trusting the story, avoiding overwhelming the audience, keeping visual style consistent, and adopting a 'less is more' approach.
Step 4: Delivering with intent

Creating a detailed narrative is only one battle; to win the war, it takes delivering with intent and passion. We've found that consistent practice, intonation, effective communication, and receptiveness to feedback go a long way.
Here's how we've seen storytelling tangibly improve our product design processes:
  • Greater clarity and faster multi-level decisions, especially when taking user research and design online
  • Better visualisations through common references to build more user empathy between teams
  • Significantly intuitive products with each iteration and a zoned-in focus on real-world solutions
  • Room for steady growth with deeper context, broader vision, and a priority-based roadmap
We're firm believers in the process of advocating for our ideas — and what better way to drive those ideas home than to tell a good ol' story?
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