Article

Solutions as Stories™

Today's most successful websites do more than inform, they inspire. This emotional connection is critical to success for both you and your clients. User Experience guides this and lets your visitors realize that what they're searching for is where you're at, and that when you're telling your story, you're telling theirs as well. Find out more about what makes a great Solution as Story™.

By Ian Lambert, Director of Art and Digital Design at The Triple-I Corporation

Tell a Good Story

Responsiveness and efficiency in today’s web and mobile ecosystem is no longer an end-goal, it is a bare minimum. A site that functions well, is easy-to-use and conveys content is where a great site should start - not where it ends. Today’s tech-savvy user has grown accustomed to mobile-friendly, stylistically responsive websites and apps. Where in the past this would cause a site to shine above the rest, now puts it squarely on the same ground as everyone else. How then to stand out above the rest? How to do more than inform, both for the client and the consumer?

You must compel. This is where a good story is the perfect medium to convey your content and inform your design. It is no coincidence that since our earliest days, stories have been an important part of human culture. Stories abound, from sitting around fires lit in the untamed night, to today’s digital matinees and internet-based arenas for entertainment and education. The digital space has become the latest, and some would say, most dynamic medium from which a story can be told.

There are many kinds of stories. Ones that inspire. Ones that strike fear. Ones that inform. Ones that reach us where we live, work and play. But in all their variety, each provides something that facts alone do not. A story moves the one who hears it, and this is where we find today’s most promising digital solutions.

Connect Emotionally

Humans are emotional creatures and draw immediate connections with something that triggers their emotions, be it fear, love, respect or hate. Whether a user realizes it or not, they are constantly evaluating what they are experiencing through an emotional lens. This is true in reading lines from a book, or perusing a section of a website. Judgements are forming and informing the user as to whether their web experience is satisfying. It has become necessary to design a user’s experience to maximize a site’s connectivity to a visitor’s emotions and do so with intent. A site which functions perfectly but lacks emotional intent will solidify itself in the mind of the visitor as static. It might be “getting the job done”, but in this age of provocative web presence, an emotionless site is in danger of being perceived as lifeless. 

A story framework overcomes this. As in all good stories, you must lay the scene out (context for your services), identify the players (acknowledge the user’s and owner’s place in the story as relevant), reveal the antagonist (the conflict or problem generator in the consumer’s life), reveal the hero (focusing on the site owner’s capabilities), and of course resolve the conflict (show how your solutions will help them). It is by creating emotional tension in the site that you are then able to relieve it through your solutions.

Convey Meaningfully

An emotional connection is not enough to provide good User Experience. Emotions without a base of meaning will quickly burn themselves out like mindless summer movie eye candy or a diet of sugar. In the case of a website, emotionally charged content and imagery will fail if the user doesn’t accomplish what they’ve arrived for, have been informed as the site owner intends, or has been enriched because of their visit. Proper sitemap, content analysis, and stakeholder interviews are needed to discover what information a site should hold. Well-designed wireframes create hierarchies and juxtapositions of content that show how the site should present it.

  • Meaningful text content is svelte (strong, lacking extraneous word bulk and distracting chatter).The text should be crafted so that every word has a place and purpose. Many site redesigns get a boost in direction and purpose when old site content is reviewed for update or removal.
  • Imagery is powerful, use it wisely. An image connects far faster, and many times more powerfully than words alone. Current trends to include large-scale images with sparse amounts of text plays directly into this connection.
  • Convey the brand. Every section of the site, while not necessarily quoting them, should be true to the core beliefs and values that you wish to impress upon the visitor.

Compel Emphatically

A good story moves the visitor to action through an emphatic relationship. This allows the user to see themselves in the conflict that you’ve laid out, share the fears and emotions that the site infers, and then breathe an effective sigh of relief when you show how to get them out of danger. A successful site will progress the user along a path, always moving them gently towards the conclusion that you’ve intended. It is important that this progression takes place in both site structure and page content.

However, without establishing empathy (via a relatable tone or situation) the user may feel your direction to be more akin to bullying or an overly aggressive forcing of their choices. The user should feel that your story and theirs are not so unalike. That your solutions make sense for their story. It is by careful crafting that the user is transported to the heart of the conflict, and that you, as hero, are there to save the day. By doing so, they are not so much pushed to a desirable end, but pulled there by their own volition.

Write a Happy Beginning

Whether by describing the horrors of a business problem, the mysteries of a logistics issue, or romance of a new, brighter technology, your Solutions as Stories™ should not give a visitor the happy ending they’re looking for. It should give them a happy beginning. Engaging your services should be an opportunity to turn away from the stagnant, static forms of the past. Here, new things are happening. Your solutions should not merely present themselves as a set of boxes to check off without form or direction. While browsing at their leisure through resources may be a part of the story you tell, the larger story arc must have a vector of thought leading to the realization that the visitor needs more than a stale answer. They need a relationship. 

Here is where their lone conflict ends and your solution together begins.

Watch our User Experience Video Here.

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