Mobile devices don’t exist in a vacuum, they travel with us. They are present when we create our fondest memories, and experience our most intimate moments. Apps are weaving themselves into the stories of users’ lives, and it is our challenge to understand who these users are so that a mobile application journeys with them from cover to cover.

Marketing departments have long created personas of their customers. Storyboarding is simply the process of handing these personas your mobile product and observing what they do with it. Whether it’s as simple as a list of steps, or as complex as a comic, walking through the beginning, middle and end of a mobile product’s story reveals what will happen when it leaves the minds of marketers, and enters the wild.

Author the Story of Your App

Mobile storyboards follow the age-old storytelling pattern we’ve known since childhood:

Character

If you aren’t already starting with a marketing persona, think of building your character like a classic archetype. Start with your customer data, then use it to describe an attitude. Does the idea of putting private information into a medical app scare them? Are they excited about new technology and would love to use a QR reader?

Setting

Mobile travels everywhere, so the setting of our story plays a huge role in dictating how an app is built. Is the urban commuter reading your news app in the subway where there’s no connectivity? Is the vacationing dad trying to book a hotel room in a rural area where there’s no 3G? The culture, connectivity and atmosphere all factor into the end product.

Conflict

A feature list is useless unless we know the pain points each feature solves. Understanding the conflict that your app is addressing is central to its utility. How will your app help when the frantic new mother’s baby is sick? How is your enterprise app helping the fire department finally climb out of their budget and time crunch?

Giving Your User What They Don’t Even Know They Want

But beyond these practical concerns, there are the intangibles – the deeper emotional responses that touch the core of a person. 26% of mobile applications are opened only once, so what part of a user’s psyche will you speak to when you ask them to return? Six factors sway our decision making: love, satisfaction, fear, ego, envy and fun. An app can answer your customer or employee’s core problem without really speaking to any of these values.

Pizza Hut’s app didn’t need to be fun, all it needed to do was order pizza. Pizza is a commodity good that doesn’t necessarily speak to the emotional side of a person, but it can speak to their sense of fun. The company slaved over incorporating almost every feature the iPhone offered into the ordering process so that customers were pinching, swiping and tilting their way through the ordering process. The effort paid off with $1 million in revenue gained from the app.

The complex process of software development can cause us to drift from where we started. We forget why having that button so large was important or why we bothered to incorporate the symptom tracker. Storyboards work as a touchstone to remind us that, above all, it is the user that will determine the success of our product.

To start understanding your user’s journey, download our Storyboarding Mobile Strategy (PDF) sample and look at how the Mutual Mobile UX dives into the characters of an app’s story.

Storyboarding Mobile Strategy