Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Practical Storyboarding – Not Just for Developers

By Donna Bryant

We designers work in the world of business needs as well as learner instructional needs. Pulling these two diverse needs together into one excellent eLearning product is a challenge we face with every design. Researching and piecing together content tailored for the audience is quite a task by itself. But what about added business specifications?

For example:
  • Suppose the specifications state that you must incorporate the company’s visual branding standards into a lesson?

  • What if the specifications state that you must ensure that company’s core values are represented within a lesson?

  • Or, suppose your specifications state that you must include the latest sales pitch to clients?

Ensuring that content points and specifications are cared for within the lesson’s design can be challenging, but it need not be daunting.

Many designers use storyboarding to communicate content and interaction to developers for eLearning lessons. This is a great application for storyboarding, but there are also other very practical uses for storyboarding that designers might consider.

A good storyboard provides:
  • A simple visual layout you can easily use to check against the content points and specifications.

  • A simple visual editing method you can use to see how the specifications can be woven into the content, and the overall flow of the lesson within its timeframe.

  • A vehicle to use to talk your clients through the lesson point by point showing directly how you addressed the specifications, allowing for easy editing.

  • A method to try out process and content flow prior to development, allowing the content and specifications to be molded as necessary to create an excellent final product your clients will love.

If you are already using a storyboard template of some sort, it should provide the layout for your navigation, any special page formatting your company may have, legal pages, etc. Here are some other design uses for storyboarding:

--1-- Outline your page flow. Identify how the content and specifications can be arranged in a logical lesson outline. This includes identifying where you want interactions and how you want the learner to be able to navigate through the pages (other than what might be in a template). Create placeholder pages for known content.

--2-- Organize your content points and specifications. Match the storyboard points to the content and specification points to ensure that all areas are covered. The beauty of a storyboard is that you not only visually see the layout of each page, but you can also use it to ensure that all points are covered.

--3-- Use the storyboard as you develop the project to keep you organized and on track.

So how could this work? Here’s one way:

Let’s say you’re writing a short eLearning lesson about Sales Compliance. You’ve provided background information about the topic in the content of the lesson.

Your business specifications add the following:

  • Add visual branding standards

  • Address company core values

You fret because this is only a five minute part in an overall lesson. Looking at the storyboard page where you laid out your content, you can easily see some ways to possibly add the company core values, and tie those values directly with the content. You decide to add a pop up question that connects the content to the company core values, and requires the learner to click a button to reveal the answer. As you lay out this interaction on the page, you realize that if you write it just right, you can also include the branding standards within the visual presentation of the pop up question.

Using the storyboard as your visual layout/editor can help you to see possibilities and help you to solve development and design problems before investing hours into development. Try it for yourself!


  1. Hi there, I just wrote a guest blog about this very subject. You can check it out here: http://www.articulate.com/blog/elearning-storyboarding-101/

    I hope its of value and adds to the subject area. Thanks!

  2. Nice work Donna, this really compliments a blog post on storyboarding I wrote here: http://www.articulate.com/blog/elearning-storyboarding-101/ Together I recon these two posts give a really great introduction to the value and approach of storyboarding.

  3. Thanks for your comments, David. Thanks also for pointing me to your post--you made some great points. I was inspired to write my article after taking a Flash class. Storyboarding really helped me to keep the content and specifications straight as I created my Flash designs for the class.


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