SXSW 2011: Conserve Code: Storyboard Experiences with Customers First

Joseph O’Sullivan
Lead, Design Innovation

Rachel Evans
Principle Research Scientist, Chief Innovation Catalyst

Design Thinking

  • Deep Customer Empathy: knowing your customers more than they know themselves
  • Go Broad to go Narrow: if you’re going to get a great idea, you’ll need a portfolio of existing great ideas.
  • Rapid Experimentation with Customers


Storyboards are quick visual steps in how a user in a system executes. The first documentation in history of a storyboard was in 1930 in Hells Angels.

Intuit uses Storyboards in terms of:

  • Web Applications
  • Mobile Applications
  • Customer Care: even before the first phone call, or during it
  • Human Resources: their employees’ experiences throughout their job from the first day
  • Community Support

An Example

Snap Tax is an iPhone application to file your taxes with the ability to take a photo of your W2 and have it instantly populated, ask them additional tax questions, and then pay and file your taxes. When creating this application originally they made a Storyboard which gave them their estimated tax right off the bat with just their W2 and marital status. This Storyboard was also just 6 slides long, and very generalized and simple. If you show a customer a finished product they’re less likely to give you negative feedback because they feel bad. But if you give them a storyboard right off the bat then they’re more likely to. In the end they discovered customers didn’t care if they were getting a refund, or for how much, but rather or not the phone system would actually speed up their process. So instead of showing them their number right away they showed them how easy it was to enter your W2.

  • Pitty Begets Honesty: Customers tend to react to rough sketches more honestly than with finished click throughs.
  • Narcissus Antidote: We’ve never seen anyone fall in love with their storyboard and not change it.

Creating Storyboards

When you’re creating a Storyboard you’re just wondering what’s good or bad with your idea, and what works well with the customer. A Storyboard needs to be aligned with the customer’s problem, solve that it is a solution for their issues, and finally wow them. In every cell of a Storyboard there is something to learn:

  • Do you understand the problem? Is it an important problem?
  • Does your solution solve the problem completely?
  • Lastly, the benefit. What is good about your idea from the customer’s perspective? Will it delight them?

A 6-cell storyboard should have these cells: goal, problem, solution, solution, solution, benefit

In setting up a storyboard you should consider these things:

  • What’s the project?
  • Who’s the customer? Get specific: age, gender, experiences with similar products, etc.
  • What’s the problem? “I’m trying to __(goal)__ but __(problem)__.”
  • What’s the solution? Three most important moments that need to occur for the solution to execute
  • What’s the benefit? This isn’t the feature list. It’s what’s beneficial to the customer, and doesn’t include any of the words how you would describe the features to your boss.
  • Now that you have the customer problem, the solution, and the customer benefit, what do you want to learn about it? Your goal is to gather as much new feedback as possible. It’s what’s not clear to you about what you have completed so far.
  • Now it’s time to draw.
Posted in SXSW 2011.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *