Albert Einstein said “If you cannot explain it simply, you didn’t get it yourself.” This quote on simplicity can be applied to everyday life regardless of what work you do, from CFO to content director to software developer.

At my company, we rely on simplicity for all tasks — the simpler you can make things, the easier your workflow. But the most vital task for simplicity is during storyboarding for software design. You can also think of storyboarding as storytelling, and of course, the process of storyboarding for most developers is through whiteboarding. Most rely on the classic whiteboard, but there is also great software out there just for storyboarding software development.

The storyboarding process was derived by Walt Disney Productions in the 1930s to pre-visualize animated films. Seven decades later, it has many uses, including all forms of development across many businesses.

Storyboarding is used throughout many principles of software development, including a few processes my team relies on daily (the Agile process and User Experience Design).

During the Agile process, the concept of user stories exist, which help define the basic requirements of a functioning platform. To create the best software experience, the team storyboards the most basic user functionality. In user experience design, storytelling is more elaborate and more human-like, providing a rich context of events from basic functionality through all steps and possible side steps along the way.

In short, storyboarding provides a step-by-step process of development that helps simplify workflow. The following are four tactics of why and how storyboarding hastens the software development process.

Externalize Mental Notes

Most learning comes through visualization. Although some developers may have the concept in their minds, they will be able to further elaborate on it once it’s storyboarded, which brings the visual concept to the surface.

Storyboarding externalizes all mental notes, allowing the development stages to not only be visual for the developer completing the storyboarding, but also for anyone on his or her team. This streamlines all processes and provides quicker resolution to the proverbial moving parts as developers think of new ideas and reject other thoughts.

A few of our developers admit that they can’t fully understand a development project until their mental notes are externalized, and the quickest route towards this externalization is through storyboarding.

Storyboarding Forces Developer Collaboration

By nature, storyboarding forces collaboration and speeds up the agreement process. This type of collaboration forces developers to agree on every foundation of the process before moving ahead.

Storyboarding also creates quick reference points that may need revisiting during the iterative phases of the development process, especially when refining the product before completion. Our developers keep many photo files of whiteboard storyboarding sessions, allowing them to visually revisit a previous edition of the development.

Keeps Real-World Context In The Forefront

Storyboarding forces developers to look at the product from a real-world context — not just as another coding project. This brings the human factor into the intent of the software, helping to strengthen not only the intended outcome of the product but also the overall functionality.

The use of storyboarding also prompts unexpected findings, such as the overall flow of the product’s intent. When working with one of our energy clients, we discovered through storyboarding a few unexpected paths for user intentions that smoothened the eventual client experience. Using storyboarding keeps the human experience always in the forefront.

Also, when deep in the developing stages, the overall development flow sometimes gets distorted by technical needs such as coding issues. When this occurs, the main focus of the end need — ultimately how the user will respond — can get lost.

Allows Further Customer Research

The closer you are to a customer, the easier it is to develop truly engaging software that provides solutions. During storyboarding, questions will naturally surface that ask things that are specific to customers, like what direction a user will take when reaching “X” on the software’s intended purpose. This will keep you in constant contact with the customer, creating stronger relationships while easing development.

Encourage storyboarding as a standard practice for your software development teams. It will provide the benefits of the four tactics above, which all result in one huge thing: simplification of processes that naturally hastens workflow. The simpler the mindset, the simpler your flow of work, which results in quicker progress. Storyboarding is an essential element to true progress of any type of software development.


Scott Stiner
Scott Stiner is the CEO & President of UM Technologies and its partner companies.