Monday, July 25, 2011

Storyboarding at Kern

Recently, we had a client request us to storyboard on Microsoft Word. Whenever I hear this request, I cringe as I recollect my previous experiences of storyboard on Word. Why?
  • Word is a 'text-centered' tool. Word encourages me to write long descriptions of what will happen in each screen. Using drawing tools in Word is a pain. I am a more visual person (or so I have been told). While storyboarding, I have to see:
    • how my screen looks
    • where are the elements placed
    • what is the sequence of animation 
    • what is the visual hierarchy and how will the eye move 
  • Do you know how painful it is to work on tables in Word? Typically, Word storyboards have tables with screen number, OST, Audio, graphic description, and so on. The first time, it acts perfect. By the second review, the text and/or images will start disappearing. I can't tell you how frustrating it is. 
  • Word storyboards leave the course characterless and there is a huge dependency on visual designers to bring life into the course. 
  • Scanning across pages becomes a tedious affair because pages are top-down scroll. It requires a lot of concentration to identify what you are looking for. 
I am going to share a few examples of how we used different Microsoft Office tools to storyboard at Kern Learning Solutions.

When do We use Word for Storyboarding?

I remember using Word well for storyboarding, when the instructional approach was simple branching stories. 
Why did we use Word? We used it because we did not want to focus on visualization just then. We had the more important task of ensuring that the content flow was right and that there were no loose ends. Every option had a consequence and therefore, we used the hyperlink feature to keep track of how the stories end.

When do We use Excel for Storyboarding? 

We used Excel for simple, branching MCQ.

Why did we use excel? The ideas was to show a negative consequence immediately and ask the learner to reconsider. It was important for us to keep an eye on all the consequences. We had to ensure that all options were extremely plausible and there was no repetition.

When do We use PPT?

We extensively use PPT as a storyboarding tool.

In this case, we created a wireframe in PPT. The learner had access to different resources. He/she had to glance through before making a decision. The complexity of questions increased as we went along. The hyper-linking ensured a close to real experience. The PPT also helped us give a visual feel.

Again, we designed a visual storyboard. Where information was displayed in a easy to read and interesting format.

What are the advantages of this:
  • The ID thinks through where things are placed on his/her screen. 
  • The essence of the storyboard is communicated not only to the visual designers but also to the client. It is easier to show people outside the industry how it will work. 
  • It helps give a base for the visual designers and really good visual designers add further value by giving it the right finish and adding their own touches.
  • This helps minimize text on screen. The ID constantly thinks 'How can I display information in a easy to read and interesting fashion?'
  • We don't use templates in PPT, but use grids and guidelines in a disciplined fashion. The storyboard communicated uniformity and consistency.
What are your experiences working with Microsoft tools for storyboarding? How have you used them best?