Narrative Product Development: Why Storytelling Helps You Design Better Products

Writing stories help create great products.

This is the reason why Codecademy uses storytelling to improve its learning platform.

Stories allow you to make sure your new product or new feature fits your customers’ lives.

The Complexity of Customer Experience

Working with customer stories forces you to think about the whole story, not just a single moment.

The whole story encompasses the elements of customer experience, including Context, Trigger, In-store Experience, Online Experience, User Experience, Post-Purchase Experience, Word-of-mouth, Repeat

But we often think about customer experience through single moments. We focus on only one specific element because customer experience is too complex to model.

Getting a Grasp on the Whole Customer Story

Storytelling is an alternative that helps you get more consistency without having to model the whole customer journey.

If there’s one piece missing, the story becomes incoherent.

You’ve already seen this in a movie or a book. When there’s an illogical plot or irreconcilable elements, the contradictions stand out.

This is the same when you write the stories of your customers.

Narrative Product Development forces you to take the whole story into account. You get a full view of the customer journey, not just the focus on a single moment.

Customer stories help you dig into all the stages of customer experience without the necessity of mapping them.


Storytelling: Products Are for Humans Not Datasets

Using stories makes you treat your customers as humans. They’re no longer bits or metadata. They’ve become a central character of what some writers identify as the hero’s journey.

In other words, a story is not a single snapshot. It’s more like a play or a novel. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Telling the story of someone else helps you visualise what your ideas would look like in their lives.

You switch from the vague saying “people want this”. And you start recognising that the hero of the story—your customer—has some specific problems; you need to come up with a realistic way to solve these problems; and you must think through the consequences on her or his life.

Stories make you design for people, not for datasets.

[To find out more about the Narrative Product Development process, listen to my recent interview of Conor McGlauflin, Design Lead at Codecademy.]