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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

To Storyboard or Not to Storyboard??

If you are involved in the world of Instructional Design or Technical Writing this question can raise heated debate.

So what is the answer to this question? I'm not sure that there is a one size fits all approach to training design and many aspects need to be factored into the equation such as:

  • The clients/organisations preferred method;

  • The preferred method of the designer;

  • The type of storyboard required (how detailed);

  • The time available for the designer to complete the project;

  • The time available for the client/organisation stakeholders to go through the material and approve;

  • The program that the training is being developed in;

  • Whether the information/topic is known to the designer; and

  • The experience of the designer.

Personally I have worked in organisations on both sides of the fence.

The main reasons for storyboarding are that it allows everyone to be on the same page before the project really begins, it allows for sign-off on given topics and information (and for this reason is great for contractors) and it allows designers to be structured and logical in their approach.

The main reasons against storyboarding is that it can be time consuming for both the designer and the reviewers so is not the best for urgent projects. It also doesn't leave as much room for the creative flair of the designer to come into play and it often feels like you are duplicating the work effort. Many designers prefer to just go straight into rapid prototyping of the training.

I personally use a bit of a hybrid approach to training design that I've gathered and tailored from previously workplaces. I prefer not to storyboard when possible but I also don't go straight into rapid prototyping. Instead I use a Content Matrix.

The Content Matrix allows me to have a plan of attack. It allows for some structure and a logical approach but also allows me the freedom to be able to create in the moment and the flexibility to move things around as needed (which is a lot harder to do if you have a storyboard where the content has been signed off).

The Content Matrix also allows me to spend minimal time on the planning of the project (a great Content Matrix can be put together in 5 - 10 minutes) and allows me to get designing quickly but with a logical approach. This works really well for me (I'm an Activist so just like to get on with it) and clients also tend to feel that they are getting value for money (they can still see the outline of the project but they are not paying the designer for hours of work in creating it).

The other upside to the Content Matrix is that it allows everyone to have an overview of where the project is at, as well as the time frames to complete each step. This allows clients to review their processes if particular time frames are taking too long (for example the review stage or the testing stage).

As mentioned above, I don't believe there is a one size fits all approach. Sometimes the result will be dictated by a client/organisation, other times it will come down to personal preferences. Just remember, it is always good to try something new - you just might find it works better for you.

I have included a snapshot of a sample Content Matrix that I use, feel free to copy. I would also love to hear your preferred methods of design.

Content Matrix

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