Create empathy for users across your business by engaging stakeholders with one of these UX storytelling games
Telling the story of our users is only half the battle of research.
Researchers and designers need to tell a holistic user story, based on individuals in a compelling way that convinces stakeholders to trust our strategies, designs and ultimately business decisions.
This is an enormous task. Everyone at work is busy with their own roles, so how can we build the most empathy in short spans of time?
Presentations and storyboards are great and will remain an integral part of our daily tasks. But storytelling doesn’t have to be a lecture. Instead, you can create engaging team-bonding opportunities - whether it's at an end-of-week cooldown or in a design critique meeting -by using games to showcase the wonderful world of user behavior.
Let’s start with the most simple of our games, general trivia about research and design.
Common themes are usually about topics such as users, metrics, heatmaps, and research.
You can start with simple questions (that work at both the metadata and the holistic level) such as ‘How many users have we interviewed this year?’ or ‘How many languages have we interviewed users in?’.
Don’t forget to tailor the questions to the audience, and to start easy, with questions increasing in difficulty towards the end of each theme.
You can use this opportunity to work out the weak areas in your team’s knowledge. Take note of where most people score the lowest to uncover which areas need more attention, whether analysis, reporting or advertising.
Set-up & The Game
This format works for small or large numbers of people, using one question per slide. Say each question aloud and then provide enough time per slide for teams to read the question and discuss the answer. Split the questions by theme like ‘User interviews’, ‘Product metrics’ or ‘Team questions’.
For any questions that may be too difficult, turn them into a multiple-choice answer. This means people outside of the research team can still join in with an estimated guess. Watch out though - these games can easily overrun, so time management is key! Using a stopwatch to time each section can help add tension and increase engagement.
The trick with these questions is to balance being challenging while empowering people to feel good and learn something at the same time.
Did a user really say this? Has your transcript tool gone wild? Who knows?
This multiple-choice quiz takes your most bizarre user quotes and downright wrong automatic transcription understandings and puts your team to the test. You present a line and teams have to guess where it came from for the point. The team with the most points at the end wins!
This game allows you to present what users say in a creative way while allowing room for fun misinterpretation - taking what was said in a unique direction.
You'll also have the opportunity to explain context and share researcher stories at the end when going through the answers. Since this is the final part, this part should focus on the key takeaways from the activity.
Set-up & The Game
This game is best played with a medium to large group of people, split up into even teams.
Encourage a mix of roles from product, tech, and design to maximize design knowledge and team playing among disciplines. This also means that you won't end up with one team that knows all the answers.
Take quotes from your research and present one per slide. Then each team has to guess whether a quote is:
Show each question for around a minute each, giving teams enough time to read the quote and discuss the answer. Don’t forget to share the context so that you continue to build empathy and understanding. You'll want your players to discuss the good, the bad, the ugly and the funny responses.
Another classic game to play with user quotes.
Bingo is well-known around the world with some slight differences in some countries, making it easy to play across even the most diverse and international teams.
Bingo is a simple game where players mark off elements on cards, with those elements being randomly drawn by the person running the game. Each person has a different arrangement and different quotes on their cards.
Set-up & The Game
For easy set-up, there are plenty of free bingo card generators online, which can be printed off for in-person games, or distributed online.
Now it’s time to call out the quotes at random until someone reaches bingo!
When calling the quotes, you can directly read them out, or get creative with riddles or user stories so that people have to guess which quote was mentioned.
The creativity of how you call out each item is vital in making the game more interesting than the average game of bingo. Bingo also works with teams, allowing them to discuss the quote per riddle or story.
Players then mark off the quotes they have on their cards once called. The first person to complete a row, column, or diagonal line, wins the game!
Typically bingo cards are a 5 x 5 grid with the middle tile left empty. The middle card is considered already filled. Below is our example bingo card inspired by some of our favorite quotes to get you started.
If you’re looking for something cheeky or bold, then here is a twist on the classic party game: Never have I ever. The original game is a drinking game, but you can keep it more work-appropriate by playing the version known as 'ten fingers'
For this version, each person uses their fingers and thumbs as 10 points. When a user has done something mentioned or something has happened to someone in an interview, you lose a point. The last one standing with points wins the game.
The game is best played with at least five people but doesn’t require any setup in advance.
Each person takes a turn to say “Never has a user…” and complete the sentence. For example; “Never has a user walked out in a session” or “Never has a user arrived drunk for an interview”.
If the other players have experienced the statement then they lose a point. If no one has experienced the statement, then the player who made the statement loses the point instead.
The key to this game is that players are honest about what they have experienced, no matter how embarrassing the statement is. The game should also be fun and relatable.
Try to avoid niche situations, more so at the beginning when everyone is warming up. Towards the end, the funniest and most outrageous statements are a way to show others what you’ve been through as a researcher and give you the floor to share your war stories!
Family Feud is a game where two families (or teams) go head to head to guess the majority of responses in a survey consisting of everyday questions.
The fun part is that this game is less about being “right” and more about what you think the majority of people are saying or associating with a topic.
Questions from the TV show game were things like “Name something typically done in a garage” or “What is the most stressful thing in the life of a 16-year-old?”.
For research and design, the questions could be “Name the top five tasks users do on our homepage” or “What are the most stressful things our users say they go through using our products?”.
Your first step is arranging a survey to acquire a data set of questions and answers. You can use existing surveys from users or send a new one asking non-designer colleagues like developers.
You can also always use a combination of these questions and turn them into rounds like “We asked our developers to name a shopping category made popular by our users” or “We asked our Product Owners to name one of the top five most requested features by our users”.
The game usually involves a survey of 100 people, but you can always use percentages instead of the number of respondents per question.
You’ll need two teams, ideally of 4-5 players each. Each team takes the place of a family in the traditional game, with one person as the ‘head of the family' or team captain. The host of the game arranges the data, asking the questions and revealing the answers.
Name a shopping category made popular by our users:
Name one of the top five most requested features by our users:
The game consists of a number of rounds. Each round starts with two people from each team. The first person goes against the first person in the first round, then the second person goes against the second person in the second round, and so on.
A question is asked and the person who buzzes or answers first has the chance to win the opportunity for their team to continue. If their answer is not the top answer, the other person has a chance to answer and steal the opportunity for their team.
The team who wins the opportunity to answer is then asked the same question and tries to uncover all the answers in the survey.
Teams are awarded points for every question they get right. Scoring is simple - The number of points corresponds to the number of respondents who answered. So, if 67% of people said the answer, the team is awarded 67 points.
Watch out though, if you guess three things that are not answers, and the other team has a chance to guess. Should they guess any answer on the board, they steal your points from that round.
Each person on the opposing team says one thing they think is an answer and the captain chooses one answer as their final guess in an attempt to steal the points.
The team who wins the most points at the end of all the rounds, wins the game!
While these games make use of funny moments and quotes with users, there is a fine line between mockery and empathy building.
Tailor your games, questions, quotes, and delivery to your audience. These games are designed to take a serious topic, and help teams learn from it by making it more light-hearted and engaging.
Quotes can and are often taken out of context. So, select quotes carefully that can be explained quickly and easily in the moment.
Games like these can help educate and engage others in research, design, and across the business - and they can also help teams to bond through sharing our vulnerabilities and mishaps.
A huge benefit of playing games like this is that it’s a friendly way of uncovering the gaps in your team’s knowledge. If people know the majority of the user quote games, it highlights that interviews are well-attended. Then if people score low on metric-themed questions you know that sharing more of that data should be a priority.
It's also a sure-fire way of getting stakeholders to understand some of the trials research and design teams go through on a daily basis(Not to mention showing off some of your knowledge).
Looking for more ways to get people outside of your team involved in the research process? Check out our expert tips to increase stakeholder buy-in.