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What is a Storyboard? - Practices

Storyboards are an essential tool when designing computer-based training systems. They help keep developers, graphic artists, and subject matter experts all on the same page while working together. This can save you large amounts of time and money while avoiding truly unpleasant surprises. Tony Leonard explains all the elements of storyboards, and how to use them.

  1. Creating and Using Storyboards
  2. What is a Storyboard?
  3. Storyboards as Documentation
  4. Basic Form
  5. Question and Feedback Form
  6. How do I Create Storyboards?
  7. Automated Storyboard Tools
By: Tony Leonard
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November 15, 2004

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For brevityís sake, Iíll use CBT (computer-based training) in place of interactive courseware for the remainder of the article. Just remember that this article applies to all types of interactive courseware: CBT, multimedia, and Inter/intranet or Web-based training.

A storyboard is a packet of information that conveys all the necessary components of one screen of interactive courseware. Not surprisingly, several of them together are called storyboards. The main point here is that itís usually not just one form or piece of paper for each screen. Imagine what it would be like to describe all the components on one CBT screen, including the text, graphics, media (audio, video, animation), question text and answers, feedback, navigation, hyperlinks, progress meter, and glossary terms on one piece of paper. If you can, then youíve got a pretty good imagination!

Essentially, storyboards are meant to tell the story of each screen of CBT, and are meant to communicate between the instructional designer and several different people. The three primary storyboard audiences are developers, graphic artists, and SMEs (subject matter experts). 

Storyboards must tell the developer everything he is supposed program or build right down to the module title font, hyperlinks, and navigation of all buttons or other clickable objects. For graphic designers, they convey the story of what graphics are needed on a screen or as part of an animation. In fact, I like to create a separate list of what graphics are needed on what screen for production purposes. Itís faster for the graphics person to refer to this list than to flip through the many storyboards that would make up a course.

For SMEs, storyboards are the main deliverable that they review and approve before building begins. For this group, the storyboards must be crystal clear. Itís not unheard of for SMEs to use their imagination when reviewing storyboards. And itís not unheard of for them to be surprised when they see the final product. Iíve heard many a client say things like ďOh, thatís what you meant by that! Now I see.Ē

And it doesnít take a lot of imagination to see that statements like this can easily lead to changes that impact budgets and schedules.

>>> More Practices Articles          >>> More By Tony Leonard

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