Design experiences based on storytelling: Nubank’s framework

Do you want to know how to create a great design experience? Learn from Cris Luckner, NuConta's Design Manager.

photo of a nubanker playing with a puppy sitting inside the famous purple ball pool of the nubank's office

The first masterclass from Nubank’s Center of Excellence (COE) Design Team was ministrated by Cris Luckner, NuConta’s Design Manager. She has been working at Nubank since 2020 and is an expert in storytelling, having participated in the designing of NuConta and Nubank’s Pix feature. 

She shared storytelling techniques with a group of Nubank’s designers and teached the audience how to use stories to build better products. Cris Luckner has more than 20 years of experience connecting people with the information they need to take action. 

Since the goal of the masterclasses is to accelerate the development of professionals, storytelling was the subject of her lecture. Do you want to know what she talked about during the masterclass? Keep reading this article!

Storytelling: the key to make people relate 

Humans have, in general, a strong tendency to impose a narrative to everything. With narratives, we communicate better our emotions and are able to create sense—through stories, we learn and give sense to the world around us.

According to Cris Luckner, storytelling can be used to develop better products around the idea of understanding and executing the “why’s” and “how’s” of the products. Using the techniques related to it, such as research, we can simplify the way we pass messages to the user. 

Stories have beginning, middle and end. But they also have characters—and, to us, the protagonists are always the users. They are the main characters of every story we tell. 

The narrative

A narrative is how we choose to connect events, strategically organized to convey specific emotions or actions. And, besides that, storytelling is the technique of how we tell the stories to our customers.

In our case, the customers travel alongside our products when they move from NuConta to any other product of ours, like the credit card, insurance or investment, for example. To make the flow sleeker, we need to make sure that the stories from all of these products are connected—because, at the end of the day, they need to make sense together.

This is very important, because if the customers don’t understand what we’re trying to say, they won’t take the action that we want them to take.

NuConta, credit card and investment, for example, are stories. A story is something isolated. A narrative is something that connects many stories. 

According to Cris Luckner, “the concept of stories is very old and dates to Aristotle”. Setting the scenario (beginning), exposing a conflict (middle) and giving it resolution towards a happy ending is a classic structure, known to everyone that has ever read a fable or a story of any kind. But this is also the fastest and more straight forward strategy to create design experiences.

The NuConta case: clarifying the story

Customers were feeling confused with the story we were presenting to them while talking about NuConta. Measuring results, we saw that the activation was low and they weren’t taking the actions that we wanted them to take. Today, people live in a complex financial world, where it’s very hard to deal with financial situations. We were saying that we can help the customer get through these situations offering them a financial world with no complexities, built for the users.

The conflict was in the complexities, and the resolution was to have a Nubank account. But, at the end, where the “happy ending” should happen, people were extremely confused and only a few users were activating their NuConta.

At this point, Luckner started taking notes and decided that the way to solve this problem was making it very clear to the user what was the next action that they had to take, in order to activate their account. 

They shouldn’t know only what to do, but how: and the best way to do this was anticipating the benefit that they would see in the product. So we started to invite them to make a deposit, giving them the possibility to make it through Pix, the Brazilian instant payment ecosystem, and the money would be in their account in seconds.

With this simple decision, we weren’t only talking about a financial world without complexities—we were, from that point, showing that amazing new world to our customers right away.

Storytelling is something to remember

When people experiment with something that has a story in its foundation, they’re more likely to remember what they saw, perceive value, utility and feel that the effort they put in was worth it, because they saw the benefit and reached the goal. They are also more likely to repeat the experience and share it with others.

All of these movements help to build a better engagement. According to Luckner, “a business can’t live only with engagement, but this brings stability”. Engagement makes the customer thirsty for more and this feeling is key when it comes to improving the relationship. The better way to create engagement is, of course, showing the customers that the products align with their interests.

Designing Pix: how to differentiate a product that every single competitor also has

Design really impacts Nubank. Through it, we can differentiate the attributes of products or services and improve the company’s processes, get to know the user experience and promote innovation. 

While designing our Pix feature, Cris had to think how Nubank could differentiate itself from the other banks when Pix was being launched: a moment when every company was launching the exact same product. But we had, of course, to deliver a unique Nubank experience, even though the technology was the same for all the players.

To make a Pix transfer, you don’t need to share all of your personal information—something that was mandatory in Brazil before this innovation. So, naturally, people were suspicious and not confident that this would happen in a secure way. So this had the potential to be, and actually ended up being, the main benefit in the perception of the audience.

But we still had to convince the user to make their Pix registration with us. Because, if they do that, they would receive their money through Nubank. 

The solution

To create a better experience, Cris translated storytelling fundamentals into a framework, to organize the sequence of events better, improving the user experience. First, she had to understand what Pix was and what its main differences were when compared to traditional money transfer techniques.

Now, a very collaborative work was taking place, involving Content Design, UX Research and Product Design, all of these fields working very closely. We would connect each part of the story to a screen, or to a set of screens, to make sure that we were designing exactly what we had planned, following a narrative structure.

This made us understand all the questions we had and also helped to make our customers more confident to move forward. To do that, we used the fact that they could transfer money with only one information. Which was, of course, the Pix registration, or the Pix “key”, how they call it in Brazil.

After that, they started to feel more confident about the product and were registering their Pix keys with us. Adding an explanation to the screen, even when people didn’t read all of it, made people feel ready to go. We encouraged them to register all of their keys with us, but always saying that they could transfer them to other banks whenever they wanted to.

This was a very successful approach, and, of all the banks in the country, we had the highest number of Pix registrations, receiving a lot of feedback on how easy and quick it was to register the keys.

The importance of a macro narrative

We are always running field studies, with qualitative interviews, to guarantee that we are creating a macro narrative that encapsulates marketing, product, support and the entire customer experience journey. To do that, we need to understand how people behave.

Finally, when we look at the bottom, we can see if the experiences are making sense or when to measure usability, a metric that we can use to understand the efficiency of a story.

An efficient story is always quick, funny and scannable. If we apply this logic when creating design experiences, the user will know what to do and the number of errors will decrease. As a result, conversion and satisfaction rate increase, because people can perceive the value more easily. When the micro narrative of our product contributes with the macro narrative we’re trying to build, we’ll be successful.

Storytelling doesn’t make designing harder, it makes it easier. “Nobody makes a movie without a script”. With this sentence, Cris attested that instead of putting “a lot of screens one after another”, designers should dedicate time to think about the story they want to tell. “If you plan before prototyping, you tend to accelerate things a lot”.

How to make friction less aggressive in the narrative

Sometimes, banks are obligated by law to show “boring” information. When we think about human behavior, it has a tendency to prefer easier, faster ways. That’s why we need to facilitate decision making when it comes to our user and can’t leave much space for small frictions.

But, on the other hand, friction can help in some situations, especially when we want people to stop for a moment and pay attention. When you create design experiences as stories, people will see value much easier.

Even when there’s unpleasant information to be given, if you shape it as a story, it will be less hard to give it.

Balancing content and visual design with storytelling

Every element that we use to tell a story, such as content, choice of words and tone, helps to sell it, because we’re setting up an ambience. When we think about visual elements, we need to use the same logic.

When you look at Nubank’s design, you see that we are more informal, free than the other banks. The purple buttons and the lots of space in the screen help us to tell this story: we are communicating who we are through visual elements, differentiating ourselves from the market.

Answering people’s specific needs with design

Such a thing as “inaccessible storytelling” doesn’t exist. Storytelling needs to be, in essence, accessible to everyone. If we offer the product in the form of a story, we have to make it easier to understand from the very start.

Once we have the hard structure of the narrative done, we can add other layers to guarantee that we are delivering excellence and, most importantly, accessibility.

When you feel that a story is being hard to tell, nine out of ten times the explanation will be this: you’re struggling to capture the reason why people should care about it.

According to Cris, “nowadays, attention is like gold”. Everyone has very little and that’s why we should only tell stories that capture people’s attention.

…and what about this framework?

The framework developed by Cris Luckner has three phases: 

  1. Understanding
  2. Defining
  3. Designing

If we look at the baseline, we can decide how much effort we are going to put in each moment of the design process. But, undoubtedly, the first step is to investigate the customer problem.

Understanding the problem

Before we start to think about wireframes, screens and flows, we need to define and properly understand the customer problem. After that, we can create our first storyboard. When working on testing with users, a framework is good to guarantee that we’re considering all of our ideas.

This way, we can see which one is more aligned with the strategy. And, if something isn’t working well, we can identify it more easily.

Defining the narrative

When we understand the customer problem, we can start defining the narrative. In other words, we decide how we’re going to communicate the narrative. As you can see, the storyboard is very strategic when it comes to helping influence the sequence of events and craft the narrative. 

Now that the framework is done, your “script” is done. It’s time to start making the scenes of your “movie”!

Designing the solution

When you get to the design phase, you just have to translate the story you wrote, because, before you started doing anything, you already knew what you were going to do. Just follow what you have planned.

Organization is key to good storytelling. If you don’t have it, you won’t be able to capture what matters in the emotions you want to convey in the user. And the designing, of course, will be lost in the process.

Understanding the pain points correctly, we also start to understand our users actions and how they think. When we master this, we can help the customer take the actions in the way that we want them to, to help them to achieve their goals.

Bonus point: Call-to-action

By knowing people’s goals and paint points, whether emotional or logistical, we can anticipate their needs. When we make a call-to-action, we have to guarantee that it is aligned with the promises we made to the customer, especially when it comes to marketing.

Always ask yourself if what you’re saying in the marketing campaigns are really what will be shown in the product. If you do all this correctly, you’ll succeed when it comes to solving the customer’s problem. You’ll have created, indeed, a great customer experience journey, based on storytelling.

Enter your name