Understanding the Basics of Storyboard and its Underlying Elements

A storyboard is simply a planning device used to visually “sketch out” the actions of a story that will be told in a visual medium like animation, multimedia, a Web page or a video.

The script or storyboard is simply a screen by screen description of what students will see, hear and do when running the program. Scripts typically use verbal descriptions of on-screen graphical items while storyboards use sketches or clip art to virtually depict required art elements.

The “A to Z” of Storyboarding

Storyboards are a series of pictures and words that define what the user of an online training product will see, hear and do on every screen. Typically, the storyboard provides direction to the team responsible for producing the content, developing the media and programming the interactions. A completed storyboard also gives the client an opportunity to review and approve the content prior to beginning media production and programming – the most costly elements in the eLearning process. Storyboards are as important to the success of an online training project as an architectural plan is to success of the construction of a high rise building.

As soon as the analysis and design document is finalized and the visualization is complete, the development of storyboards is the first step in the creation of programmer ready materials.

Once the instructional designer completes the storyboard, it becomes the guidebook for all other team members: be it the graphic artists, audio/video producers, and even the programmers. Depending on the project, instructional designers decide whether they will create storyboards or scripts.

Although, both the formats serve the same purpose and include the same descriptive elements, but vary in their layout and the treatment of graphics. Scripts typically use verbal descriptions of on-screen graphical items while storyboards use sketches or clip art to visually depict required art elements. Because of the time it takes to create even rough composite artwork, a scripting approach typically takes less time, but as far as storyboards are concerned, they provide a more complete and comprehensive picture of what the final program will look like. Regardless of the format chosen, every storyboard or script has the following 8 major elements.

  • Project Information

It includes the name of the client, curriculum title, course title, date, draft or version number, and script page number.

  • Screen Label

It indicates which screen of the program is being described. Sometimes screens are called frames or events. These screen labels are generally coded with both a lesson number and screen number. While this labeling system might seem like a daunting task at the first glance, it can save a lot of time and energy for the later period.

  • Audio/Narration

It is specified in the script if the technology used supports it. Typically, an audio voice over, popularly known as “VO” of the narrator is used.

  • Video Clips

Video clips, if used, are described in the script, giving both camera direction and writing out the actual dialogue for on screen actors. Descriptive notes to the director are included, such as “executive at her desk”, “prestigious environment”, or “slow zoom as she reaches her conclusion”.

  • Graphics

Graphics are provided in the script as verbal description of what should appear on screen, or a sketch. The purpose is to help the reviewer and the artist who must create the final images, to visualize what the designer has in mind. For example, “Show group of business people around a conference table” is an example of a description.

General descriptions enable artists to apply their own creativity and resources. At the same time, given only a loose interpretation, the final graphic, an artist creates may not match with what the designer had in mind.

  • On Screen Text

On screen text section of the script describes which words will appear on the screen. In many Web Based Training (WBT) programs that cannot support audio, “TEXT” is the primary learning media.

Thereby, this section of each script page may be quite long.

In other programs, where audio narration is the primary instructional media, the text is used to reinforce the audio. In these cases, the text is likely to appear as brief bullet points or short statements.

  • Navigation and Interactivity

Navigation and Interactivity describes the action items of the program as to what can the learners do on the screen and what will happen next. Standard navigation options include phrases such as “Next button moves to next screen in sequence” and “Menu button jumps back to Main Menu”. These types of options that are available from every single screen are often excluded from the description. Once noted, on the first script page, navigation is assumed to be constant.

  • Notes

Notes are the final section in a script that provides an area for any additional comments that do not fit easily into one of the above categories. This informal area allows the designer to communicate directly to the artist or the programmer.

The Development Team

It’s now time to understand the composition of the development team. An eLearning project has many components, developed concurrently by many different people. Consequently, planning is the most important part of ensuring the success of the project, both for you and for the customer. One of the crucial documents that are generated as part of the planning is the storyboard. Development team can widely vary between self-taught members and those with academic credentials such as degrees in instructional design, psychology, programming, art or graphics, and other areas of study.

Here is the list of people and their core responsibilities who are involved directly with the learning process;

Client or Sponsor

The client or sponsor of the eLearning project acts on behalf of his or her organization to assure that the product that gets created gets reduces cost, increases productivity, or in some other way adds value. This role encompasses the acquisition of a budget for program development, final approval power, schedule creation and revision.

Project Manager

The project manager is the person who ultimately guarantees quality and on-time, on budget delivery of an eLearning solution. The management and coaching of all other team members is left to the project manager, who serves as the single point of contact between the team members and clients.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Subject Matter Expert is a person knowledgeable about a particular content area. SME is at times also referred to as a Content Specialist. SME contributes the core content and original materials are available for information acquisition through formal or informal meetings. The person also provides access to source materials and references items such as books, articles, records and static art. The person is also responsible for reviewing designs, documents, scripts and the final deliverable for accuracy.

Other Members of the Development Team

Instructional Designer

The primary role of an Instructional Designer is to conduct audience and task analysis and training needs analysis. In context with the client, project manager and the SME, Instructional Designer creates the design document, specifies learning objectives, selects interactive exercises and creates the evaluation questions. The ID finally creates and revises the storyboard that actually dictates what words, images, video and audio elements are presented to the learners. The ID works with the artists and the programmers to ensure that what is envisioned can actually be implemented within the specified time span, budget and technological constraints. It is the responsibility of the ID to apply navigation directions to the scripts, add notes indicating any special functions, links or any other software behaviors, and create alternate items, if required.

Borrowing an analogy from the movies, the project manager is the producer whereas the instructional designer is the director.

Graphic Artist

From the storyboards created by the instructional designers, the graphic artist creates the screen layouts; specific interface items such as buttons, icons, windows and menus; specific graphics and animations as necessary to the program.

The work inclusion may range from original illustrations and cartoons to simple flow diagrams, manipulated stock photography and images obtained with a digital camera. Besides 2D images, 3D images and animations may be required particularly when immersive metaphors and simulations are desired.

Tools used by the graphic artists may include; Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Autodesk Studio 3D Max, Silicon Graphics Maya, Macromedia Fireworks, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premier Pro, etc.


Using the storyboard as a guide, the programmer assembles different elements (text, audio, video, graphics and animation) into a coherent whole. The programmer develops the programmed working model, upon which the final product is based. The programmer also debugs a program following alpha and beta tests, creates databases and constructs reporting mechanisms used for student tracking.

Audio and Video Producers

Other specialists oversee the pre-production, production and post-production of the video and audio elements. Pre-production includes the selection and preparation of shooting locations and set up of equipment; production encompasses the creation of raw audio and video content, and post production primarily refers to the editing and reinforcement of content to a desired duration and quality.

Quality Reviewers

The Quality Reviewers work internally during development, alpha and beta stages, check the program for general quality and bugs and create change reports. Quality review is most frequently assigned to various team members with other roles, supplemented by outsider talent if any such situations might arise.

Thus, this is all about the first part of the blog. You will find additional knowledge as to how to plan the storyboard, in the next blog.

Till then Happy Reading!!!

suhail haque
I'm Suhail Haque from Kolkata. My strong areas are Website Content Writing, Blog Writing, Instructional Designing, Script Writing for Voice Overs & Short Films I have worked for Indian clients as well as clients based out in Estonia, UK, Canada, US, and even Australia.

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