Using manga to tell about product features.

Around spring 2014, after we have finished the biggest redesign in Podio, Podio Creator, the marketing team decided to try the good old medium to distribute this news. It was newspaper. Our 12 folds newspaper was full of stories about people who created Podio since they wanna send the high-level message -The Creator. We as usual use our blog to explain this new feature. You can imagine how it would look: the screenshot of new interface, gif animation, etc.

I was at that time a designer behind this feature - Podio app builder, not the designer for marketing stuff. I thought it was interesting to tell the story about this feature by drawing manga. Simply because most of newspapers have comic strip. So I asked if I can take part of this small project. And the answer is yes.

What is an app builder?

App builder is a customisable template. Users can just simply drag and drop various kinds of building blocks: text field, meeting, image, map, etc. to build their own template to suit their business. We found out that there are relatively small amount of users use app builder. And the main reason is that most people hardly understand this function and one assumption is that they haven't seen the relationship between the structure (building block) and the content.

After usability research and a number of prototypes. We came up with new app builder where users can easily see the connection between their own content and the structure behind. They can also reach the app builder page easily just one click and the transition of the page explains their relationship very well. We also expected to see people go back and forth between content page and structure page.

Animation showing how content and structure are connected in the new Podio app builder.

Why manga

We all had one time of our lives that we were so addicted by reading comics. One main reason is its story or plot. Plus when we read comics the memory about them is so clear and last long. I remembered that Google had an amazing comics explaining how awesome Chrome was when it was launch. I was thrilled by the details that they explained using comics.

So what I need to do is making the good story. But as we all know it's hard to make fun and sexy story from the comics planned to explain the feature. So my plan is to split the long story to various small chapters. The readers perceive one main idea from one chapter. I planed to make readers to feel emotionally attached to the series by adding small gag (small jokes) but sadly the project was not continue so I didn't reach the point where I can make people follow it and there was no gag yet.

What I learn

However there is the quality that I would like to share here when using manga.

Medium

It will be in print not screen browser. So when draw or plan the manga frame/layout. Use the concept of 3 dimensional space to guide the readers eyes. Picture with frame means Hey focus on this! By contrast, picture without frame suggested the scattering thought. Also think about frame as the panning camera. So watching movies help a lot at telling story without using a lot of text.

Content

A picture is worth a thousand words. Picture is the king here. Exaggerate them, be bold and use less text. It is not the infographic so you can use the frame to zoom in and zoom out the details of the content. Use a lot of metaphor is also a nature of the comics. When people jump to comics realm. They agree with us that this space is a fantasy.

Audience

When telling story about product features, we tend to think about our work, our interface. Interface is our world not the reader world. Make nice intro to make the whole story be less intimidated. Draw more on people world not our world.