Earlier this year, a community member needed help creating an interesting exercise in Articulate Storyline. She wanted to achieve a rather technical feat: make a vertical list of words dynamically alter their order based upon a learner’s choices on a likert-style survey.

Intrigued, I immediately opened up Storyline to explore how she could make this happen. I knew I’d need to figure out which terms should populate particular slots, but I quickly became overwhelmed with all the slots, triggers, and variables. I couldn’t keep mental track of it all as I worked. So what did I do? I went old-school. I grabbed a pencil and paper, then sketched it out. The following graphic is the page I used to work out an example. On the left are the possible combinations needed to make the tenth word on the list appear in the fourth slot. On the lower right is the trigger (showing the conditions) I’d need to create for just one of the possible combinations.

If you look at this page, it’s pretty clear why my mind couldn’t keep track of all the pieces! However, once I visualized the design and saw the number patterns, building the demo was easy.

Here are two reasons I recommend using paper and pencil for more complex interactions in Storyline:

### 1. Using a piece of paper helps you literally sketch out the “big picture” concept.

Sometimes you really do need this step before moving into software. For example, before I pulled out my pencil I had a panel filling with triggers, but they seemed random. By working out the solution on paper, I could see the patterns in my trigger/variable combinations. I saved time by checking my work against these patterns as I created each new trigger and variable. You can also use these patterns to troubleshoot your course. If it’s not working, simply look for breaks in the pattern to find potential issues. Which brings us to #2.

### 2. You can use your paperwork to cross-check your work in Storyline.

Let’s say you write the necessary triggers on paper, create them in Storyline, and then discover that something’s not working. You’ve got a built-in checklist! Go back to your paper copy to see whether you’ve included all necessary triggers. It can help to literally check them off your paper list. On a large project, this low-tech approach can be a real lifesaver.

Working on this problem helped me realize: with all the great digital tools at our fingertips, we sometimes forget that a simple piece of paper and pencil can be incredibly useful. Whether you’re storyboarding, mind-mapping, or just planning out a Storyline project, starting by hand can help you better visualize what you want to do and how to get there. So the next time you find yourself stuck, grab some paper and your favorite pencil and go old-school!