Technology and Storytelling

4 min read

Smart phones and tablets changed the way we read and interact online, yet I don’t feel that we as UX, Designers and Information Architects are using that full potential. Yes, sites are responsive and they may even be mobile first.

The solutions we use were built in a world made of laptops that are bulk to carry and to which the user is accustomed to. By nature, we are built to focus our eyes and hands in the same context, with a desktop computer we got used to moving a mouse around and focusing on a screen. Touch screens are bringing back that natural coordination of movements and slowly dismissing the multi task mindset that came with desktop computers.

This is the platform part of the equation. Let’s move to the channels we built to communicate.

Blogs as a platform did their part in helping us publish as much as we wanted and narrate what was going on with our lives. The consequence of this ease to publish and stitch posts together made us favor a short form of content. Twitter, Facebook and others made this even clearer.

We need to bring back stories

We almost lost the ability to tell stories. If a blog post is too long most people will only skim the paragraphs. If we break it down to it’s components the odds are that it won’t get read in context and some parts may be lost. This is a consequence of the chronological organization typical of a blog.

I believe we can solve this and there are three things that need to come together for it to happen.

In Web Design, most of the time what we get out of the box are flexible enough to allow for an interesting organization of content and flexibility in the way we write and coordinate different media.

Information Architects and Developers also have set good cornerstones so that we can organize content in the way it makes the most sense. They were driven by newspapers, investigative journalists and most of the time to summarize large pieces of information while at the same time allowing the reader to go further into specifics.

Content wise, we are still selling and buying books. We still encourage others to write and we still share with others interesting things we find online. We just need to bring the joy of reading a book into the smart phones and tablet computers.

Best practices

Atavist is a publishing platform that inspired what I am trying to do now.

I don’t even remember when I came across Atavist. I do remember it was because of the story ‘Coronado High’ By Joshuah Bearman.

Coronado High, by Joshuah Bearman at Atavist

This long form post is beautifuly designed and written, the photos and the videos used keep your interest with a nice rythm withouth overtaking the text. Add to this the research process done by the team and there is no denying the quality of the result.

There are other examples, of course. This is just one that illustrated better what I am trying to achieve.

Build it for the future, or don’t

Something is going to go terribly wrong here, and I am fine with it. Let me explain, please.

The stories I am writting are based on things that I have been doing or have done. Some of those stories won’t see completion. That’s life. Others will be made into nice sets of posts that you can read and will have content and presentation tailored to what I feel is the best experience for mobile reading.

Crafting these pages means using Hugo, a static site generator that allows me to tailor each and every single page to what I feel is right. It doesn’t enforce any restrictions.

For web developers and other IT Engineers this means a mess of files, javascript and embeds made with no regard for organization, stylesheets that will be page-specific. If you have any sort of OCD you will not want to look at the source code of this site.

I’m ok with this. If it breaks, it breaks. This is a place to share stories and not to worry about the correctness of code and implementation. Sit back and enjoy.

Credits

Cover photo by Pedro Pinheiro

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