The Art and Science of Storytelling on the Web
Editor’s note: This post was written by James E. Hein, a web developer with 10 years of experience. He has immense interest and knowledge in the technology area. He is also working as a strategist in projects related to business and technology. You can follow him on Twitter.
Storytelling is one of the oldest (and most effective) forms of communication. Since the advent of language after signs, storytelling became a part of cultural rituals all around the world. In the olden days, every village and town had its own storytellers who used to entertain the locals with their stories every evening. All they needed to conjure up a story was an idea, a gossip, or a stimulus of any kind, and their imaginations did the rest. The art of storytelling has evolved through the ages, but the basics remain the same. Even today, gossips and rumors lead to the publication of featured lifestyle magazines.
All they needed to conjure up a story was an idea, a gossip, or a stimulus of any kind, and their imaginations did the rest. The art of storytelling has evolved through the ages, but the basics remain the same. Even today, gossips and rumors lead to the publication of featured lifestyle magazines.
People believe that the culture of storytelling is coming to an end, but we believe that it is just transforming its shapes. A good story is always like a gift to the readers, listeners, or viewers. Taking advantage of this strong connection between humans and the art of storytelling, the web developers and designers are now incorporating storytelling in their designs. The art and science of storytelling on the web comes with countless benefits, some of them are listed here.
Benefits of Web Storytelling
People interpret signs, symbols, pictures, and words after linking them with their personal stories. It helps you improve your customer relations and helps attract more audience by persuading the visitors to share their experiences and stories.
Stories help you add uniqueness to your campaigns and prepare you to stand out of the crowds. Stories give an innovative edge to even similar content and make your products more authentic and trustworthy.
Nowadays, the best way to build a good reader/customer base is to tell people more about your company and services. To let them know about you and trust you, it is important to make them listen, watch, and read. Storytelling generates curiosity among the visitors to know more about you.
Stories are interesting to read/watch. There is a flow of words or pictures in your set frame which eases communication. Stories help you reveal more information in less space but generate greater interest.
Stories help you become a brand by developing associations and improving your communication strategies. If you look into the most successful branding campaigns, you will note that the messages sent by the brands were exactly interpreted by the audiences. In general cases, this does not happen. One message is interpreted in different forms but with stories, you can give meaning to words and symbols and make people interpret the messages the way you want!
Above all, stories are emotional, motivating, and deep. So the question here is, how can the art of storytelling be used in web services? Firstly, we will explain the basics of storytelling and in the next section of this article, we will discuss different techniques and ideas to incorporate storytelling in your web strategies and services.
The Basics of Web Storytelling
In order to improve the user experience on your websites, it is vital to improve the storyline as it all begins with a finely plotted story. For preparing the right plot, here are some basics of web storytelling.
Stage 1 – Defining the Users and User-Centered Goals
In story writing, we conceive the plot and define all the characters. Similarly, in web storytelling, your foremost job is to define the end user and user-centered goals. Defining the user depends on your products and services. Here we will use the marketing and advertising technique to define the end-user including explaining the demographics like age, gender, locality, income streams, socio-financial status, employment, etc. Web audience is broader than TV and print audience; therefore, don’t forget to include the less-expected but possible audiences as well.
Defining the user-centered goals include not only your business goals but also your customer-business relations. Apart from defining goals about expanding your customer base, attracting new markets and strengthening your relations with the existing customers, it is also important to note how far you want the customers to stay with you. Is it your introductory product to establish customer base for the main product? What does your audience expect from you? What are the possible social, economic, and general problems faced by your audience? How can you relate your business with those problems?
Stage 2 – Plotting the Story
There are different techniques to plot a story. You may incorporate the story in the images or give a background of pictures. Illustrations and graphic explanations are also used by some web developers. You may also choose the simplest and fundamental way i.e. word of mouth storytelling.
The media of storytelling are defined in the next section. The selection of medium depends on your story. For example, graphical illustrations best define digital stories. Nature photography is used to explain human emotions like tranquility, peace, patience, faith, and unity. Write down the aim of your story to create a plot and select a medium.
Stage 3 – Gathering up the Teams
We need plotters, writers, dialogue editors, story editors, chief editors, publishers, illustrators, and a lot of other people to compile a perfect story in print media. Similar is the case with web storytelling. There are industrial designers, web developers, illustrators, photographers, plotters, interaction designers, social media experts, information architects, visual designers, mass communication experts, and a lot of other people to display stories on your websites.
Gathering up the teams of story-makers, developers, and tellers may sound a little exhaustive but we have placed this job as the final stage to make teaming easier. When preparing your teams, make sure to choose the most required teams only as if you ask too many people to work on the same project, the end result may be unclear, diluted, and less-persuasive. Define the responsibilities and split the teams to make your stories clearer and more market-oriented.
Tactics to Use Storytelling in Your Web Strategies
Storytelling is one of the strongest business tools but the problem with digital media is that the markets are becoming more intelligent. Gone are the days when any campaign launched by an established and well-known brand used to become a super-hit.
Photos And Videos Are Best Storytelling Devices For Social Media [Infographic]
Now, people reject what they don’t like and look into your campaigns to find out the marketing traps. Therefore, we will keep web storytelling simple, innocent, and basic, but definitely market-oriented. Here are some tactics you can use to make business without letting your audience know the tricks.
Hero/enemy, good guy/bad guy, strong/courageous and many such techniques have always been used in storytelling. Create legends in your stories to make them popular among audiences.
Conflict and Struggle
Any story with a complicated conflict and struggle or fight to resolve it definitely becomes a hook. Conflict can be created among a couple, hero and enemy, parents and children, government and society and practical needs and humans.
Make sure that the story relates to modern times. For example, you may create a story on ancient Greek Gods but only a few people will be interested in it (unless that is your niche). But if you create a story relating to social media, a majority of the people will be interested in it.
Narrative and Communicative
Social media communication is different from other types of communication in narration. A narrative story is the one which creates the impact of conversation. In written stories and videos, dialogues are used for narration. In pictures, illustrations, and infographics, we portray the story step-by-step to make it narrative. This picture portrays different stages of life.
Images are stronger than the words. Images also improve your social media presence as people tend to share images and pictures more than the text articles. Images are also more effective in interpretation. Above all, psychology says that people remember images and visuals more than words and text. These are enough reasons to make your stories visual.
People always relate stories with their experiences. For example, someone having a bad day may be refreshed with your thought-provoking and hope-giving picture. For personalizing the stories, the factor of emotion has been used for centuries. Pleasure, happiness, sadness, excitement, humanity, curiosity and all other emotions help you personalize the stories. This picture illustrates aim, courage and ability to fight against tough circumstances.
Techniques to Incorporate Storytelling in Your Web Marketing Strategies
When you plan to incorporate storytelling in your marketing strategies, the first thing you need to decide is the medium. A story can be told in the form of photo, illustration, infographic, video, and text blog but there are many other ways you can use for storytelling without disturbing the personality of your existing website. Here they are.
Images, Pictures, Photos, Hand Drawings – Whatever You Call Them!
The ideal most way to communicate a story is with the use of camera or pen and pencils. This is why paintings are included among exquisite and expensive properties. You can wrap a complete story in the form of visuals. Different techniques used to tell stories with this form of visuals is capturing a photo with camera, draw or paint a picture and scan it for the web and use different pictures to create a collage or combine them with graphics and texts. This technique has always been used in print and TV marketing and advertising. Dove uses a great combination of photos and graphical illustrations.
The tip here is to focus on one message only. Use 2 different images for communicating the messages of peace and patience. Overlapping images are interpreted as diluted messages with no clarity.
Write down a script, pick up the camera, and shoot a video with a plot. After images, video is the second most ideal stream to tell a story. We have rated video on the second position as these are a little more time-consuming to produce (and to consume) as compared to images. People share videos a little less than the images. In general, infographics and illustrations are more communicative and less time-consuming than videos but videos win over them in storytelling by becoming more narrative and to-the-message.
Most often, NGOs and social workers use videos to tell stories but you can also use this tactic to preach stories about your business success and services.
To increase visitors’ time on your website you can improve user experience and to enhance visitor engagement you can make use of polls, forms and other different techniques, which will help you to tell the story about the current cause you are working on and your services.
Illustrations have an advantage on photos and videos as they give you full control on designing and developing. But illustrations are graphical and at a little distance from nature, making them less effective. Graphical stock images are the best example of illustrations. Amnesty International uses illustrations on their website to tell people about their services. EverNote also uses illustrations to describe their products and services.
A majority of the companies use background images to tell stories about their brands. The benefit of background images is that you don’t have to make changes in your website design or interfere with the text. Background images are adjusted in the background with the help of colors and shades. These may be incorporated in some part of the webpage for example on the header or footer, and these may also be used as full page backgrounds.
This is the simplest and most basic technique of storytelling. Online storytelling has been in operations for decades. The publishers convert published books into digital form. Such websites are owned and contributed by similar groups of people. Some amazing story writers also tell stories on their personal blogs without the help of contributors. For such blogs, you need to have fluent language proficiency, plotting skills, and writing and editing skills. Some blogs have a platform where teams of contributors perceive stories, plot characters, write stories, and edit and publish them.
Many tourism-based websites also use storytelling strategy to reveal information in more narrative and communicative manner. Tourist Eye is an example of such a blog.
Mascots – The New Comics
Mascots were once used to describe royalty, most often coat of arms. But in the digital world, the meaning of mascots has changed to storytelling comics. You can create mascots on different graphic designing software or draw them with a pencil to scan and post. Axure is completely mascot based website.
Personality based storytelling is also done in a variety of ways. The first technique is to tell the success stories which are basically profiles. The second technique is to introduce your staff profiles as stories. Introducing your staff as personalities helps build trustworthy relations with the customers and add authenticity to your brand. A unique example of personality based short storytelling is that of Humans of NewYork.
Here are some unique forms of web storytelling.
Parallax scrolling is a 2D technique creating an effect of 3D with graphics. Jump Bug, the arcade game is one of the earliest forms of parallax scrolling technique. In this technique, the background images of the webpage move slower than the front or midsection images, providing navigation guide or telling a story with the help of immersion and illusion. Some top websites that are best using parallax scrolling technique include Boy Coy, GLP Creative, and Madwell. The only problem with parallax scrolling websites is that they take way too long to load. Therefore, if you want your website to optimize on search engines, then better look into other options of storytelling. Parallax scrolling is primarily an ideal approach of storytelling for established websites like Lexus LS.
Social Networking Sites
What else could be more effective than making a page or community on social networking sites and share your stories for bigger audiences. Social media storytelling is particular to audiences and campaigns. For example, if you own an event organizing company, you can share the stories of your events on social media. Most of the photographers expand their customer base by associating fairytales and famous quotations with their photographed images. Check out the Starbucks Facebook page to see how the brand is creating an impact simply by using images and creative stories.
Here we have tried our best to cover all aspects of art and science of storytelling of web but there is a secret left to share. Digital cameras have become cheaper as compared to 90s cameras and you might already own a camera that captures breathtaking images. So don’t miss a second to join the rising planet of web storytellers and start taking pictures today to take advantage of the most used storytelling stream i.e. images.
Web storytelling is not always very expensive and you don’t need to hire a group of individuals to meet your digital requirements. Just figure out the needs of your audience, specify the theme of your stories, and select the most required team members to make it more affordable, yet more modern.
Good luck dear storyteller!