Weaving a Tale on the Web

June 11, 2010

I like to think that I was a librarian in another life. Although the strict organization of every single item (heaven!) would have been a perk, the best part of such a job would be all the instances in which I could match up a reader with the perfect book—all the times I could see people’s imaginations come to life because of stories that I found for them.

Yet if you asked me what my dream job would be (and as a recent college grad, I’ve been getting that question a lot lately), I would tell you “storyteller.” Being a librarian would be fun, but the concept of sitting at a desk scanning books all day is so passive; meanwhile, the word “storyteller” evokes visions of campfires, sweet-smelling pipe smoke, and tales of unsurpassed danger and glory. Who wouldn’t want to be a storyteller?

So what’s a storyteller like me doing at a marketing company like this? Storytelling, of course.

Web design as storytelling

How did these two things, storytelling and web design, become so inextricably linked? Because a website without a story, or one whose story is not being told, is lifeless. A story that cannot capture anyone’s attention is not read, and a lifeless website receives no visitors.

Every website has its own story, and it is up to designers and marketers to collaborate with clients to tell a story that customers will love to experience. We can tell this story in almost unlimited ways: through text, video, audio, even a website’s color scheme and types and sizes of font and how the site is organized. Doing it one way will tell one story, and doing it another way may tell a completely different one. It’s our job to find the best way to tell the best story.

Best. Job. Ever.

Internships provide a plethora of learning opportunities. In my time at Digett I’ve dabbled in Drupal, Photoshop, InDesign, and spent time creating and organizing content for several websites. This is great, because it gives me the chance to find what I really enjoy and am good at. Last week in particular was an eye-opener. It was then that I learned about what I think must be the most glorious job ever: Information Architect.

Even the job title gets my neurons firing. Any job that utilizes Post-its as its main system of organization is totally a job that I can get behind.

If a website functions as a story, an Information Architect is the narrator: it is up to him/her to research the website’s topic and purpose, conduct analytics, and essentially organize a website so that it becomes intuitive for a user to navigate. If the IA is doing his/her job, a website will flow smoothly through its story, and users will enjoy spending time there.

Times change

The Internet, however, is changing. Websites are becoming more fluid, susceptible to change. Static pages are slowly going the way of the dodo, and clients, designers, and even Information Architects are having to learn how to let users have some control over the experience that their websites provide.

It can be a difficult process, but with patience, determination, and maybe some Dramamine, it can be done. Stay tuned to learn how.