I remember years ago I somehow found my way onto Homestead, a way to build really basic websites, after I had exhausted all the archie comic books at my library, and had already checked out “The Santa Claus” with Tim Allen 5 times. I needed something new, I was bright-eyed and came up with a couple topics. First I had Tim B’s Clean Jokes. (Click here to view the archived version of this.)
Of course my composition on this is flawless, notice how the red looks so smooth on the bright purple background. But… I loved it. I worked tirelessly searching down my clean jokes and posting them. The ability to share like I would around a campfire, curating jokes I found around the web gave me a platform. Albeit, a not very well traveled one.
It’s really a relatively new phenomenon, you can share your experiences with people around the world, and get people to come to you. You can create a basic website with various platforms and let people know your innermost thoughts. Web storytelling as we know it has arrived.
Let down your barriers, be real.
Marketing speak is dead. No-one cares. As digital storytellers and forward thinkers perhaps we have had the opportunity to go through a couple phases in our digital voice already. When I first started writing blogs it was to self-promote. I realized I think pretty quickly it wasn’t compelling, because I’d share my new blog post on social media and have very little interaction. But I grew, and realize with every phase how I can balance being real and share personal, maybe even mildly painful stories with being useful and creating value by helping people find solutions to their problems.
Your personal stories are valuable, and can definitely be helpful to people. Case studies with real, relevant data, are among some of the most useful content on the web. When someone talks about a unique experience in a way that speaks to me, or describes what could be perceived as an inane everyday occurrence with extremely clarifying details, it brings the typed word to life. This is connection, this is humanity, and more and more I see examples of these interweb raconteurs springing up and eschewing template “content” for truth…
…And Justice, and sweaty peace in a mosh pit
You remember those years that you were part of something that felt original? That time for me was growing up with my brother and my friends in punk bands. I would tag along, and cheer them on, and run around in the mosh pit, which was sometimes just me and three other smelly kids pushing each other. At one point my friends band had a RV and we would party and hang out with sweet pale teenage girls who were like us, putting on our spiked leather belts and desperately trying for some type of identity.
Story cuts through pretension, reminding us of our humanity
Particularly the web design world because I’m familiar with it, but a lot of industries I’m sure have this pretense… this friendly posing, because we all want to be experts. We want to say something of substance, but we also want to feel as though we have a firm and deep grasp of our industry, so many times the storytelling ends up closer to techno-psuedo-spiritual tone, or cynical-humorous with a site of industry specific lingo. Digging deep can refresh all this, telling some uncomfortable truth, and sharing some underlying motivation.
Telling the stories of our clients
Some people aren’t familiar enough with the technology to share their stories with the world, and I find my job as a web designer can sometimes just be to bring that out. It starts by asking the right questions.
- How are you different than your competitors?
- What makes your business or organization so special?
- What does that specific, particular thing or set of things that makes you special and is different than your competitors really look like?
And then to myself I ask how can I show that visually, and demonstrate it with the route that a visitor to their website would and could naturally take through the elements I and my team create.
No matter who the client it’s always easier to get to the bottom of what makes them interesting if you ask them to tell you a story of an experience where someone was helped by their product or service. Ask them for a specific situation, and likely you’ll be able to better understand the core proposition of their work, and thus be able to better tell the story to the world. Cut through the clutter, tell real stories.
Have any thoughts about this article and web storytelling? Or methods for telling better stories on the web? Tweet at me, or leave a comment and thank you for reading!