Crafting a website is a lot like writing a book. Both require a theme and a plot line that guides the reader through a narrative that (hopefully) leads to a happy ending.
Every day, humans use stories or novels to inspire, entertain, and educate. Storytelling is an extremely powerful tool for any business because it creates an emotional, human connection and gives meaning to your brand.
A well-crafted story keeps people entertained and engaged, as does a well-designed website. The two concepts are linked in practice and theory in a way that will help you create a better website design if you think about the process in terms of story building. Below are five commonalities of website design and storytelling I have noticed over time while reading (and watching) some of my favorite stories.
A story is often divided into sections such as the introduction, rising action, peak moments, climax, and conclusion.
The same is true about your website. Your introduction is your homepage. It is probably the first thing that a visitor will see. Your homepage influences the visitor’s thought process in that it lets them decide whether or not they want to move ahead. The rising action is every element that leads the visitor to the climax and further on to the falling action and conclusion.
As you can see, the first few elements have to be extremely engaging to convince the visitor to move forward. The visitor must be persuaded to find out what the final act is. Their interest must be held.
So when creating those first few elements, try adding information that may be new to the visitor. These could be unique points about your brand, organization, and product or service. For instance, if you are selling a nutritional supplement, talk about how it came into existence. What was the driving factor? Did it happen by accident, or did your “founder” or organization have a specific goal?
When you segment your website content using this structure, it flows and your website visitors will be captivated, keeping in mind the moral of the story, which is your product or services.
In a book or novel, chapters help break the story down into smaller and easy to digest parts. They also help indicate that the story is moving from one section to the next. A website’s navigation serves the same purpose. It allows visitors to understand content more easily instead of being overwhelmed by it all at once. The visitor can skip parts and move onto the content most relevant to them.
To deliver the best through navigation, make sure it is streamlined. Your navigation can include crucial elements such as a search bar, call-to-action (CTA), social media icons, and shopping cart. While each page should offer its own distinct path, they must also lead to your story’s “climax” or desired CTA. That action could be filling out a contact form, buying a product, downloading a document, or watching a video.
When it comes to website design, a large part of the story is visual. In this day and age, you cannot survive with textual content only. One important thing to do is to connect imagery with words to create a fuller picture for users.
Visuals offer a whole lot more opportunities for creative expression than a novel. Types of visual components may include images, illustrations, infographics, video, color, and graphic elements.
No matter what type of visuals you use, make sure to use high-quality visuals to tell your story. Also, not just any image will do. It is important to choose images that are relevant to the part of the story you are telling.
For example, you can add images of your company’s leadership on the “About Us” page. Highlight each one of them against their description. Let the audience be aware of who they are and how they contribute to the organization.
Elizabeth Bennet, Don Quixote, and Gandalf are just a few examples of how good character development can make (or the lack thereof can break) a story.
Who are the characters in your brand’s story? They should be relatable to your brand persona and exhibit characteristics that mimic your customers. Your website visitors to see themselves in your story; they should relate to the action and want to see what will happen next.
An important part of website design are user personas. User personas are a semi-fictional character based on your current or ideal customer. They allow you to find the answer to one of the most important questions, “Who are we designing for?” By understanding the expectations, concerns and motivations of targeted users, it is possible to design a product that will satisfy users’ needs and, as a result, be successful It is important not to force a story that does not match the tone, voice or vibe of your brand or users.
A good story should never be longer than needed. That is why it is important to know your audience, because when you know their needs, you can give them what they want. Do not clutter your website with what you want to say or with trivial or unnecessary details you think users might need. Your content should be direct and to the point.
Make sure to stick to your story and convey it directly. Then, end with something users can act on as the final resolution to the story. On a website, building towards a resolution gives you a strong, consistent theme. It also provides a very satisfying moment for your audience — like getting the answer to a really good riddle.
Perhaps it is not surprising that storytelling is such a powerful tool for marketing and website design. Past civilizations forged common bonds over campfire tales. In the modern world, the internet has very definitely replaced the campfire, but people are still circling around looking for a tale to listen to.
By weaving a compelling narrative into the many different design elements that go into a webpage, you can create a coherent experience for visitors to identify with. Whether you are creating a new website or redesigning your current one, start with the story you want to share with the world.
If you are looking for help with improving your brand’s voice and website’s storytelling, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.