Seeing what is out there is fun, but it is not an easy task to select only a few examples of good (or bad) online platforms in the sea of websites. We did it nonetheless. We looked at lots and lots of graphical user interfaces and experienced these virtual spaces (UI/UX for those who like shortcuts). We (graphic designers; so Mandy and I) with our judgmental eye finally came up with a plan: Dividing the sea in two. One side is the ‘trendy’ or less original, yet practical platforms; the other, we called it the unconventional storytellers.
The Trendy Platforms
Websites such as Vice are masters at grabbing the millennials’ attention. How so? By having a simple, impactful layout and linear, white typography on a beautifully colourful shocking photograph or illustration. Displayed on a recognisable WordPress template design that most people are familiar with the navigation. The graphical interface is comfortable so that users can concentrate on the (not so shocking anymore) content portrayed with strong images and crude language. It uses icons familiar to all, used and overused, to share content. The menu is always to be found on the top of the page and articles are structured in a neat grid with a rectangle image, bold title, and small subtitle. And this is pretty much found in a lot of websites -with slight variations, of course.
Here is a selection of examples:
When we refer to the unconventional, we specifically talk about the form and interactivity of a platform, rather than the content of the story. It is more difficult to come across a completely new way of navigating through a website, so here we did have to search deeper into the web.
One website we came across was creating what they call ‘unprintable books’, or digital books only possible to read online.
But can they still be called ‘books’?
They are virtual spaces in essence, where one follows a path or starts their journey through text and navigation inside Google street view.
Other websites describe themselves as digital stories, in order to have a broader sense of the multiple elements they use to tell their story. Their stories include; interaction with the scroll and buttons, sound, video, comic strips, fake twitter comments… and many more original ways to submerge the audience in what they describe to be a ‘journey’. The digital story in the Wellcome Collection’s website is one that works well:
Another intriguing way to tell a story is what could be described as an interactive documentary website. ‘Refugee Republic’ tells the story of everyday life in a Syrian refugee camp. They used a variety of media; map, sound, video, scrolls, user interaction, etc., which all work smoothly together. The user experience and the visual, graphical and photographic choices are compelling. They use a basic old medium, drawing, and they fit it into a smooth running website. It differentiates itself from many graphic trends. The vector art can make many things look characterless, or similar to many other things. Drawing by hand gives a unique visual effect, even if a similar style of drawing can be found. The choice of the fragile drawing fits with the fragile agenda.
News have also started to take different approaches. ‘Le Monde’, a French newspaper, got inspired by Tinder, and each morning it offers a set of 20 articles. The user swipes right to read or left to ignore, and the articles the user swiped right are saved to read later.
Then Quartz decided to go extreme and removed the platform completely. They infiltrate their way into the user’s messages, with a whole new linguistic approach to talk about current affairs.
It’s always fun to come up with new original ways to tell stories. This does, however, raise lots of questions:
Will these new forms last? Do we need to beware of the form overshadowing the content? Is this why lots of platforms decide to stick to safe and basic interfaces? Or will these innovative platforms become the new norm?
For this project we would like to experiment with something new, as we have the time and possibility to do so!