Storytelling is more than the books one reads or the TV shows someone watches while eating dinner. Instead, storytelling is everywhere, including web design. Each website shares its own story and has a main message to tell its audience. Knowing how to effectively use storytelling in web design creates better websites that are cohesive, focused, and are better able to complete the mission of the website’s company.
What is Storytelling Web Design?
Even though you are working on a website, storytelling is just as important as deciding what fonts and images you will use. Focusing on the key elements of storytelling- characters, plot, action, and emotion- is incredibly important for engaging your audience and connecting them to your company.
Good stories are:
It’s about creating both the big stories and the small ones. Your overall website is the big story where everything comes together to become the face of the brand you are working with. The smaller aspects, like each page, are each a small story of their own. Even the visual elements of your website can be stories. Both the big and small stories are equally important.
How to Become Better at Storytelling
It is hard to know where to start and even harder to know how to get better at storytelling. We want to give you five tips for storytelling so you can be the best storyteller you can.
#1 Determine the Big Idea
What message do you want to share? Come up with the one main idea that you want your audience to remember. This will become the focal point of your story.
#2 Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Don’t play it too safe. By getting out of your comfort zone, you add tension and challenge to your story. This attracts the audience and makes them more invested in what you have to say.
#3 Be a Sculptor
You are shaping your story. Edit away all the fluff and flare that may currently be in your writing. This will reveal the core and help your website be focused. The core should be related to your big idea.
#4 Empathize with Your Audience
When you empathize with your audience, you connect with them. Your audience will become attached to your story and therefore your company. Emotions are a powerful tool to draw someone in and make sure they stick around.
Finally, we can’t stress enough the importance of practice. Keep writing. Keep sharing your stories. Most of all, keep connecting with your audience.
Storytelling is a Business Tool
Storytelling is a useful tool for creating and growing a business. It gives the user something to become attached to which furthers interest and loyalty to a business.
“People are attracted to stories,” Quesenberry tells me, “because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.”Harrison Monarth from Harvard Business Review
Several experiments have been done about the impact of storytelling. In one of these experiments, the participants watched an emotional movie about a father and son. This movie increased the levels of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) and cortisol (a stress hormone that helps a person focus.)
After the participants watched this movie, the conductor of the experiment asked the participants to donate money to a stranger. Those with higher levels of oxytocin were much more likely to donate money to a stranger.
Now you know why so many advertisements use images of cute puppies, children, and other “feel good” symbols to try to jerk your heart to spending money.
You don’t have to create visual advertisements to use the power of storytelling.
Storytelling in Web Design is Created Through:
- About Us
- Who We Are
- The way a product is described.
Of course, storytelling can be incorporated into any part of a website. The main idea is to create a personal connection with your audience and to give them the context, action, and result.
Breaking Down Your Story
The context, action, and result of your story can also be explained by using the three acts one often sees in playwriting. Here, you will have Act 1 as your hook, Act 2 be your build-up, and Act 3 be the payoff.
Act 1 – The Hook
Your hook is where things get started. This is where you give the audience member context for the story that you are sharing. In web design, think of this as what your user will see first. This is often the title and headline of your website.
When you are writing your stories, use your hook to tell the reader what is going on. Give them the Who, What, Where, How, and Why.
Act 2 – The Build-Up
It’s time to get the story rolling. This is the meat of the storytelling you will write on your website. Show what your main character does, what they go through, and the consequences that they face.
Don’t be afraid of showing the negative. Every character has to go through conflict, failure, and even some betrayal. Tell their story and get your audience attached by showing your character go through and overcome the obstacles they face.
Act 3 – The Payoff
In Act 3 the character will reach the climax of the story. Hopefully, you have built enough tension and attachment to the character that your user will be on the edge of their seat. The character has to face everything that has led to this moment and overcome their final obstacle.
This act also leads to the end of the story. What has your character learned? How have they changed? Your audience member should get something from this payoff as well. Use this message or lesson to push your audience to use your service on your website as they should be attached to your company by now.
Seven Deadly Sins of Storytelling
Storytelling in web design can be challenging and some mistakes are often made. These mistakes lead to a payoff that isn’t quite what you would hope for and can hurt the business overall.
#1 Excessive Throat Clearing
You want to get to your hook right away. Any time spent delaying your story is time that your audience might use to click away. Throat clearing is any writing you use that isn’t directly related to the story. You don’t have to tell us every personality trait your character has in the beginning, show us that later on.
Your audience should see a picture, feel the conflict, and become more involved with the story — they’re not receptacles for a series of facts.Jennifer Aaker, Stanford GSB Professor
#2 No Emotion
It is easy to fall into what is called “professional boring mode” where if you are working in a professional context, you shouldn’t show emotion. Yet, emotion is what drives the story. You want to show emotion to engage the audience and make them feel something for your main message.
Who is the face of your company? People connect with people they see as real and can relate to. If your company does not have a face, find one. Introduce him or her with a bio, experiences, a role, and a challenge.Jennifer Aaker, Stanford GSB Professor
#3 Too Much Information
Too much information is a bad thing. If your website is full of long and wordy paragraphs, it is overwhelming to read and deters the audience from continuing. You should also avoid using complex jargon. This puts a wall between you as the writer and the audience.
#4 No Rehearsal
With a presentation, not rehearsal leads to clunky sentences, stuttering, and makes it harder to get one’s point across. In terms of web design, your rehearsal is your editing. Look over your sentences and paragraphs. Does everything flow? Are there any big spelling mistakes or obvious plot holes in your story? Rehearsing will help you identify the problems so you can fix them.
#5 Living in the Abstract Space
Your audience will remember the details. Put your audience in the story so that they can hear, feel, and even taste the world you have created for them.
#6 Not Knowing Your Audience
You wouldn’t want a chef teaching engineering students how to code. Know your audience so your story is sure to make an impact. Tell a story that will draw in your audience and appeal to their interests. Telling the story to the wrong audience is a sure way to lose the interest of the people reading your story.
#7 The Non-Ending Ending
Just as a story needs a clear beginning, it also needs a clear end. Don’t write a weak ending that doesn’t tie all the plot points together and leave your audience with a clear message. Instead, you have to end strong. Have a mic drop moment.