Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > Usability

A Case for Web Storytelling

  • Print
  • + Share This
In our attention to style and technology, we often overlook a vital element in Web design: narrative voice. As Curt Cloninger points out, you can have slick style and meaty content, but without a mature narrative voice, your site will fail.
This article first was published at the Web site A List Apart (http://www.alistapart.com).
Like this article? We recommend

Much ink has been spilled lately bemoaning the lack of quality content on the Web. "Sure, the site flashes and whizzes and startles, but what does it have to say?" This type of complaint assumes an incomplete, overly stark dichotomy—namely, that sites are made up of "style" and "content." The underlying purpose of style sheets and their widespread use has unintentionally fostered this false and overly simplistic dichotomy. You've got your style, you've got your content, and rarely the twain shall meet.

One article at A List Apart took the bold step of suggesting that maybe style and content aren't so easily separable after all. Bravo. I agree. I'd like to take that point one step further by saying that style is more than various methods of typographical presentation, and content is more than the literal words in a paragraph that some marketing guy wrote. Style is a comprehensive site-wide look and feel that includes graphics, animation, audio, and any number of other media besides just text. And content is an idea, an angle, surely conveyable in text but also conveyable in these other, more rich, media.

In addition to style and content (even understood in their broadened definitions), I propose that there is at least a third element in the Web design mix that is getting overlooked. And I think it's the most important element of all. I'll call this missing element a "narrative voice." You can have your slick style and your meaty content, but without a mature and perspicacious narrative voice, your site will still fail to engage your visitors.

Why So Tech, Beck?

The Web is first and foremost a medium of communication. Never before in the history of mass media has a medium been so overtly dependent on its technology. Never before has a medium's technology been so transparent, so "just below" the surface.

Never before have the participants in a medium been so required to learn arcane, technical incantations before they are allowed to communicate in said medium (which explains the continuing appeal of AOL to the new Internet user). Why is technology so interwoven with the Web?

For one reason, the Web is a many-to-many technology. In older mass media—say, television—few people produced and broadcast their own TV shows. TV is a one-to-many technology.

Not so the Web. Tools such as Blogger have made self-publishing on the Web a no-brainer. Now you have many speaking to many. Before, no one had to be aware of how a TV set actually worked.

Maybe you fiddled with the antenna a bit. If that didn't work, you called a TV repairman. Now, on the Web, many of our visitors are also themselves publishers. If nothing else, they have at least sent email or posted to a bulletin board. This many-to-many communications model has placed a greater technological burden on the Web end user—so much so that we still call our visitors "users," not "viewers" or "movie-goers" or even "explorers." Sometimes we do call them "visitors" or "surfers," but even those two titles imply a fair amount of end-user expertise.

The second reason the Web as a medium is so wrapped up in technology is that it was birthed in the computer lab of a particle physics research center. And we geeks still think that the Web has something to do with computers. But, note, a lone desktop, adrift from the Web, does not constitute a communications medium. A computer is not media. It can read media, it can make media, it can display media, it can broadcast media. But a computer is just a tool. The medium is the Web itself. No one would mistake a satellite dish for a communications medium. A satellite dish is a hardware component used to transfer information from one person to another person. Media aren't the tools. Media are the modes in which we communicate with each other via those tools.

Returning to the style and content dichotomy, now aware of the hyper–techno-centric nature of the Web, it's obvious that we're thinking too small. We think that if we have meaty content and we have competent professional design, then we have a winning Web site. That's not true. First, the design has to somehow be relevant to the content, accurately representing its purposes in the medium. Then the content has to be useful to the site's audience. Even then, we're still missing a huge factor: narrative voice.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020