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Interactive Storytelling 101: The Design Principles Every Content Marketer Must Know

How often do you get excited about a PDF eBook design? I’m guessing hardly ever. The sad truth is that most static marketing assets are pretty predictable when it comes to design. There’s only so much innovation that can happen when working within the confines of an 8.5 x 11 page or blog post template.

Interactive storytelling unlocks almost endless possibilities when it comes to design. However, just as with user experience, the best practices around design for interactive are somewhat unique to the medium. If you want to create successful visual treatments for your content, you need to rethink both your design process and the techniques you use to bring your stories to life.

In this article, I’ll share some useful guidelines that will help you create highly engaging, effective designs for your interactive stories.

Collaborative Design Process

In a traditional content creation workflow, your design process probably looks something like this:

  1. You write your content.
  2. You pass it off to design.
  3. They create a wireframe and source graphics.
  4. You review and veto any elements you don’t like.
  5. They finalize the design and cut final images.
  6. After some CMS or coding magic, your content goes live.

This workflow is passable for assets like articles, whitepapers, and even websites, but it doesn’t really work for interactive storytelling. Because visuals play such an important role in telling a story, the design process must be much more collaborative in nature in order to succeed.

Here at Ceros, we follow a process that looks like this:

  1. I brainstorm with our creative team on a visual concept based on the topic.
  2. I provide an outline of my story to the designer. This may include a few short bullet points under each section header to give them an idea of what the details will be.
  3. The designer begins to research visuals and creates a wireframe.
  4. We work together to refine the wireframe and pair visuals, audio, and copy in a way that most effectively tells the story.
  5. When we’re both happy with the end result, we publish the content.

Interactive Design Best Practices

While many guidelines from static design apply to interactive storytelling, there are some best practices specific to HTML5 content in particular. The interactive graphic below explores seven learnings we’ve gleaned from our own designs and our clients’ content.

The Bottom Line

Designing interactive stories can be a creative and rewarding experience. However, your storytelling can get derailed if you fail to adhere to the common best practices around interactive design. These tips will help you develop a design process and final content that delivers highly engaging stories to your audience.