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Plus Report - By Thomas Baekdal - March 2014

The Visual Story Experience

There is no question about it. The web is now a very different format than how it used to be. The concept of having a page has been replaced by an almost app-like content experience. And the question is, how can we use this to our advantage?

To get you into the right mindset, I want to start off with this simple example from Google. A year ago they posted a great article, "The Customer Journey to Online Purchase", based on a study about the complexity of the path people take before they decide to buy something.

When you look at this article, you will notice that it's published like any other article on the site, but it doesn't feel like an article at all. It's not driven by text, instead it's driven by app-like interactive displays that allow you to play with the data from the study:

But not only is the 'story' focused around the data, it's also enhanced with the use of links to supporting information from other articles and services. This article doesn't stand alone, but functions as a springboard to other content. It informs, delights and connects you.

Note: Just as a disclaimer, I was hired as an adviser on this project, but I'm not responsible for the visuals.

This is a great example of publishing in the future. A future that is defined not by the text alone, but by how you are able to combine different forms of media, sources, channels, and formats into a single story.

Another example of this is from Kickstarter. Last week they announced that they had reached $1 billion in pledges. But instead of posting this news in the form of a press release or a blog post, they posted this article.

Like the article from Google, this article isn't defined first by text. Instead, it's defined by small groups of fact boxes. One example is above, which shows an interactive map allowing you to see exactly how much activity has happened from each country.

Both of these examples are very visually focused, one around data and the other around facts. But it's not about the data or visuals. You can do the same with text.

One very excellent and recent example is the essay about Democracy over at The Economist. While being driven by the story in the form of text, it's excellently mixed with both primary and secondary visuals throughout the story - some interactive and some not.

This of course, doesn't just apply to publishing articles. The same goes for brands when they present their products. Because we now live in the connected world, brands have to think more about themselves as journalist.

So instead of just designing a product page, why not present your product as a story? One that is created by mixing text, photos, illustrations, and interactivity to give people everything they need.

One good example of this is Apple, at least for its older product pages (its latest product pages have gone design-overboard).

So what are the challenges and opportunities in doing this right? What should you keep in mind, and what skills do you need to gain? Is this useful for everything, or can it only be used as a gimmick for the occasional 'feature story'?

Let's talk about that.

Is design really that important?

First of all, let's get the obvious out of the way. Is design really that important? This is not a new question. People have been asking that for hundreds of years, and it is a constant topic in the world of the web.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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