CX Insights

Popular Methods for Online Storytelling

7 min read

This article was originally, and in full length, published on Six Revisions. Please visit the original source for the entire text, including many more visual examples.

The act of storytelling is present in every culture. Storytelling, when done well, can move people to take action.

The way we tell stories has evolved drastically over time. We constantly find new methods for preserving and sharing our stories: From drawings on cave walls, verbal recounting passed down from generation to generation and songs to more modern ways like newspapers, books, audio and video recordings.

The newest place to tell stories is the Internet. And like with any other medium, telling stories online is a very powerful tool for communicating your message. Online Storytelling helps us engage and captivate our website visitors.

Let’s take a look at how you can get the most out of online storytelling by going through the most common ways we tell stories on the Web, as well as by discussing a few examples of good online storytelling.

Storytelling Through Text

While contemporary web technologies allow for all different kinds of content presentation, text is still one of the most common methods for telling stories on the Internet.

However, people only read between 20-28% of the words on a web page on average. Furthermore, eye-tracking usability studies show that we tend to scan rather than completely read web pages.

Make your story personal, fun, obscure, provocative, and anything else you can do to capture your readers’ interest – by packaging your content within a good story, you can perk people’s interest and keep them engaged.

Example: Campaign Monitor‘s “Our Story”

Campaign Monitor knows how to employ storytelling on their website. On their “Our Story” page, you can learn about the company history, their motivation, and their vision.

Not only is the text readable (it’s short and well-structured), it’s also engaging because it’s written informally by design.

The story starts with basic facts about the company, followed by an appealing photo of the team and a personal quote about the company’s goal. The tone of voice is casual and direct. In case you get bored, there are more team pictures to give you a glance “behind the scenes” and to keep you engaged.

Storytelling through visuals

Still, images can tell stories. A picture is worth a thousand words as the old adage goes.

Visuals are very efficient in conveying a story because our brains can process them 60,000 times faster than text.

Images can tell stories and, at the same time, they leave a lot of room for personal interpretation.

There are three main types of visuals that can be used as Web content for storytelling:

1.Web Images: Using images with your content can supplement your textual content, and can help move your story forward.
2.Background Images: These can draw website visitors in and put them in a certain mood – they can help you to build your site on a story.
3.Infographics: People like infographics because they are easy to consume and fun to share on social networks. Infographics are popular because they can hold a lot of information whilst using very little text.

Example: Airbnb

Airbnb’s site welcomes you with big and beautiful background images; a different one for each travel destination you select.

These background images give you a great feeling of the featured destinations, stirring your emotions, and giving you itchy feet to travel.

Airbnb tells different stories from around the world and invites you to become part of these stories.

Example: Water Down Infographic

Water Down is another infographic that tells a story; the true story of the lack of access to clean water in the world.

The story starts with the amount of water available on the planet and ends with the fact that every 20 seconds a child dies from water-borne illnesses.

With infographics, you decide just how many pieces of the puzzle you need to get the entire picture.

Storytelling Through Animated Interaction

An aspect of good storytelling is entertainment. When people are entertained, they will be more likely to listen to your story.

I already discussed how people love visual stories. Animations take your visuals a step further by adding motion to them.

One technique for animating your content is through the use of parallax scrolling.Parallax scrolling is a relatively new technique in web design with lots of potential to improve your overall user experience. It offers the ideal setting to tell your story in an engaging and interactive way. Let your visitors take control and let them walk through your story in their own pace

Example: Google’s “The Story of Send”

This animated story of what happens whenever you send an email is entertaining.

Because their animated story is engaging, Google is able to inform and connect with their audience more successfully.

Storytelling Through Videos

Almost all videos include some kind of story. Video allows for both motion picture and sound, basically all the technical aspects that make a great platform for an engaging story.

Did you know that site visitors stay on a web page 100% longer when it has a video on it?

Also, site visitors are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.

Those are just some numbers that show you how good of a platform video is for your stories.

Example: Droplet

The mobile money app Droplet shows us an example of good storytelling through video.

The video takes you on a journey through the city of London. It shows you why there is a need for the app and how the app solves an existing problem. They do it through storytelling.

The people behind Droplet have chosen a cartoon-style video. This allows them to minimize noise and focus on the details. The hand-drawn style makes it very personal and unique.

Storytelling Through Audio

Auditory storytelling is a very old form of storytelling. Songs, for example, were easy to remember and pass on from generation to generation.

Even today, most songs tell a story of some sort.

On your website, you can use audio in many different ways. Just keep in mind that not all people appreciate it, so be thoughtful in execution.

Example: Dumb Ways to Die

The website Dumb Ways To Die is a public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Australia to promote rail safety. The campaign went viral in 2012.

The campaign turns a serious topic into a story people are more likely to engage with, in the hopes that their message becomes better learned and disseminated.

The story is told in a song and it comes with a fun music video and a very engaging, interactive website – turning a message people may not want to hear into fun.

Storytelling Through Social Media

Social media has gained a lot of popularity in the recent years. Why? Because they allow people and companies to connect with each other. Social media enables us to exchange feedback, ideas and content.

For companies, social media can be a great place to tell stories. This form of storytelling is interactive and the stories evolve around a community.

Example: Red Bull on Instagram

On Instagram Red Bull tell their stories with photos and short videos. And fans follow these stories engagingly.

The company is known for their event marketing efforts and they create more content around their product than any other company. Content that is fun, visual, and extremely popular.

Related article: Content is All That Matters on the Web discusses Red Bull’s unique content strategy.

Online Storytelling is Powerful

The Internet is the most powerful platform for storytelling. It combines different carriers for our stories: text, visuals, interactive animation, video, audio, and social media.
The Web is also the only medium that can be publically accessed simultaneously by people all over the world. Not only does this allow anyone to share their own stories, it also means that our stories can reach the entire world.

Related Content:
The Importance of Web Content Strategy
Viral Content: Why We Share Some Things and Not Others
How to Bake Content Strategy into Your Web Design Process
Related Categories: User Experience and Usability

Read more on how storytelling can be transmitted to visitors on the web in the full version of the article on Six Revisions.

Sabina Idler
Sabina was technical writer & UXer @Usabilla for 5 years before she started her own UX research and consultancy firm; UXkids. With UXkids, Sabina leverages her academic research expertise, know how in child development, and strategic vision to help companies build successful digital products for children. You can connect with Sabina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.