Lately I’ve been seeing a new trend developing with digital publishing; long-form interactive storytelling. It probably started long before this, but my first recollection of interacting with an engaging story on the web, was with NY Times Snowfall. Then a few months after that, I was contracted to program the Modern Farmer website. In this project, they have a lot of “Super Features” which are simply posts, designed for consuming long-form content.
Little did I know, these were seeds that were being planted. I was unknowingly garnering the experience with the design and development of rich, interactive, story telling on the web that I would then use later on. A few months passed, when I started seeing more of these sites pop up again. Now, beautiful designs for longform reading were coming out of the woodwork from sites like Medium, and Svbtle. Then Creatavist comes out, with their interactive digital publishing platform. Then last night, I happen across this article from Manage WP, pretty much validating what I already was thinking. For me this was a sign, and it hit me like a ton of bricks; I can build this shit on WordPress.
WordPress has everything an author needs to tell a story. That is after all, what WordPress was built for. With the tech that’s available to us these days, there’s no reason it can’t be done on WordPress. So, that’s exactly what I did. I built a true story telling theme for WordPress. An interactive and compelling platform designed and built for telling stories. And, it’s built on my new framework Soren. It’s currently a working prototype. Prototype means images are not optimized, scripts are not minified, and there are probably semantic issues, etc. But, I’d love your thoughts on this.
Telling interactive stories means audio, video, imagery, galleries, characters, and locations. These “modules” are WordPress shortcodes, inserted with a generator. Authors fill in the blank, and insert a component with one click. Pretty damn easy. Components like parallax imagery, HTML5 audio, and more are created within 15 seconds. No bullshit.
The theme is then customized or designed in real-time, on the front-end, using WordPress Theme Customizer. Not only do you have control over how you build your stories, but you also have control over how the theme looks. And, you’re likely to not junk up the site because the all the elements are dynamically linked with LESS. Make the font size smaller? It scales every piece of text everywhere across the site.
And did I mention it was responsive? The demo has a few quirks right now, and it’s not perfect, but it’s 90% there. Once there’s some image and type optimization, and some offline capabilities with HTML5, it’ll be ripe for mobile. No need for an extra iPad or iPhone app when a site can replicate most of the functionality by default.
And this is just the start. Aesop will be available next week for purchase. Work has already started on another type, and since I’m having fun with this right now, I’m going to continue down this path for now.
So what do you think of Aesop?