One of the things I love most about my job is that it’s always changing. I started designing websites when there were seriously like five tags, so over the last couple of decades my skillset has gone from in demand and obsolete more times than I can count. The only way to stay relevant is to constantly look forward—not at what’s happening now, but at what’s happening six months down the road.
That’s one of the reasons I love trying new plugins.
There’s nothing I love more than trying out exciting new tool in its early stages, when you can actually talk to the people building it, push it to its limits, and give feedback that might influence future updates. It’s fun, and helps me evaluate what I should be paying attention to in the future.
The rise of long-form storytelling
For a while now I’ve been watching the rise of the long form storytelling site. Maybe you don’t know them by name, but you’ve probably seen them and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over how cool they are. The New York Times wasn’t the first publisher to tell a rich, interactive long form story, but their “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” article became shorthand for the genre.
Since the appearance of the genre, there have been more and more inspiring examples of this style of storytelling. Everyone from the New York Times to the Guardian UK to Modern Farmer have featured Snowfall-style long-form articles.
A few of my favorite examples of Snowfall-style sites
Creative freedom isn’t free
The Snowfall style of storytelling is allowing content creators to break free from the typical “column of text” articles. But the freedom to tell long-form stories that leverage rich, interactive media like videos, map plotting, audio and parallax scrolling effects comes with a cost: a huge amount of overhead.
According to the NYT, the Snowfall story took a team of designers, developers and content creators (and probably art directors, editors, project managers, ad infinitum) six months to create the article. And while I’m sure a lot of that was spent on content creation, a decent chunk of change was definitely spent on the design and development. I know most of my clients can’t hire 10 people to work six months on a single story. It didn’t take that long to launch a full website even *before* CSS and WordPress :D
That’s why I’m so excited about the Aesop Story Engine
The Aesop Story Engine is a new WordPress plugin that added to the repo on February 18. Aesop allows you build Snowfall-style stories using virtually any WordPress theme. The plugin allows you to choose from twelve components that you can arrange to tell your story in the most engaging way possible.
The 12 Aesop Story Engine Components Are:
Are you as excited about the Aesop Story Engine as I am?
If you’re as excited about telling stories with Aesop as I am, you’ll want to listen up: right now they’re asking for input from people like you and me; people who are excited to tell long-form stories on their sites. An audience poll is running until Sunday night, and by answering you’ll be able to give Nick input he can use to make the Aesop Story Engine even radder than it already is.