10 rules of storytelling
Tilda Publishing's platform creator on how to tell stories on the Internet.

Editor: Inna German Photo: Sasha Karelina

Nikita Obukhov
The Internet is the great medium for telling impressive stories and expressing ideas. We are still learning how to live here in cyberspace and exploring new forms within it. I think a new age is coming - the age of digital storytelling, similar to the Golden Age of Russian literature but on the net. This new kind of storytelling is high-minded, it's becoming a skill like beautifully written text.

Initially texts were put online using analogue rules: Information was put on the page, divided into paragraphs and accompanied with images. Once editors realised that no one wanted to spend a long time reading anymore, they changed from long text to short.
The process of reading has significantly changed over recent years. Due to the rise of informational flow and social media, we have got used to filtering data and reading selectively but the point is that we still want to read.
A new age is coming — the age of digital storytelling, similar to the Golden Age of Russian literature but on the net.
At the end of 2012 editors started to rethink the future of reading. That was partly caused by the iPad and tablets in general being such a success. A new era of designers and publishers formed their own standards and rules under the joint name of "Digital Storytelling". Many of them were experimenting with their iPads and tablets, but a new form of interactive storytelling became the most popular with 'Snowfall' featured in the New York Times setting the trend. It revolutionized online publishing and created a new standard of content presentation.
I want to teach this new form. Our goal is to create a global storytelling community. By founding Tilda, we have set the task of giving people simple tools for telling their own stories. This platform helps to create content-oriented projects and to publish them on the Internet. While working with our own platform and exploring the format we sum up the main rules that help when dealing with visual stories.
The mentioned New York Times' Snowfall has got 80 000 likes and its heading became the common name for all similar articles.
How to tell an interesting story?
1
Content is key
The article should be interesting and useful for its reader. Think about what will a reader get from reading your item. Use an information pyramid to compose a story that is easy to read. After the story line is formed, try to imagine things that will complete it and help with describing the heading. It is always good to have several points of view and different contexts. Good and useful content, an expert's quoted speech and proper visual design will give you an interesting and complete story.
2
Be the explorer
Very thoughtful research into choosing the right heading is the key to a really good story. There are the primary and secondary types of research that everyone telling stories on the Internet should undertake. Every designer or publisher must have the skills of being able to go deep into the heading.
3
Find great pictures
Storytelling is like a movie that is on while you are scrolling. It is the visual part of the story that helps to create the atmosphere, to describe the heading and to put the reader into the context. Think of what could help you to open up your story. This could be a photo shoot, ambient video, picture or infographics. When you start to form a story, pay attention to visual content.
4
Pay attention to headings
A heading should speak. Good headings generates interest and set the main article's subject without provoking or distorting it. Headings with figures, questions or statements are good for conversion. A-straight-from-the-shoulder quote is very useful for interviews. For example: "All discussion around terrorism is aimed for government control" (interview with Jonas Staal).
Puns in headings that were popular in the middle of the 00s have now become bad form. (For example, a survey on cold soups "My okroshka, I miss you" / Oh, baby - untranslatable pun).

Headings with figures will always be popular (if they are based on selection or listing): "25 places in Russia to have a good time", "20 photographs showing how great it is to be a child". There are also very trashy ones - "This 9 minute workout will replace visiting the gym". It is important to find a balance between attractive headings and its provocativeness because no one likes frustrated expectations.
5
Build several reading layers
There are two types or reading. First is line one, when you start by observing the article and then only read it in order. It's traditional. The second type is the cross-reading (skimming): you read only headings, insets etc. Attention is given to the text only when you catch something interesting.

It is crucial to consider the second type of reading. Take care of the article structure so that it can be readable even with a quick look.
6
Think with patterns
The designers' experience suggests that there are most useful ways of presenting different types of information. The concept of design-pattern implies a specified element or a group of elements that is repeated on a websites for the same reason. For example, only 2-3 out of 10 different ways of storytelling survive in the end.
Heading design pattern: section, head-line, lead.
An attentive reader will easily outline specific patterns of cover pages, image galleries and call-to-actions after visiting many tens of websites .

You should definitely use design patterns and adapt them for your own content and style.
7
Avoid monotony
Think of the order of the appearance of information that will be seen by the reader. The presentation should be varied. Good patterns used multiple times may become an eyesore on your audience, as it was for a long read. Examine just how Apple designers find their ideas: They've found 9 new ways of presenting the same object!
8
Unity and contrast
Use large shifts between the blocks. Don't be afraid of fresh air, just let your information breathe. When text is set in large space, it opens up and becomes more readable.

But please don't overdo with design and colour - loads of styles grab the attention and prevent information from being processed. Less is often more.
When you use one or another design tip focus on its unique function. For example, imagine one design (size+letter form+leading) for a heading, inset and image captions and then work only with these it. You can add other styles if needed but only when new subjects arise.
9
Find a relevant mood
It is always good to consider the cultural context for your fonts. For example, it is reasonable to use Helvetica in an article about New York (this font is used in NY public navigation and reflects the modernist philosophy). The Bodoni font is also good for Venice (one of the earliest Italian types, it is still widely used in design).

One type is quite enough for one well shaped article, however it is acceptable to use two types as it gives the effect of contrast.
The lettering style affects the statement's mood.
10
Take care to share
Do not forget to use social media icons. It's better to use so called press-and-stick buttons which stay in view while the reader scrolls down a page.

You will probably want to use the call to action combined with sharing. People decide whether or not to read the article based on the view in the facebook feed or on its media webpage.
THINK ONE MORE TIME ABOUT THE ARTICLE HEADING. MAKE IT VIRAL. USE NICE PICTURES. WRITE INTERESTING LEADS AND VIEW OF SOCIAL MEDIA ICONS? WITH FOR EXAMPLE, A FACEBOOK DEBUGGER.
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