Tell a Web Story

August 31st, 2006

I said before when reflecting on the movie DareDevil that story is king. It came back to me today as I was reflecting about what makes a good website. This analogy can be extended to good software as well. The elements of a good story are present in a good website.

So what are the elements of a good story? Basically they are:
  • Get the attention and interest
  • Draw the viewer / reader deeper
  • Connect to the emotions
  • Build up some tension
  • Resolve the tension (if you want)

I’m not drawing these basic elements from an instructional manual on what makes a good story, so there are many people in the world that could disagree with me. I just threw out the things that came to mind.

Ultimately, a good website will do all of these things. It starts from the link that directs the person to your website. There has to be something in it that interests them. Then they land on your website. Can you draw them deeper? Can you connect with their emotions? Maybe they already have some tension and that’s why they came to your site. Maybe they are thinking “I really need to find out how to handle my kids’ temper tantrums.” or “I have to get my debt under control!” or “How do I get my page to render properly in INTERNET EXPLORER”. Can you feel the tension? If you can relieve their tension, you may have just written the end of a good story.

On the other hand, a visitor to your site might have no tension, just interest. Your site can give them an interest in something new. Then the tension might just be the desire to learn more about this new thing.

Overall, I just noticed that good websites make an attempt to tell a story. On the other hand, there are a lot of websites out there that just post up information. I don’t think they are as effective. We all like to be grabbed and taken along for a ride in an interesting story. If you can do that, then your reader will gladly linger and explore your website and they won’t resent the time you just took from their fast-paced, hectic world.

Make the world a better place. Make your website a story!

The Little Things Make it Big

August 11th, 2006

This is an overdue post about the things that I started reflecting about after watching the movie DareDevil – Director’s cut. I’m starting at the end because it’s the most interesting at the moment – the little things are what makes it big.

What happened with the theatrical release of DareDevil was that the producer and other people involved on the project wanted the running time of the movie to be under or around 90 minutes. I don’t really know why they would want to do that, I personally feel ripped off if a movie is too short. Bring on the 3 hour long flicks is what I say. That’s beside the point. This is not to say that you can’t make a good movie with a short running time. It just depends if the story can handle it.

The consequence of this decision was that they started to cut out what they considered to be the ‘fluff’. The cut out all the scenes that didn’t advance the primary plot line in some way. What was left was a very concise fast moving story. But it was devoid of small interesting details.

When it came to the director’s cut, a bunch of side stories were added, supporting cast had more screen time, and there were more quiet moments exploring little details. These little details didn’t necessarily fit in with the core of the story or move forward the main plot line, but in many ways they are what made it good.

The same idea can be applied to software development.

Read the rest of this entry

The Lessons of DareDevil

August 2nd, 2006

I just watched the director’s cut of DareDevil. I never saw the theatrical release and I sure am glad I didn’t. This movie was a good movie. I wouldn’t put it up next to Spider-Man, but I would definitely include it in my list of comic book movies that ‘got it’.

I was prompted to blog about this because there are important lessons to be taken away from this. I look and see that some really talented people got together and made a great movie, then it got cut up and a lousy movie was released to the theatres. I think a lot can be taken away from thinking about what happened, why it happened and what actually makes a great movie.

I want to blog about this more later when I have the chance, but for now I want to put down the things that are jumping out at me:

  1. The producer had a different vision from the director, and he held the money.
  2. The end-user’s expectations weren’t understood and met.
  3. Story is KING.
  4. It’s the little things that make it big.

I want to translate these ideas into understanding what makes good software, because the challenges involved with making a movie are the same types of challenges involved in making software. Stay tuned kids.