My first opportunity to work with Google & XWP teams to build and design Web Stories (formerly known as AMP Stories for WordPress) was in 2018 during pre-ALPHA stages of development.
Immediately I am asking the team questions about how people were going to be consuming and sharing stories. Basically, what are we working towards? Having joined the team in the middle of some engagement as we worked through some development sprints I realized this needed to be clarified. Ideally we should all be pulling towards the same flag for efficiency and clear understanding. However when working at the edge of the web, sometimes that is part of the challenge too. At this stage we are working to make Stories Open Source and to empower 1/3 of the web with the ability to both own and publish their own stories using WordPress. Excellent work!
I’m smitten with the idea of being able to own my own story.
I’m smitten with the idea of people being able to receive SEO and Search page placement results from their stories too.
I’m smitten with the idea that stories don’t have to just disappear, feeding into that dark pattern of addictive patterns served up by social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
I’m smitten with the visual, multi-media, web nature of this immersive, beautiful, storytelling platform. Web Stories efficiently coalesces some of the greatest qualities the web has to offer:
- Fast, beautiful, and engaging content for content publishers
- Creative flexibility for editorial freedom and branding
- Sharable and linkable on the open web
- Mobile focused & desktop presentation included
- Powerful and immersive visual experiences
- Ads (clearly defined and useful)
- Live publishing possible
- Easily editable
- Access for all (no matter the connection – mobile)
- Search results & SEO benefits
- Web story format is free and part of the open web
Here are a couple of examples:
Pulitzer prize winning AMP Story about the Civil War in Yemen
A Photographer’s Journey into Yemen’s Shattering War by Lerenzo Tugnolio
The Washington Post
The San Francisco Chronicle Story “The Show Must Go On“
A Ballet Rises From the Ashes by The San Francisco Chronicle
Bringing Stories to WordPress with the WordPress plugin of course, makes great sense as we carve out the answers to questions like, “What are we working towards?”
WordPress powers more than 1/3 of the web. It’s Open Source and the greater project has served to give voice and autonomy to untold numbers of individuals, programs, organizations and more around the world.
The progressive web is tied tightly to these exciting new digital expressions. The future is so bright with Progressive Web Applications, AMP and AMP Stories too.
I am considering what our options for presenting and consuming Web Stories can be in the future.
I am considering what our options for presenting and consuming Web Stories are going to be in the coming future. How can we do even better?
Currently at platforms like Facebook or Instagram “stories” are built into their dark patterns and platform wide privacy issues. To participate here we have to be the product and then they are “free” for us to to “use”. This is inherently unethical and should not be an arrangement we continue to contribute to as we evolve our understanding. The disappearing nature of stories on these platforms also play into dark patterns and the sadly addictive nature of these social media experiences. Unless the profit models change, companies like Facebook will continue to do everything they can to keep your attention on the screen and as frequently as possible. “By using algorithms to leverage our dopamine-driven reward circuitry, they stack the cards—and our brains—against us.” – says Trever Haynes via Harvard Graduate School News.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about:
- How these platforms are going to be changing over the course of the next few years
- The responsibilities of publishers who help people publish their content on with the web
- How profit models have worked and failed people over time
- Digital media expression and consumption
We can put ads in our Stories. It’s not subversive either, it’s much like advertisements done in print magazines where you can clearly define what is an advertisement and what is not. Some ads are entertaining and fun to experience too. For example, I am a huge fan of some of the GEICO ads on television. The very end when the coach says “no sleepies…”
Obviously, I work to create useful scenarios that deliver awesome creative, shared experiences!
Another thing I love about AMP Stories is the live “story”. We’re breaking news or we’re watching a competitive sports event and we will be able to be sharing live through AMP Stories because the story will be able to build on itself as we update it.
All of these features and experiences are incredibly exciting, the potential is wonderful. The potential for abuse on a platform of this nature is expected and should be a priority for development too.
How do we manage that? How is YouTube doing it? When we bring something to the world we need to consider all that we are bringing, not just the fun parts.
So as we think more and more about a potential platform for Web Stories, or “Web Stories”, or whatever it becomes as it emerges from the state of “stories” now. I think about how to protect people from abuse. Currently, the Web Story format is free and part of the open web and is available for everyone to try on their websites. These stories can be shared and embedded across the web without being confined to a closed ecosystem or platform. This is part of the solution, but I can envision the demand for more because the Open Web Story Format experience is so great for consumers it will be in very high demand.
I’ve been researching and testing human interaction and usability testing for a long time. And If there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that a certain percentage of audiences are going to abuse a platform or format. You have to design for that before you publish something. It is our responsibility as designers to keep this as part of our focus and to solve for it together with our teams. We are uniquely positioned to do better work than has been done before. We’re uniquely positioned to get it right this time.
We now have existing examples in the wild of how platforms have served us, and how they failed us. With this new visual format, for telling stories on the web, I am challenged and I’m challenging everyone to get it right this time, let’s continue to get some of the negative experiences turned into positive experiences.
Let’s not sell people’s privacy. Let’s build a smart and sustainable business model. Let’s continue to avoid dark patterns and continue to make it possible for people to own their own content.
I don’t have all the answers. But I’m starting to mock up some more of the UX goodness like personas, scenarios and journey mapping. Sample of early personas quickly worked out previously. So I’m going to refresh those personas and scenarios. We’re going to look at journeys for different use cases, both for consuming and creating content.
One of the scenarios I’ll describe that I think would be beneficial for helping us map out a platform that works beyond just “searching” for “stories”. A platform where you can drill down, you can publish, you can search, and you can re-search. You can potentially interact. Let’s consider Pat for an example content consumer. Pat enjoys cooking and is looking for recipes on a mobile device.
A group of friends is coming to Pat’s place for a dinner party. Two have to avoid gluten and another friend is vegan. Pat loves using “Open Web Stories or AMP Stories” to follow recipes because the stories include visual demonstrations, videos and are not large walls of text making it simple to get a recipe right and to see the processes and techniques for preparation well. Plus, Pat will use an app to have the groceries delivered the day before directly from the useful Web Story web functionality.
So to start we will envision some use cases like Pat’s and see what some of the frustrating tasks are that a new kind of platform could improve. We need to answer questions like how does Pat search, drill down and engage with stories ideally and how is hard that to do now.
Could Pat search a large volume of stories? Can Pat add and interact with content within those? How does advertising get integrated to the content. How can Pat and others avoid being the product and preserve their privacy?
We know the dangers with creating a privatized platform where people can publish whatever they want “freely”. But I’m thinking about it, and I am thinking this might be a unique opportunity to potentially get that right and to make it safer and far more secure for both content publishers and consumers.
Thinking out loud today…