The Role of Storytelling in Web Design

On crafting narratives with your website designs

In the age of ctrl+c, ctrl+v I find its of vital importance that any designer who works on the web avoids the urge to use a one size fits all template. Let me explain, while the standard building blocks of web design can work in any given design they do not necessarily fit well within their design’s context. This is why I am a firm believer that web designers should design their pieces with their clients and or context-specific narrative in mind. Much like any good piece of creative writing, good web design should cover three important elements: setting, theme, and plot. With these three elements at play, web designers can weave an overarching narrative that both immerses their users in and guides their users through their design pieces.

In web design, setting is used to provide your users with a context and a sense of place throughout your piece. Imagine for a second that you just picked up a novel, and right as you were beginning to become invested in it’s story the entire setting and context changed randomly and was never mentioned or revisited again. That wouldn’t be a very good story. Web design is the same. When a user is roaming through an website without an overarching setting the result is a user who feels lost, confused, and tempted to close the tab and do something else. That is why web designers have to create a setting where the graphic and typographic choices remain consistent and give their users that sense of place.

Theme is how your web design portrays its central ideas. How are you able to create a trustworthy presence to your users while still setting yourself apart from your competition? How are you able to address the content of your website in a way that doesn’t conflict with your main idea.

Plot is how our web designs utilize their devices in order to move the user forward through it. What are your users trying to achieve when they go to your website? What problems do they have to overcome to do so? All good narrative arcs involve conflict of some kind. When you incorporate storytelling as a tool for web design, it helps to think of your users the main character and imagine as many different ways that they can overcome a specific problem using the tools that your design will provide them with.