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Click, scroll, swipe: How do I read thee? Let me count the ways
Henry Breimhurst / Hanley Wood Marketing / May 3, 2013
I’ve written before about certain tactics and guidelines you can use when writing content for the web. But I weaseled some caveats in there, one of which was that any content guidelines are liable to change as technology changes.
Sometimes the medium is the message, but the medium ALWAYS shapes the message. This is the place where content and the design of content meet. Depending on what medium you’re working with, you need to think about how your story is structured, written and presented.
Who’s up for a little navel gazing? Let’s back waaaaay up and see what we can learn about the way technological evolution changes the way we consume and interact with content.
From Stone to Tome: The Written Word Through the Ages
The idea of changing content to fit the medium is as old as the written word.
- Single medium: Early carving or writing was on a single medium (e.g., stone, clay tablet, leaf). Writers edited the story to fit the medium, and readers interacted by, well, looking at it. If there was more to the story, they walked to the next obelisk or picked up the next tablet.
- Scrolls: Eventually paper, cloth, parchment and wood were stitched or extended into scrolls. It allowed long-form content in a portable medium; stories got longer, and readers interacted by unrolling it.
- Books: Books broke content into smaller chunks, but let readers jump around as they saw fit by flipping pages. Long stories fit well, but so did non-linear content like short story collections or reference material.
- Newspapers: The newspaper added the intellectual innovation of presenting multiple stories together, and having readers follow non-linear jumps to read more.
Tablets… scrolling… jumps. Sound familiar? Digital media take many interaction cues from their analog ancestors, but the actions readers take change as hardware changes.