Many of the decisions around the design of a story will depend on the content and narrative itself, but there are some general pointers we'd recommend to anyone creating an immersive story in Shorthand:

  • Jot down a basic structure / key parts of your story on paper, then consider how best to tell each part (e.g. with text, photo, graphic, interactive, video – combination?) And on the assumption mobile will be an important platform for your readership, you should be considering that structure on mobile to the same degree as desktop, or more-so depending on your mobile traffic. Use our planning documents to help with this stage.
  • Get to grips with the options available in Shorthand before gathering your media, if possible, so you can consider when you may want detail to one side, or looping video shorts etc. Remember you can access online training here.
  • As soon as you can, move onto Shorthand and start bringing together your story. Keep your story headline in mind throughout, to ensure focus, but try different structures and section types (remember, you can drag-and-drop the order of the sections in the editor) and use the copy function to save time when creating different versions.
  • Optimise your media for cross-platform consumption (refer to our size & crop guidelines for images, background video and foreground video). Consider the balance between quality and performance.
  • Give careful thought to the flow of your narrative, to ensure your reader is encouraged to scroll to the end.
  • Every story has a clear beginning, middle and end. Consider how to create a powerful entrance, an engaging middle and how you'll invite continued engagement beyond the end of the story.
  • Consider consistency of style e.g. the treatment of your assets, size of text, etc.
  • Use chapter headings, pull-quotes and headers as visual hooks. Use them with impact at key moments in the story. Smaller images and type treatments (quotes, etc.) are also great for pacing.
  • Start simple, and work up from there – but only where added detail, interactivity etc adds to the storytelling. A simple, clean & sharp visual narrative can be a powerful approach.
  • Similarly, consider where images can tell more of a story than text – and perhaps where used in isolation could even tell a stronger story.
  • Where possible, avoid covering eyes in photos of people with text over the top. Eyes can be a powerful part of an image, so covering with text can reduce the impact of the related visual.
The most important aspects of whether someone will read the story in terms of design are readability (i.e. is it easy to read the text on any device, does the content flow in a measured way) and page load (is it so slow to load that I give up, especially on mobile). So ensure you preview the story on different devices, and actually read it to get a sense of both these things (you can easily do this using the story Preview).