“Snowfall” has become a verb in many newsrooms after The New York Times launched its beautiful multimedia project earlier this year. Though the format was touted as the future of online storytelling by some, The Times wasn’t the first to pull of this type of format. If you’re looking for inspiration to make snow fall in your own newsroom, here are a few other examples, not all of which come from newsrooms, as I think it would be irresponsible of us to confine ourselves to the sphere of news organizations when collecting inspiration for innovative storytelling formats.
Favorite feature: Layering multiple shots in the background that change as you scroll, mimicking the action of a photoshoot.
Favorite feature: Curtain-style parallax that reveals the next layer of content as you scroll. (Tutorial on how to do this).
All of their articles follow this format. They’re not particularly flashy, but they are clean and beautiful.
This is the most classic kind of storytelling: a love story. It has elements newsrooms can steal around displaying simple chronological information in a graphical way.
A web documentary that takes you through a neighborhood in Switzerland. This one sort of tricks your mind — though the image changes as you scroll down, it feels like you’re moving forward. The menu items on the right show you where you are in context.
First, the disclosure: I work at The Seattle Times and helped on this project. But it’s worth calling out because, although not as flashy and scrolly and “ooh! aah!” as some of these other projects, it’s an example of how you can work within the confines of your standard CMS with a little bit of simple HTML and CSS to dramatically improve the design of a visual story.
9. Soleil Noir
Though this isn’t a longform story, it does graphically display information in a beautiful, engaging way. I could see usage in the newsroom to tell a story that has a dense amount of numbers and statistics, or as an alternate way of doing a timeline.
This one is probably way too flashy and animated to be reproducible for daily journalism, but like the example above, I could see a use case in our world, especially for explanatory stories that try to explain complex, convoluted systems, workflows or relationships in a way that doesn’t bore people.
How do I get started?
So, how might you go about building something like this? It’s simple. Start by learning some HTML and CSS (yes, its the new literacy — the equivalent of learning how to use punctuation). Codeacademy is a great resource if you’re just getting started. If you don’t want to play with code yet, try using Scrollkit, which is like InDesign in your browser. The more people we have in the industry who are treating digital storytelling with the same time, resources and thoughtfulness as we spend laying out print stories each day, the quicker we can develop tools, workflows and systems to make this less of a manual and time-extensive process.