A tool for providing backstory to readers at #SNDMakes

Team yellow: Backstory

In their own words:

Our team set out to answer the question of “How might we better help readers understand stories by improving the context?” Over the two-day SNDMakes designathon in March 2014, we built Backstory. It’s a visual and structural prototype that got us thinking about how we present the news.

For the complete behind-the-scenes look at how Backstory came together, visit their project on HackDash. Also, Mike Swartz wrote up the backstory to their project “Backstory” and it is worth a read.

Stories are collections

One of the key concepts is that stories are really collections of individual updates. When we read a new story, we want to know its relationship to the bigger picture. Each story as presented on the homepage is really just and entry point into the context of the larger narrative.

News on a timeline

The idea is that each story is really a topic with an initial event and a series of updates. While reading one of these updates, the reader is always in the context of the story’s narrative arc, and can easily figure out what happened up to the present point in the timeline. Unread or new stories are called out, giving the user a quick way of seeing where they are in the timeline.

Multiple levels of engagement

The goal of the UI is to give readers a lightweight, engaging way to interact with a story. Users enter a story’s timeline at the point they last left off, and have the ability to either move forward to read new information, or dive into the backstory to see past updates.

Users can engage with events and topics on 3 levels – A scannable list of headlines, a summary mode with a thumbnail and brief description, and a complete article mode, showing the full text of a story, video, photos, and other media.

Switch your context

We also developed a concept of ‘flipping’ the timeline. If a reader wants to experience the story from the original event up until the present update, a quick button tap reorders the timeline from the first update to the last.

Find stories that matter to you

We had a lot of ideas about how a reader could find different stories or hop frmo one story to the next. Each story would have key players that allow the user to pivot to a different but related narrative. And by logging in, a user could subscribe to stories that matter to them or see what their friends are tracking.

Check out the other ideas: Project Skim | Moving Stories | Sluice

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About Miranda Mulligan

is a digital specialist, news design veteran, SND board member, and a long-time rouser of rabbles.

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