Why We Built Fable to Enhance Long-Form Narratives

#Fable | Posted

At Phase2, we have history (some would say a habit) of building products inspired by the custom solutions we develop for our clients. Sometimes those needs are met with a product or open source framework we can leverage. Other times, we stumble upon an unmet need that we want to serve. One such need we have encountered repeatedly the last few years is the need for a better way to develop immersive content in long-form interactives.

The Need for Long-Form Interactive Experiences

Over more than a decade’s worth of content management system creation, we have seen a shift occurring as organizations’ needs have transitioned from managing massive amounts of content to weaving that content together in a beautiful, captivating way. This has been most utilized by media, educational and non-profit publishers with a wealth of great in depth content and data from which to tell an interactive story. Regardless of the particular client or industry in question, being able to tell an organization’s story quickly, without expensive, bespoke development has become a particularly poignant demand in the digital market. The New York Times has been at the forefront of this effort, notably the publication’s Invisible Child and Snow Fall narratives in 2012 and 2013. These immersive storytelling experiences kicked off a trend in new storytelling models for long-form pieces that wove together compelling visuals, great design, audio, video, and data visualizations to make statistics and deep research more approachable.At Phase2, we began to leverage this trend to fuse text and visual elements within a scrolling timeline to more succinctly convey complex client narratives. Using a hybrid of text, maps, images, video, creative graphics, and beautiful design, our clients’ multimedia narratives told stories in a more compelling and engaging way for users.Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 9.15.35 AM

Why We Built Fable

When we realized that many of our clients were interested in exploring long-form interactives and were frustrated by the lack of options, Phase2 set out to create a storytelling platform that would make immersive narratives more accessible without custom development. The result was Fable.Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 10.26.04 AMFable is a storytelling tool that enables our clients to infuse charisma, intuition, and cleverness into their organization’s narrative by making the art of long-form storytelling accessible to any member of their team. Optimized for immersion and interactivity, Fable allows for the creation of intricate and beautiful stories through complex and powerful layouts. The dynamic content that results serves to build strong relationships with audiences.Fable fills a marketplace gap, living in the middle ground between expensive development teams and one-size-fits-all templating tools. It requires no development skills to use but can be expanded on by development teams who wish to be truly creative.

Fable Is Not a Replacement to CMS

We love content management systems (CMS) as much (or more) than any digital agency you have ever met. Our business is built in large part thanks to the power of open source CMS like Drupal. With Fable, we are seeking to expand the power of the CMS - not replicate it or rebuild it. Our clients using Fable may also use Drupal, Wordpress or another CMS; Fable is a layer on top serving a different use case.Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.29.34 AMWith Fable, we can combine the management power of an existing CMS with the ability to swiftly integrate that content into an immersive, interactive narrative - without a large implementation cost. To this end, we’ve developed both Drupal and Wordpress integrations that allow the Fable interface to be launched from the Drupal and Wordpress editorial interfaces.

What Sets Fable Apart?

While Fable has many benefits - including empowered authoring, device optimization, embeddability, Drupal integration, and more - there are three key features that make it truly unique in the marketplace.

Nesting

Fable utilizes a nesting capability that has never been seen in a tool of its kind. Elements such as interactive maps, timelines, images, and videos can be nested within each other. Images can live inside maps, which can live inside timelines, etc. Not only does this inspire richer interactivity with readers, but it gives content managers infinite options for designing layouts. Rather than being constricted to one layer, as was the case with the previously mentioned tools, they are free to nest elements allowing their audience to dig deeper. The Carnegie Corporation of New York, for example, integrated an interactive affiliate map into a long-form storyline about Andrew Carnegie’s history. The graphic provides a space for relevant interludes that enrich the narrative, but don’t detract from it if visitors aren’t interested in exploring farther. Like most effective interactives, this one allows readers to control the pace and direction of discovery. This control creates not only a deeper connection to the content, but to the organization providing that content as well.Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 10.34.33 AM

Extended Development

In conjunction with Fable’s ability to enable non-technical users, the tool also provides power to developers. Thanks to Fable’s existing catalogue of sophisticated elements (as well as its Markup Component, which supports a wide variety of embeddable widgets), developers do not need to spend time hand-coding the basics of the interactive; that’s already been handled. In addition, Fable is optimized for multiple breakpoints out-of-the-box, so responsive design is one less thing for developers to focus on. Fable provides, in essence, the building blocks necessary to construct a good story, with none of the distractions.Instead, they are free to focus on more sophisticated integrations, like data visualizations, custom widgets, or social media content from a third party. Via UTF-8 support, the stories told through Fable can be shared in multiple languages, giving developers bandwidth when addressing different audiences. Furthermore, because the technical team is not spending excessive amounts of time on the basic widgets, organizations are able to make their resources go farther. Even a small development team has a lot of room to maneuver.

Performance & Hosting

Often times the power to create rich, long-form content results in heavy pages that can have long initialization or load times. Fable addresses this by only loading the needed content as the user begins to interact with the page. Known as “lazy loading,” this minimizes wait time and allows the user to begin enjoying the content as soon as they are ready.  In addition, knowing that many organizations fear the increased cost associated with high-volume traffic, Fable was designed to make hosting a non-issue. Static files requiring no processing engine or database to run and dynamic content running browser-side ensure no Fable user has to fear the success of their interactive. When content goes viral, Fable’s simple hosting and publishing model will make sure the story reaches everyone successfully on any device.

Learn More

If you are interested in learning more, please read our free whitepaper, Immersive Digital Storytelling: Connecting with Audiences through Long-Form Content. You can also visit the Fable website, follow Fable on Twitter, and sign up for the Fable newsletter.

 

Jeff Walpole

Jeff Walpole

CEO