Friday, 3 April 2015

Reader journeys

One of the most difficult aspects of making HayleyWorld to get my head round has been imagining and designing the possible reader journeys through the text. How can we (my development partner & I)
  • personalise a reader's journey while still retaining an element of control?
  • make sure that readers can take different paths through the narrative and still read/experience something that feels like a coherent narrative?
  • make readers feel like they're getting to know William Hayley in a away that mimics encountering him in real life?
I'm still near the start of the reader journey design process, but I have a start point that Contentment are in the process of implementing for our first prototype (which should be ready within the next couple of weeks).

At the moment, the idea looks like this:
Please email me for a machine-readable version

As you can see, I still have questions about how much content to deliver before giving readers a chance to either choose more, or move on to another topic. But how will they get there in the first place?

It took me a while to work out how the app should start. But then I realised that it should begin in the way that William Hayley characteristically began his relationships with friends.

So, I embarked on my first element of semi-fictionalisation. I edited together – mostly from phrases/lines Hayley actually used, but with a few of my own (mostly obvious) tweaks  – a Hayleyan letter and sonnet, addressed to the reader…

"The past


My dear Friend

Please allow me the liberty of addressing you thus as, I believe I have reason to hope, such you will soon become. Having some important Topics I wish to share with you, I have thrown them into here, and entreat your acceptance of the following history, that you may peruse at the greatest Ease to yourself.

Before you begin, I would beg you to look on my peculiarities with affectionate indulgence and I hope only that what follows may be thought worthy of you to whom I have taken the liberty of addressing it.

Ever your affectionate



Kind Friend! who reads in far off future years,

I pray thy generous heart will care to know,

A poet who lov’d to laugh yet oft shed tears

And wishes this – his story – to bestow.

Accept this volume:- through these pages flow

Sincere effusions of a long-passed mind!

Herein the untold truths my heart will shew,

Of artists, poets, friends and loves combin'd!

In this fair copy may thy eyes discern

The turns of mortal life herein outlin'd:

Whate'er the lessons from these words we learn

May all their blessings in you be entwin’d!

Thine be that joy which Friendship's bosom fills;

And thine eternal peace, devoid of ills!"
 That's the beginning that every reader will see. But then how to set each one off on their particular journey?

My initial plan was to give them a long form at the beginning. But my research into how people develop and sustain relationships led me to realise that this would be wrong. I need to create the illusion of conversation, which has two main implications.
  • the reader needs to be asked for smaller tranches of information about themselves at various (but not too many) points in the app
  • to have any chance of creating and sustaining the illusion that readers are getting to know William Hayley, they couldn't just be given a series of impersonal forms to complete. He would need to ask them questions. And would need to do so in an entirely Hayleyan manner…
So I wrote this. It is, I think, is more fun than an impersonal form, and has the advantage of allowing for "conversation" between Hayley and the reader without the reader being able to ask the sort of questions that an app will be unable to answer…

please email me for a machine-readable version

Also, given that the act of exploring HayleyWorld means readers are taking an interest in William Hayley, isn't it only right and proper that he should show an interest in them?

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