Authoring an interactive work

"Authors of hypertext and hypermedia materials confront three related problems: First, what must they do to orient readers and help them read efficiently and with pleasure? Second, how can they inform those reading a document where the links in that document lead? Third, how can they assist readers who have just entered a new document to feel at home there? Drawing upon the analogy of travel, we can say that the first problem concerns navigation information necessary for making one's way through the materials. The second concerns exit or departure information and the third arrival or entrance information. In each case, creators of hypermedia materials must decide what readers need to know at either end of a hypermedia link in order to make use of what they find there.

[...] The assumption by readers is that links represent useful, interesting‹in a word, significant‹relationships."

(G.Landow, The Rhetoric of Hypermedia: Some Rules for Authors, 8 )

Some guidelines:

  • Make the interaction intuitive, avoiding special instructions exterior to the depicted world.
  • Use simple clear metaphors for interaction and navigation:
    • Buildings, public spaces
    • Toys, games
    • Doors, elevators, drawers, boxes; furniture etc.

  • Expand/transgress familiar models by translating them into the digital world.
  • Provide a unified metaphor for each screen: a single dominant principle of navigation.
  • Allow a visible continuity between cause and effect; have the triggering element in the user's activity be recognizable.
  • Provide means for orienting the user in space:
    • By relying on devices such as maps, dictionaries, layering, puzzle pieces.
    • By using continuous (analog) environments vs. digital (on/off) modes of navigation.
  • Provide devices for focusing attention on crucial areas (hot spots):
    • flashlight
    • focus and iris
    • graphic emphasis (underline; bold)
  • Define the placement, role and extent of control of the author and reader; determine whether you want to create a Closed or an Open structure.
  • Determine the types of links used:
    • What are the links based on? - association; expansion of detail; deviation of path.
    • Are the links part of the story told?
  • Determine whether the arrangement of text on the page is significant, whether the order of lines and words is replaceable.
  • Define the function of images - are they used to illustrate a point; complement it; interpret it; subvert and complicate it?
  • Determine whether the narrative is to be arranged in time or in space (equalizing beginning and end) or in a combination of both.
  • Outline deliberate gaps of information and determine the moments and degrees of of filling in missing data.
  • Outline the participating points of view and the means for revealing each.
  • Outline motifs or other cohesion devices (e.g. rhyming; links) vs. devices for fragmentation (cuts).


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