Watch Out! A Cliff!
This is a story about publishing a piece of digital content, studying the analytics, seeing that something is tripping readers up, and fixing it on the fly.
“Scraping By” is a stack: a click-through reading experience in which you advance paragraph-by-paragraph, with photographs, data visualizations, or illustrations accompanying each chunk of text.
The format obviously has a lot in common with slide decks and slideshows. But as with the similar work coming out of Tapestry, Vox, and even the New York Times, the fact that it is designed for readers — not presenters — sets it apart.
We started building our stack technology two years ago while exploring how best to explain complex topics on the web. Unlike our video or infographic prototypes, our stack-based explainers got rave reviews during user-tests (to our surprise, actually). They struck a nice balance between A) giving the reader control over the pacing, B) obscuring the volume of content so as not to overwhelm , and C) remaining highly visual.
From a production perspective, the format also offers up a few advantages: Once published, a stack is significantly easier to update and redeploy than a video or infographic (most of the text is HTML-based). And because the content is so linear, tracking the reader’s clicks or taps gives us a truly meaningful feedback loop.
Indeed, with every new piece we produce, we obsess over the engagement curve and completion rate (usually around 60%), experimenting along the way to learn more about what keeps readers on board, what keeps them focused.
Which brings us to “Scraping By.”