There’s this really cool commercial from 2008, wherein Kate Walsh (formerly of Grey’s Anatomy), is driving a Cadillac and asks the question…
When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?
She asks some really good questions when it comes to the automotive “luxury game”. A lot of people are drawn to the bells and whistles. Yet, when it boils down to it, what matters most? What is it that gives the driver the greatest sense of luxury? Is it, as she suggests… the way the machine drives? It is, after all, at the core mission of the vehicle… driving.
Now, if only we can ask ourselves this same question as we move from composing content for print and composing it for the Web.
As in the commercial, when we look at making the transition from print to the Web, I think we can easily get caught up in the bells and whistles – the affordances of the Web – and miss the point. In some cases, I feel it’s even worse. If, for example, we continue using the metaphor of transportation over the ages, in some cases – especially when we dump texts in the Web and limit our “electrification” of text to hyperlinks – are we doing little more than hitching a horse to the front of a powerful car?
Sure, there are some basic ground rules that seem to convey from writing for print and writing for the Web. We write/compose to take the reader/user on a journey. That journey can either be one built with a “consumer” in mind, or simply for the journey of the person composing the piece. In either case, we want a good ride. Therefore, how can we make that vehicle perform at the highest level, thereby turning on the user/reader.. and even the composer/designer?
I tinker in this different sandbox that is the Web, but… I always know there’s more. I can sense the possibilities, but I can’t always see them. I just know they are there… and that potential alone is like some invisible charge that teases my senses. To some degree, I suppose it’s like that charge that coursed through Benjamin Franklin when his kite was zapped with lightning.
So, at what point do we learn to transfer that charge of Franklin’s, held in that bottle, into something greater? Or, going back to the metaphor used earlier… when do we unhitch the horse from the front of that powerful vehicle, and learn how to properly turn the key, thereby using the power that is available to us?