There’s more work to do before you type a single word, draw your first picture or shoot your first scene. You need at very least an outline of how your content will be structured. As the picture to the right shows, structures clearly affect how compelling your content can be.
Whatever the type of content you are designing, your first goal is to engage the elephant…
In Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath, the authors make a key distinction between what we think consciously and what our more primitive, emotional system will have us do.
They liken the emotional system to an elephant and the intellect to the rider of the elephant.
As you can imagine, when you’re trying hard to resist that bar of chocolate or force yourself up out of bed on a cold morning, the rider has a heck of a job keeping the elephant under control and can easily become exhausted in the process.
While the rider may be engaged by the long-term benefits of a learning activity or an intellectual curiosity, the elephant is much more interested in what’s in it for them right now.
The prospect of a solution to a real, current problem will definitely do the job, because that will reduce stress. The elephant may also be motivated by a challenge, perhaps a game which involves some form of competition. Humour may also do the trick, or just plain novelty.
Once you have the learner engaged emotionally, you should spell out clearly what your content is going to cover and how. Not only are you aiming to reassure the learner that those benefits are going to be readily attainable, you want to provide them with an advance organiser that helps them prepare for what will follow.
A compelling structure includes the following:
- a start that engages the learner emotionally;
- a clear overview of what is to follow;
- clear signposting for the learner in terms of where they are, how far they’ve gone, how far there is to go, how they’re progressing;
- a call to action (what you suggest the learner does next, links to related content, people to talk to, etc.);
- and, if your content forms part of a series, a teaser for what comes next (think soaps).
At this stage, you may be concerned that you still have nothing on the screen to show for your efforts. Don’t worry, because in the next section we’re talking images, speech, music, animation, video and perhaps even some text – the basic media elements.
You’ll discover how to manipulate these elements like a true media chemist.