Effective Calls-to-Action for Transmedia Stories

When designing calls-to-action, designers need to consider the impact of these jumps on the user’s ability to both navigate the narrative and understand its meaning. Among the questions that the designer should address are how to manage the impact of jumps between art forms like (Dena, 2007):

  • Representative arts and simulations
  • Narrative and non-narrative
  • Static, interactive, generated, or emergent
  • Long-form, short-form, or micro-content

All of the elements of the call-to-action (attractor, motivator, connector, and retainer) need to work together to keep the user moving deeper into the narrative. Effectively designed can be much more than a “Click Me” button. They can:

  • Provoke curiosity, fear, desire, and other emotions
  • Control the pacing of the transmedia narrative
  • Help users map the “geography” of the transmedia narrative’s system as well as the story
  • Provide a natural breakpoint that the user can come back to later

A well designed call-to-action will support the flow of the narrative; a poorly designed one will be the equivalent of a speed bump. The designer of a call-to-action needs to focus the interaction component and how to move the user from one side of the jump to the other. An understanding of what is happening in the narrative and how the call-to-action affects the user’s engagement with the narrative is essential.

Using a goal-centered approach in the design of calls-to-action can also make them more effective. Setting achievable, tangible goals can help viewers focus attention on unfamiliar information and integrate it with the knowledge, attitudes, and predispositions they already have. Successful use of a goal-setting approach requires viewers have the ability to use information from the narrative generally and the call-to-action specifically to achieve the goals set. This approach “must put viewers into contact with message-related information that, without a goal, might be abandoned too soon” (Screven, 2000, pp. 167 – 169). A framework for designing a goal-centered approach includes (Screven, 2000, p. 174):

  • Developing clear and measurable objectives for each task and message component in the exhibit
  • Developing goals and sub-goals for intermediate tasks and pretesting them
  • Selecting goals that viewers perceive as having personal value
  • Ensuring tasks are clearly linked to the target message
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