I’ve always been interested in how people use things. This is what I do as an interaction designer and digital product developer. I design and make digital things for people to use to accomplish something. But when I end up writing something I also think a lot about how it is going to be used as something to read.
I think about when and where they are bored and how long someone sits on a London train before switching lines or getting off. I think about the untold and uncountable amount of times a day you the user pull out your phone to do everything from talk to your sister about your mom, order what should be amazing but in the end altogether thoroughly mediocre pizza or actively avoid having to mistakenly make eye contact with someone. I think a lot about how much you read throughout the day and how much of it is going to be on a phone.
Software for reading should be designed and made to make the reading better. It should be about the content of the book, the words, the sentences, paragraphs and scenes, all being able to be accessed quickly and give you a way to navigate them.
As an author, I like to think I understand what it’s like to write things for people. I know what it’s like to pour your heart and slog through bleak, early and hateful mornings trying to write before the kids start crying. I know that intimately because I’m doing it right now.
Writing is hard. It is all about the craft of putting the piece of something to read together. This means that the reader will go through this bit before they find out about what Lisa said to Mark and how they, the reader, are going to have to struggle through a lot of pages of very necessary background on their family before they get to the bit with the aliens. Writing means arranging things – designing the story so someone can use it well.
Being a writer means though that you’re already given a format to do that with, and that format hasn’t in reality likely changed all that much for a couple of hundred years. Our lives are a lot different from when the novel first reached peoples hands. Reading formats like newspapers though have changed to fit the medium of the internet but not the day of your life in which its read.
Our lives have become very scattershot. Our understanding of time and what to do with it is all over the place. Our time itself is the same, bits of usable pieces here and there, sprayed out over the day. When your reading, whether for information or entertainment, is sprayed out over a day, this needs to be a major feature of the experience. But Bastion is something for this new mode of scattershot reading that has quietly stumbled into our lives. It allows the sentences, paragraphs and scenes to be accessible for how you want to read, with the time and condition that you’re given to do it.
So how do you make reading for people today good? You understand where and how they’re going to read and you do something about it. Hopefully, Bastion is doing just that.