It’s an “everything digital” world out there. As more and more books are being read on phones and tablets and as more and more tweets point to longer articles, long-form content is getting back into business. Avid readers may not be in the majority, but their numbers are enough and they are lapping up content and how. Aesop Story Engine aims to help content-creators get an edge on tapping that market – keep the reader interested. Aesop Story Engine is a largely beautiful bouquet of very handy elements that you can add to your content to keep your reader glued. It comes with its pinch of salt worth of fine print, but more on that later.
Aesop Story Engine: Features – grow on you
The ordinary: The first thing you notice about this story telling device is that a few of the features, or as they like to call it components, are nothing special. You’ll notice that the image, video, audio components are just like any other embedded code. And you wonder, what all the hu-la-la is about.
The maybe interesting: You look at the document component and the two scrolling components – timeline and chapter and you wonder what is this doing that a good ol’ <a name> tag cannot do? The first points you to a file on your blog itself and the second and third help you scroll to specific parts of your post.
But, it gets better: I’ve always wanted to customise blockquotes in my posts. I am sure, there are many plugins that do that, but never got around to looking it up. This one is really interesting because you can actually add a background image to the quote too.
Then you encounter the character component which lets you put in an image of a character in your story with the name and a short bio (like you have for the author of a post) to remind your reader of the character. You think interesting application, and functional too!
It becomes slightly more impressive with the collection and gallery components which basically seem extensions of the “category” functionality of any CMS. But, the presentation and ease of use grow on you.
Awesome features: It’s when you reach the misleadingly named content component that it feels like you have struck gold! Not only can you add an image as a background to your regular text, you can also change it to 2 or more columns! Fits in so well when you have to write a report-type post to write.
The map component really warmed the Aesop Story Engine plugin to me. How cool is it to have an actual map in the background with pointers to the places you mention in your story!
The plugin was a done deal for me with the parallax component. The feature by itself is just too cool for words. You have to take a look at how it has been implemented by Sony to tempt you in. Even if that looks a little too out of a common blogger’s league, a simpler use gives your blog a very contemporary look, as is done by “Too young to wed” here.
The bang for the buck: Even so, you could say that there isn’t anything in there that cannot be done by one plugin or the other and therein lies the prize money. You get it all together. Aesop Story Engine is indeed a one-stop shop for you to weave your story the way you want it.
And the second important thing is, the implementation is as simple as it gets. No coding, no shortcodes even, just plug in the values for various attributes and get a ready code stuck into your post.
The installation, like any other WordPress plugin is a breeze. After you activate the plugin, you get an “Add component” button above your text editor and you can get started with the thirteen components.
Now that we are suitably impressed by how well this is all put together, and the world that it can achieve, here comes the pinch of salt.
Not usable easily: Aesop Story Engine is not exactly plug and play. Very many of its features are theme dependent and don’t work like they are supposed to in other themes. There are very few Aesop themes available, only one of which is free. True, each component that requires so, clearly states that it is theme dependent, but it is more like fine print.
Not intuitive enough: It is one thing to be impressed by the slick websites that things like Parallax can create and it is another to implement what it takes. Given that the common WordPress user is used to everything at the click of a button, some of the Aesop Story Engine components require a little getting used to. There is a non-trivial learning curve to climb up.
Not well-explained: As of date, there isn’t enough documentation to pull you through without getting frustrated. You have to learn your way through trial and error and that is a huge deterrent.
Yet, one should give the plugin a benefit of doubt. It is fairly new, it is catching on. There will be more developers building add-ons and themes to make Aesop Story Engine easier to use. The support too will build with time, everyone knows documentation is hardly the first thing on a plugin developer’s mind.
The beginning is right, the interface is clean and usable once you get the hang of it. More importantly, you look at the plugin components and you get excited about what more can happen in the already evolved field of visual story-telling. You are suitably enthused to start using the plugin, even if it means a little effort.