As a designer of user interfaces for web and mobile software I relish the challenge of a genuinely new design problem. A couple of years ago a spoke at the Birmingham Book Festival about a collaborative book writing project I was working on. It’s been on the back burner a bit since then but I’ve decided to take another look at it now.

The project involves writers collaborating on multiple story lens within a book as its written. For example person a might write chapter one and chapter two. Person b reads chapter one and decides whether to read chapter 2 OR write their own chapter 2. Person c might read chapter one then either person a or person b’s chapter 2 OR write their own, and so on.

This potentially could therefore grow multiple storylines exponentially which leaves us the challenge of making that usable for the reader. The main challenges that need to be addressed by the interface design are:

– how can you show multiple routes at the end of each chapter?
– how do you know which routes potentially lead to an ending?
– how do you know which routes lead to dead ends to maybe avoid?
– how to you follow particular authors?
– do we limit the maximum number of alternate routes per chapter?
– how do you alert the readers that a new chapter along their chosen storyline has been written?
– do you want to show popular storylines?

These are the main challenges we hope to address in the user interface, producing a collaborative writing and reading environment for a website and for tablets.