Websites with side quests
PLUS: An automotive designer tackles cognitive load
Designing for Delight
A @tinystride publication
Welcome! In today’s email:
An interactive essay about Zelda from the New York Times uses “side quests” to immerse and engage the reader
How an automobile interface designer thinks about cognitive load
AI courses for creative work
This interactive essay engages readers with side quests as they learn about the Legend of Zelda universe
The visual essay How The Legend of Zelda Changed the Game from the New York Times is a must-read for designers—even those of us who don’t consider ourselves heavy gamers.
I say read, but that’s hardly the right verb. It’s closer to an experience.
The essay is enriched with visual blocks surrounding keywords that, when clicked, launch a media component in a modal allowing the reader to explore the theme more deeply.
The video components have closed captioning displayed in accessible text, and the video begins playing muted. This makes the video accessible without audio and avoids unwanted audio surprises. There’s a prominent unmute button when you’re ready to turn on audio, and the page remembers your selection for future videos after you unmute.
When a modal is open, scrolling the page closes the modal. That interaction feels novel, but not surprising. It makes the modals feel lightweight—almost paper-like.
Also delightful: when a modal is open, the cursor becomes a large X icon, so it’s clear that tapping anywhere in the viewport closes the modal and returns the article.
Once you scroll to the bottom of the essay, you’ll discover a tracker that shows how many of the “side quests” you’ve found, encouraging the reader to dig deeper and continue engaging with the site.
The NYT team could have placed all of the multimedia inline, but the enriched keywords and hidden modal patterns introduce a bit of game theory. You’ll get the sense that you’re working to uncover hidden clues and little rabbit trails. It feels exciting and captivating.
Patterns like this could be used for product onboarding, marketing landing pages, or even embedded in an application’s core experience. Give it a try!
Worth a click
Image: The Turn Signal Blog
All the arguments against EVs are wrong — A remarkable essay on some of the common disputes around electric vehicles. I’ve heard (and wondered about) many of the issues raised in the post, so it was helpful to think through them slowly and get informed.
The Role of Cognitive Load in Automotive UX Design — Designer Casper Kessels writes the blog “The Turn Signal” dedicated to automotive UX design. For industries like automotive, healthcare, and AI, the stakes are high, so I take the research of designers in these industries very seriously and find their work broadly applicable to other industries.
Paul Rand’s Ford presentation — Let’s keep the automotive theme going with a look backward to a gorgeous presentation prepared by Paul Rand for Ford in 1966. Worth your time.
Designing for (Realistic) Attention — A smart, practical post from Christopher Butler on how the structure of copy on web pages and UI impacts usability. The article makes a compelling case that we should optimize for people scanning pages and has some practical tips I was able to implement in my work right away.
AI course for creative people — I imagine we’ll start seeing a lot more of this type of content as we move from “no one knows anything about AI and we’re all just playing”, to “a handful of people emerge as experts”. The subject matter of a few of these caught my eye. I’m excited to dig in.
Tweet of the week
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!