Is the web browser a space for theatrical composition?

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Because I was curious, I made this mind-map of Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints, which is a method used by theatre practitioners to think about the composition of people and objects on stage. I’ve made the map as a checklist of aspects of composition to consider in my theatre work.

Since I’ve been working with Viewpoints, and building a new website at the same time, I was having a think about how these design principles can be adapted for the composition of websites. It would take a long time to consider each of these points on their own and how they cross-pollinate with web design. It’s something I’m very interested in doing.

For now though, some thoughts around the heritage of design for the web in relation to the language we use for theatrical composition.


The web takes its pattern thinking from an amalgamation of the lines and columns of journalism and print publishing, the curation of exhibitions, and the taxonomies of libraries. It works with texture, buttons, button transitions and drop shadows. It is centred around searchability.When Flash was more ubiquitous, the web browser offered a more cinematic experience.

I’d like to hold this up against a recent online ‘organic’ document published by Google called Material Design (interesting that it is called Material Design):

“Material design: a cross-platform design system grounded in tactile reality, inspired by our study of paper and ink, yet open to imagination and magic.” Google on Material Design


I think that the screen itself, despite its hardness and flatness, is not a hinderance to using theatrical principles in designing for it.


A website is built on the contraints of programming and programming languages. It is predetermined by the formats of the inner architectures of WordPress, or CMS structures. Text cannot easily flow through or around images, and text is still constrained by character length and box sizes.


Interactivity is traditionally centered around button panels. It still is. I think of the interactive displays at the science museum in the ’80s. Buttons are a satisfying point of ‘action’, they need to behave at the appropriate speed.


On a website, the speed at which a story is told is determined by its balance with space and click-through-rate. Time is therefore a vital consideration in design. This site is the fastest site I know:


There is an upsurge in the popularity of the term ‘calm technology’. An App made by Catherine Wheel, an object theatre company, is the calmest example of interactive design that I know of.


Choreography is becoming a big word in design, coming to the fore as technological languages develop. There is now an undeniable fusion between the heritage of paper based technology, animation principles and the necessity of ergonomics in mobile devices. The dimensions are changing, demanding a new composition language.

Language like ‘motion’ and ‘meaningful transitions’ come straight out of theatre. With the growing tactility of the web and recognition of the necessity for user-centred experience, the choreography of data is becoming more and more necessary.

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