Creating a structured database of content revolving around a particular topic solves only one half of the problem. Presenting it in a way that is clear, concise and attention grabbing is equally critical. Otherwise, all the hard work that went into research will become meaningless — or unnoticed, at best.
One shouldn’t spend the same amount of time presenting the content as they did with their research. There needs to be a better way other than using a good old web page. That’s where Silk comes in, as a place to help you turn your data into presentations. A Silk site lets you add structure to your information and gives you many ways to filter and visualize your content in quite an impressive way.
What Exactly Does Silk Do?
Alright, simply stating that Silk helps you create collections doesn’t do justice to the app. It brings life to content (however boring it is) with a mashup of gorgeous interface, cool infographics and multimedia. A quick at look at the screengrab should help you get the idea.
The output from Silk is downright amazing, but it should be intuitive to use, with a flat learning curve to serve the purpose, right? Ease of use is going to be one criteria that will determine half of the marks for Silk.
Building a Silk Site
Tumblr, WordPress, SquareSpace and many other CMS solutions out in the market have spoiled us with quick to virtually non existent setup processes. Going by that yardstick might not be right as Silk is a beast of a different kind. So, I decided to give the app some leeway when it came to the initial grunt work of setting a site up.
The sign up was in line with the benchmark with just a handful of fields. The interesting thing, though, is that you can opt to keep the site private instead of allowing everyone access.
Landing on an empty dashboard is still an intimidating experience for me. However, the entire process is just five steps long and that’s good enough.
You can get started by adding a collection from the dashboard. It doesn’t matter how many collections you want create. Consider collections to be projects or categories if you’ll. And, pages are part of the collection, which you’ll be asked to create next. Create as many as the project needs and you can start editing by simply clicking on them.
A gorgeous WYSIWYG editor assists you to freely add information to a Silk page. All pages have a special area on top called the fact sheet. Here you can enter short facts about the topic that you are covering.
Click on ‘add your first tag’ to start adding a few facts. Describe the fact on the left, enter the fact on the right. Simply put, tags form a title and description combo. The naming conventions are a bit off and needs some getting used to. I guess the developers wanted to take “hey, this app is just like using WordPress!”, effect off your mind when using Silk!
Of all the things in the page editor toolkit, the image manager is the coolest of the lot. After uploading an image, you can zoom in, zoom out and move the image around to fit the relevant part into the frame. There was an option to use 1:1 ratio as well! Autosave options and a preview mode are conspicuously absent though.
So, that’s the regular stuff. Now we’ve come to the part where can make our content pop. Silk lets you create charts, tables, and maps using your tagged information. To add them click on the + symbol, and pick a table, map, chart, or other widget. You can pick which tags you want to show and filter them in the edit window.
Silk supplies you with almost all types of graphs and charts that matter. Easily embed videos by providing a link and add a grid with equal ease. Integrating the app with cloud storage hot spots like Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote etc. is one thing that’s clearly missing and I hope it finds a place in a future rollout!
Collaboration and Sharing
Now that your Silk site is up and running, it’s time to spread the word! You can invite anyone to become an editor of your site by hitting ‘manage this site’ in your dashboard. Sending people who follow your site a daily or weekly digest is just an icing on an already sumptuous cake!
Silk is one of the most unique and innovative web apps that I have come across in the past year. Frankly, I can’t believe that I didn’t stumble across this wonderful app soon enough. Sure, Silk isn’t a very original idea. However, it’s another shining example of a brilliant implementation that transforms a simple idea to something groundbreaking.
People for ages have been stressing the need to bring some sense into publishing structured content online. And, many have been doing it with whatever tools they have at their disposal at the moment – blogs, CMS, wikis and the like. Now, they don’t have to hack together a barely working knowledge dispenser online. They’ve got Silk to thank for!