Lightwell Pro
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Lightwell Pro

Introducing Lightwell…and the Future of Interactive App Creation

“And the world’s gonna know your name
What’s your name, man?

Mister Locke-a-Lightwell
My name is Mister Locke-a-Lightwell
And there’s a million things I haven’t built
But it’s not too late, it’s not too late”
- Mister Locke-a-Lightwell

Meet Lightwell

When we released our first story app at Hullabalu 4 years ago, we set out to reimagine the future of storytelling. After years of building our own story apps, we’re releasing Lightwell, our most valuable IP.

Lightwell is the first software that empowers creators to make fully interactive, animated mobile apps without writing a single line of code.

Adding a swipe interaction to a scene in Lightwell with drag and drop.

It allows anyone to make interactive native iOS apps straight out of art assets (there’s even a handy Photoshop script to export your layers directly into Lightwell).

As with many tools that get built, the idea was inspired out of need.

Early on, creating for new mediums is inefficient and costly. When we first started making our Pan story apps, the timelines looked quite different than they do now. Without Lightwell, our first app took 9 months, and the second took 6 months. With Lightwell, the most recent app took 1 week to build.

For anyone who wants to make high-quality interactive apps like our award-winning Pan apps, now you can in Lightwell. You reduce time to ship interactive content from 4 months to 1 week AND you don’t have to write a line of code.

The process is not only faster, the product is leaner. Our initial story app was 23,252 lines of code. Building an app in Lightwell is now 19 lines of code (17 of which are Xcode boiler plate).

This is what code for an app looked like before Lightwell:

An app built in Lightwell now looks like this:

New Mediums, New Tools

We’re in a golden age of content creation. New platforms exist to empower writers, artists, and storytellers like never before. You can publish an article to thousands on Medium, make a meme on Giphy, build a site on Squarespace and accept payments that day with Stripe. Looking around the landscape, it’s easy to find an endless array of technology and tools for creators to share ideas on the web. The same cannot be said for mobile, yet.

Everything above is made in Lightwell. The scenes compile to native iOS, are fully interactive and animated with no code written by you.

Creating apps with Lightwell accomplishes the unicorn trifecta of mobile development. We’ve reduced time to build, reduced cost to build, and improved overall quality. Without it, creators would spend the same amount of time that we did initially, building and iterating in lines of raw code rather than an intuitive visual GUI.

The interface we designed to create interactive content is wholly unique to Lightwell. You can create custom actions across layers, build sequential touch interactions, utilize device motion, and auto-sync audio to dialogue — all with simple controls instead of code.

Creating a touch interaction tied to a custom animation “action” in Lightwell.

First it becomes possible, then it becomes so cheap that anyone can do it… and that’s when it gets interesting. — Hilary Mason

Software has been eating the world for some time. New tools and platforms make it easier to do things that were traditionally harder and more expensive. Technology drives these evolutions across industries, first in hardware and then in software. The iPhone hit the market 10 years ago; the iPad was introduced 7 years ago. Yet, we’re still skimming the surface of storytelling on mobile.

Distribution vs. Engagement

In the world of storytelling, there have been two distinct stages of evolution: 1) distribution and 2) engagement.

If we rewind back to the first story ever told, that 1-on-1 experience was likely very engaging. Inherently high touch, but low distribution. That’s why the first stage in the evolution of storytelling began — people built early technology to reach larger audiences more quickly and cheaply and increase distribution. The Gutenberg Revolution, Sholes typewriter and first websites were exciting advances towards the widespread distribution of content. However, focusing solely on dissemination dulled engagement with the content; and over time, storytelling became more passive, rather than active (or in this case, interactive).

That brings us to the second and current stage in the evolution of storytelling. This stage is focused on higher engagement, while maintaining wide distribution capabilities. We’re still in the first decade of interaction-enabling hardware, fueled by the prevalence of smartphones, touch tablets, VR headsets, and other connected devices. We expect more supporting software like Lightwell to follow.

What’s To Come

Lightwell is a natural extension of the framework we built internally to decouple code from content. It’s been a long time coming — the ability to fully separate content from code and deliver unlimited interactions or what we call “streaming interactive content on demand” (SICOD). We believe SICOD is going to fundamentally change how interactive content is built, delivered, and consumed.

Imagine being able to stream unlimited interactive content the way we currently stream video on Netflix. What about interacting with photos, videos and ads on our newsfeed instead of just passively scrolling through them?

It’s a bright future for the next generation of creators, and we believe powerful creative tools are the foundation for the interactive medium. Higher touch experiences are around the corner, ones that go deeper, are more interactive, and more responsive than their predecessors.

An early version of the software, used internally from Pan Book 3 onward.

Calling All Creators

After many months of building, testing, and creating, we’re releasing Lightwell for all creators. It’s the most powerful tool for interactive app creation, whether you’re an individual artist or a creative team. If you want to see for yourself, you can download Lightwell directly here.

We’re seeking artists, designers, and storytellers to build the future of interactive content with us. In the words of Locke Lightwell, inventor extraordinaire: it’s not too late, it’s not too late. We believe it’s just right.

You can get started here: lightwell.pro :)

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Suzanne Xie

Suzanne Xie

Founder and CEO of @Hullabalu building @Lightwellpro. Fan of software and soft serve.🍦