tiistai 12. lokakuuta 2004


Is a multimedia approach to online storytelling better then a text-based approach? Here is what I take away from the latest research:

  1. Navigation will make or break your presentation. One of our first mistakes was making navigation too complicated. Navigation should be simple, easy to use. Over time users will become familiar with the navigation, making it easier for them to focus on the story, not the technology.

  2. Not every story will benefit from multimedia. Not every story should employ multimedia. The study shows that in many cases text may be the more effective approach. As digital journalists and storytellers we've got to know how and why users will benefit from multimedia before we attempt to produce it. What will the user take away from the experience? As a rule of thumb, subjects that would be treated visually in a newspaper are great starting points for multimedia presentations. The same graphics and photos that explain unfamiliar concepts or show what can't normally be seen can be turned into powerful multimedia.

  3. Presentations that showcase real people and real things will always do better with users than those that don't. People look at people. The human form is a powerful visual image.

  4. Anticipate users' needs based on the content presented. Many websites utilize daily picture galleries to attract and inform their users, and it might become one of the most viewed features.

  5. Interactivity can add to the user experience. When our team decides on a multimedia approach, we always ask: what tools (audio, video, text, sound effects, animation, and interactivity) do we employ and how do we integrate them into a cohesive story presentation?

  6. The research validates a lot of the successes and mistakes we've made along the way at in our attempts to tell stories online. In a standard printed or online text presentation, a reader can stop, pause, or reread any word, line, or paragraph until it's understood. And they're never forced to pay attention to multiple items at once. Multimedia should be no different in that it should give the user control of the pace.

Multimedia should be an experience, not a download. Besides navigation, the look and feel contributes to user expectation. In print design journalists talk about concepts such as hierarchy, contrast, and flow. These concepts are universal and can and should be applied to multimedia.

The use of color, position of elements, and the timing of the content stream are critical in directing users through a presentation. Creating options for linear or non-linear viewing allows users to view things the way they want.

Most newsrooms put out an enormous amount of great content, much of which never gets used or used in a way that has impact and helps to better tell a story. In print, we may publish several photos with the story.

Online, we can publish photos enhanced with audio captioning or narration that can stand alone. On-air, we may run a two-minute linear video package. Online, we can provide more detailed video packages that can be viewed in a non-linear way. In print, we can illustrate complex subject matter. Online, we can animate it and actually show it.

Integrate the multimedia workflow into the normal story planning process of your newsroom.

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