jrstahl

A place to corral my personal thoughts and bookmarked links on new technologies in journalism

Recent Tweets @jrstahl
Posts tagged "website"

Headers, bullet points, images (but not stock images)

Talk about designing with your target market in mind… I stumbled across this site while looking at ICT in Africa info, and was amazed by something I’d never seen before.  When I opened it in a tab and left to read other things, by the time I came back all that showed up was a black page that read, “Energy Saving Mode. Move your mouse to get back to the page.”  How cool is that?  I don’t know how much energy it actually saves, but I was impressed with the idea.

It also has an easily accessible “low bandwidth” version for mobile and low bandwidth environments. 

Verdict: I like it. This is a great tool (yes, I know I’m behind the curve). The only thing I wish is that it had more social features. I’d love to be able to cross-post to Twitter/Facebook and the live chat box, rather than just being able to pull in tweets.

"Too much information" is the most common complaint about news websites

My latest special report page.  It turns out it’s much easier when the topic is nicely defined (“do a special report on how to help” rather than “do a special report on Pakistan”), and the end result is much more useful to readers.  They get to the page and know exactly what they’re meant to do with the information presented there and how they’re meant to consume it.

Also, once again Crisis Commons proved an invaluable source of information.  Those people are doing some fabulous work…although there’s a very clear difference between the effort that’s been put towards this versus Haiti.

Pakistan Flood: How to Help | Special Reports: Natural Disasters | English

A colleague asked me yesterday, if I was going to help a real newbie dive into the world of web and social media, what exercises would I have them do to get their brains thinking the right way.  

Obviously the best answer is to consume a lot of digital content and to read things like Mashable and RWW on a regular basis.  But it’s easier for people to dive in if they have concrete and finite tasks to complete, in my opinion.  So here’s what I came up with as “Lesson 1”:

Task 1) Intro to Blogging: Identify a few blogs you like and figure out why you like them.

Here are some that I like:

Read More

Talk about things that inspire you to great storytelling on the web. This project shows how sometimes the simplest thing can be more powerful than the most produced, voiced package. There is something absolutely moving about hearing the first-person experience - someone simply looking into a camera and talking about something that is meaningful to them. We tend to forget that in our frenzy to produce polished packages all the time, but sometimes you get the greatest impact from just letting the subject speak for themselves.

Another great project illustrating this point is RFE/RL’s Project Hijab. It’s just a collection of videos of women around the Middle East looking into a camera and explaining why they choose to wear or not wear the Islamic head scarf, and it’s incredibly compelling.

Given that I never work with CSS (the simultaneous benefit and drawback of only working within a CMS), don’t know that I’ll need this. But keeping it to have on hand just in case

Who knew that all those drawings I do on napkins before designing something is actually a necessary part of the process with an actual name? Maybe next time I’ll graduate to one of these instead of using the spare paper towels on my desk

I’m getting more and more skeptical about the value of inline links. Not about link journalism, which I think is the future (context! curation! yes, please!), but about the presentation of those links inline as hyperlinked text. Here’s why:

1) Hyperlinked text often doesn’t tell you exactly what you’re getting when you click on it.

Check out this post from Geekologie, one of my favorite blogs as an example. The hyperlinked words are “pot” “pr0n” “sign” and “road.” In not a single one of those cases do I know clearly what I’ll get if I click.

[Read a usability argument for why inline links are not the most effective]

2) Hyperlinked text in the middle of a sentence or paragraph disrupts the flow of your thinking.

When a part of a sentence is hyperlinked, you have to stop for a second and think whether you want to leave what you’re currently reading smack in the middle to go read something else. Sure, you can open it in a new tab to set it aside for later, but it’s still disruptive to the flow (and not everyone is a compulsive tab collector like I am).

Read Write Web suggests moving links to a list at the end of a story, almost like endnotes.

[Read Nicholas Carr’s argument that links should be at the end of a story]

I don’t think I agree with that either. By the time I get to the end, I’m not sure I would remember why each link is supposed to be relevant.

There was a great piece I read that I wish I could resurrect, but can’t seem to find anymore, that described a usability study testing link placement on an article. The three options were inline, at the end, or in a sidebar. If I’m remembering correctly, they found that inline were the least usable, and endnotes and sidebars were equally usable.

My suggestion is what I’ve been doing here:

When the hyperlink is to something that illustrates a point, include it as an inset immediately after the relevant text. This way, the reader gets to finish your argument before being directed to the example, and he/she gets more information about what the link will be.

I still included inline links in places where I was paraphrasing or referring to information from a specific article. The reader doesn’t need to access the article, because I’m already including the information they need to know, but the link is there as a courtesy and a reference. I guess these types of links could be done as insets as well, but I like the idea of keeping a distinction between source material that the reader doesn’t need to access and featured external material that will enrich the reader’s understanding.

The BBC’s use of “dynamic semantic publishing” to populate World Cup pages. I am extremely jealous.

Translation rears its head again. I still think, STRONGLY, that translation is something we all should be paying more attention to as the web goes even more global. It doesn’t have to be perfect - noone expects machine translation to be perfect. But it’s getting so good in the major languages these days that it seems like a no-brainer, really.