Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Year in Pictures

This was an interactive piece I found on the NYTimes site. The story describes the year 2012 with pictures and a short amount of text. The pictures are very vivid and rich with action.
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The navigation on the site is very easy to use and is clearly accessible for the user. It is located at the top and is highlighted on the month that is being previewed. I was easily taken to the correct month in 2012 and was never unsure of it. Within the pictures, you can also see more images and text explaining that particular month in 2012.
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All the pictures are from the world and tend to focus more on the bad in the world. That would be my only negative critique for this project is that the pictures are swayed to more graphic and gory images to add a more shock appeal aspect. I would also liked to have seen the date of the event more prominently displayed. The date of the event is only mentioned in the caption and should be more largely displayed for the user.
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The Serengeti Lion

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This website about the Serengeti lion from National Geographic, presents a new and unique way to look at the work National Geographic does. All of the story material is about lions, but what’s great about the website is it’s not just photos.

What I like most about the website is the ease of use for the user. It’s simple in terms of how to navigate to the different chapters. Once you click the main “explore” button, all you need to do is use the arrow keys to navigate to each different part. Once you select a chapter, you can see photos, video, text and even audio for some parts. Each part of the site covers a different aspect of life for the lions, making for a noticeable difference from chapter to chapter.

The audio sometimes goes along with the video. It also presents a new story to the listener. You can play the video about the lions, yet listen to a story about their hunting, etc., which complement the photos and video nicely. You can also pull out or hide each photos caption, adding to another part of the story. While the photos are the main part of the design, I think National Geographic does a good job at finding subtle ways to incorporate the other mediums to tell the story.

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 10.38.07 AMHow to navigate the stories

The website combines these different types of media to effectively place the viewer there with the lions. Audio commentary is optional for the viewer, which I think is a good because the sound quality of the video of the lions is so good, sometimes I just wanted to listen to that. The main storytelling element here is photos, as it usually is for the magazine. But I also like how they employed video into the production. Each chapter has a video at the top, but you can also scroll down and look at other photos.

The topic of the site is clear. The visual element, the photos, give it away immediately. What I like most about the site is how it uses the full screen with the photos and/or video. There’s no need for the viewer to click a full screen button and wait for that to load. I think the site’s simple design is good because it doesn’t distract from the content. When someone visits National Geographic, they most likely want to see photos. National Geographic uses these as the main design element, with only minor additions in order for the user to navigate. This doesn’t distract the viewer and makes for an overall pleasant experience.

Cycling’s road forward – Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/sports/wp/2013/02/27/cyclings-road-forward/

This piece from the Washington Post is an engaging and fresh piece of sports journalism. The entire story is contained on the same page, and the reader simply scrolls down, but the story is broken up into 5 sections which you can also navigate through separately by choosing the numbers at the top.

I enjoyed this piece because I am not particularly interested in cycling, but I was drawn in and read everything in the piece.

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The story includes photos, videos, audio and interactive graphics. I personally do not think the way the videos are incorporated is the most sleek way it could have been done, but the videos themselves add a lot to the story. You have to click on them separately to have them play and they have an advertisement first.

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My favorite part of this piece is the interactive graphic showing a map of the ride, and below that, the tracking of the cyclist’s power, heart rate, speed and cadence. The reader can scroll through the ride and see what is challenging about each part. After seeing this I am even more impressed by professional cyclists. I also love how the graphic is another header, which were just photos before. It is a very seamless incorporation of an interactive element. And there is audio that you can play while looking at it.

Overall this piece was a fantastic example of a long, informative piece that still keeps the reader interested and engaged.

 

Life with the Lancers

I stumbled across an older piece done by BBC News back in 2010. “Life with the Lancers” follows four soldiers from the Queen’s Royal Lancers through basic training, to Afghanistan and back to the UK. These 15 videos are packaged in a little multimedia project for efficiency’s sake.

Life w/ Lancers layout

 

All the media is contained in this tidy layout. The navigation bar categorizes content with a subhead like “Life in camp” or “Coming home” to give an idea of the chronological progression of the videos. The video editing is top notch, and the material is very compelling, with a lot of soldier head-cam footage.

The layout of each page is a little different to make room for different elements, like the map and two videos shown below.

Life w/ Lancers_Going to war

 

This page covers basic training in the UK and shows the locations of the different training sites. When the videos are set in a smaller frame, like the two above, a pop-up media player hovers over the layout.

Life w/ Lancers_pop-up

 

The navigation in the back fades and the video takes center stage to really command your attention. It troubles me, though, that with some of the videos that play without a pop-up, you’re able to watch the video while reading the chatter or viewing the infographics, but when you get a pop-up player, you are unable to view the other content. I don’t think the producers put any thought into which videos would allow that and which would not.

The layout is very neat and tidy, and is easily navigable, but by and large it’s a little bland. The use of shades of gray throughout the layout is pretty dull, and doesn’t do anything to complement the content. All of the material by itself is well-produced storytelling, but the package it comes in is pretty boring. If I’m nitpicking, I would mention that the footer at the bottom of the screen on the BBC News site is also distracting.

Life w/ Lancers_footer

 

Beneath the nav. bar is the typical BBC footer, which I don’t want to see if I’m trying to be immersed in the story of these soldiers. What does help with engagement is the neat infographics they include throughout the piece.

Life w/ Lancers_transport

Life w/ Lancers

 

 

Infographics like these are a nice touch that provide additional information that you don’t need to hear coming from the mouth of a soldier. The subjects of this story create an ethos through the videos that is supplemented by the information provided in these graphics.

All-in-all, I like this piece, but I can imagine a more interesting way of presenting the information. The multimedia itself is great, but the design leaves something to be desired.

The Cost of War: Traumatic Brain Injury – WaPo

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/metro/traumatic-brain-injury/index.html#/home/

So while looking for a nifty multimedia piece online, I came across this doozy by the Washington Post.

So...much...information

So…much…information

Just looking at the home page for this 2010 behemoth, it’s easy to make a few observations. Like, say, the plethora of links, stories and sub-articles. This is more of a hub I suppose. As you can see, there’s a menu bar at the top that’s spaced in somewhat of an odd manner. There’s HOME with a little house icon, INTRO, then SURVIVORS. For some reason, instead of making SURVIVORS a drop menu, it’s simply horizontally expanded into the links to various people in this story with Robert Warren being the focus. He even gets a video and photos.

After the SURVIVORS, you get a BRAIN link and, finally, a link to the article (with a little out-arrow icon thingy). The home page is littered with double links to what’s already in the menu, which is a good thing if you’re afraid people are going to miss the menu I guess. The video is autoplay which isn’t exactly desirable in web stories. You can also access videos on the other survivors from the home page in lieu of clicking on their links in the menu bar.

Let’s see what this intro is all about now…

Oh hai there video.

Oh hai there video.

Okay, so the intro is a video. All of the information that was below the home page remains, but I just cropped that out of this screenshot. Both the “View full menu” and “Skip intro buttons that flank the video lead back to the home page, which is somewhat of an interesting choice. The video autoplays and looks to be from an in-house Adobe video player developed by WaPo.

Onward to the SURVIVORS tab.

Following another video - a photo gallery.

Following another video – a photo gallery.

Clicking on the SURVIVORS tab brings the reader directly to another video. This one is on the first survivor – Mr. Warren. Skipping that, you can go to a photo gallery with some nice, large photos. There seems to be a bit of a hiccup with the side text there, as it sticks into the photos some. Clicking on the photos progresses the reader through the gallery. And apparently you can buy the photos.

Right, onto the BRAIN tab (the other survivors are all videos identical to the INTRO video and Warren’s).

An infographic appears!

An infographic appears!

Hey look at that, an infographic! This piece includes the ability to highlight different areas of the brain and to play audio clips of professionals speaking on each part. It’s pretty standard as far as infographics go, but I’d say it works with this piece. Lots of information for those who want to know what happens when you knock your noggin’. Hitting “Start” autoplays the audio clips on each subsequent brain area.

And then the ARTICLE link, of course, leads to the article on this story.

All in all, I think this multimedia piece is a little subpar. This could be due to the fact that it was done in 2010 and multimedia was still a budding practice at WaPo. Or it could be due to the fact that nobody really had the inspiration to create something truly immersive like the New York Time’s “Snow Fall” late in 2012.

My biggest take away from looking at this piece though, is that this is what we shouldn’t be doing in 2013. As informative as it is, I believe there are better ways to bring multimedia elements together to tell a story now and producing something like this is just lazy. I’m certainly not faulting the Washington Post for this piece though – they were probably working with what they had at the time. Just know that “The Cost of War” is totally a 2010 multimedia piece, not a 2013 multimedia piece.

Days With My Father

days w my fatherDays With My Father is a personal photo essay by Phillip Toledano describing his relationship with his 98-year-old father, who lacks short-term memory. The stories and photos began in a blog as Toledo reflected on his father’s aging. Now, in addition to the online photo essay, you can purchase it in hardcover.

The style of the website is simple: a white background, elegant sans-serif black font and compelling photographs. It’s relatively easy to use – if you hover near the bottom of the page and click, the next photograph slides into view. If you hover and click on the left, tiles of each photograph in the gallery appear and you can navigate to any one by clicking.

dwmf

The story itself is bittersweet. The author’s father is a former movie star, artist, storyteller. The situation is heartbreaking – the father can’t remember that his own wife is dead – he thinks she is in Paris visiting her brother. He spends hours a day in the bathroom because he forgets that he was just there.

But to keep it somewhat light, Toledano sprinkles the essay with funny anecdotes: his father’s morbid jokes, habit of eating nothing but eggs and saying ‘Look at my titties!’ when the author places two cookies on his father’s chest.fatherPhotos in the essay include many portraits of the author’s father but also stunning detail shots of his father’s hand and written lists and notes saying things like,

“I want to think seriously about what I can accomplish with what is left of my life.”

The photo sums up Toledo’s project: raw, emotional, uplifting.

After the Asylum

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I am choosing to critique the site aftertheasylum.com for this week’s blog post. The site, created by two Irish journalists and an Irish designer, documents the lives of three people with psychiatric problems who must live in the community after their asylum closes. This website is an example of great multimedia storytelling.

First of all, the user experience is remarkably simple; the site is extremely easy to navigate.

The structure of the site contains three elements: the Home page, which includes a rolling graphic that tells us what the site is about; the tabs, located on the bottom of the screen; and the pages of each individual patient who now live in the community after the closure of their asylum. To view more information about the patient, one simply has to scroll down the page instead of clicking on numerous tags or links.

Also, the site is engaging. One of the main ways the website’s designers capture the attention of users is by posting intense, captivating photos of the three patients. Immediately, I wanted to know more about the people of this story because their photos are so intriguing.

The site engages users via its home page, as well. When we click through the rolling graphic, we are presented with a question: “How are people with psychiatric problems coping in the community?” The website aims to answer this question, and I felt eager to explore the website to try to find the answer.

The text pieces about each patient are engaging, as well. Each article leads with an attention-grabbing opening sentence. For example, Mags’ text piece begins with, “Mags Kelly, 38, feels like a woman pulled from a burning building: still not quite able to believe she’s safe.” Automatically, I want to know learn more about Mags Kelly and to continue reading the article.

The website utilizes text, video and photography to tell its story. When reading the text pieces, the users are introduced to the individual patient and learn a bit about the patient’s background. In addition, the users can click on a link to The Irish Times if they want to read the entire article.

Each of the patient’s pages consists of video, as well. The video documents an interview with the specific patient, which allows us to hear his or her voice and better connect with the individual.

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Finally, each patient has his or her own slideshow that contains at least 10 photos. These photos capture the patients enjoying every-day tasks such as painting or applying makeup. They provide users with the sense that even though these people have psychiatric problems, they still have a lot in common with those who do not. The slideshow allows users to better understand and connect with the patients and discourages them from ostracizing the individuals just because they used to be patients in an asylum. My only complaint about the slideshow is that users are unable to close out of the slideshow and must exit by clicking a tab instead.

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The Home page does a great job of clearly explaining what the site is about without giving away too much information. The page encourages us to delve deeper into the site to answer that one question posed on the home page: “How are people with psychiatric problems coping in the community?”

Finally, the website has somewhat of a darker tone to it; the Home page has a deep gray background and includes fading in its rolling graphic. This gives the site somewhat of an eery feel, which may relate to the site’s content – many people find asylums somewhat spooky. The Home page also includes a photo of each patient featured in the story, so we know right away whom the site is about.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the aftertheasylum.com. The Home page drew me in right away, and immediately I knew whom the story centered around. In addition, I was able to recognize the topic almost as soon as I entered the site. This is why I believe this website is a great form of multimedia journalism.