Not in love with “Coal: A Love Story”

Student Coal A Love StoryAfter being assigned the story “Coal: A Love Story” and analyzing the interactive website, I was very disappointed to say the least. After exploring and clicking on stories and coal calculators for about fifteen minutes, it didn’t take long for me to become frustrated, yet still uninformed.
At first I was very intrigued by the site’s creative pictures, fonts, and headings. I thought it was a very inviting look. I scrolled down the page to follow the design of the “plug in”, to find out that there were several videos and a coal calculator (which never worked for me due to the internet browser I was using) to interact with. Initially I looked at the title and then scrolled all the way to the bottom to see what I was most interested in. I did this because I saw that the scroll bar was very long and obviously there was a lot of information. To explore the entirety of the site would have taken a lot longer than 15 minutes, so I decided to focus on the most interesting aspects.

As a girl, I did what most would do and click on the story with the most interesting picture: a girl in a Coal Pageant.born into coal  “Born in to Coal” is the story where I became the most frustrated. It took forever for the video to load, and even then, would skip throughout the entire production. This was disengaging and I decided to go back and look at something else. However, when you click the back button it leaves the site altogether. It wants you instead to click the next button and watch the videos chronologically. Who really has time for that?

With that said, this website violates the first navigation tip: keeping it simple. There were several different stories to choose from as the list went down the page for what seemed like hours. It also went against tip five which explains how the return option should be easy. Like I mentioned before, the back button was not accessable here.  Rather, you had to click on the outside of the text or video box.

news 21Going back to contact the producers and creators of the website was even more difficult. I initially scrolled to the bottom of the pager where they usually have a “Contact Us” tab. But no. Then I tried scrolling to the top again and found nothing. I eventually clicked on the NEWS 21 link and found that this was produced by a team of journalists from top universities all over the U.S.
Then I thought maybe I just had a bad experience with the website.  So I conducted a “usability test” on one of my friends, Randi. She is very user-friendly and interactive with technology so I thought she would be a great candidate. All I did was sit her down and give her 15 minutes to simply check out the website. Unlike me, she immediately clicked on the first story. While the story was engaging for her, it was too long so she clicked the “next” button. Right off the bat she was doing just what the site had intended their audience to do. She continued to hit the “next” button until she got through all of the videos. That seemed like the end. However, by using the interactive timeline, Randi was also able to experience the graphics, something I missed altogether.  She was not very captured by the graphics or the content, which made her uninterested in the story as a whole. ALthough Randi did say she was initially impressed with the layout, but thought that a more horizontal scroll effect would be more effective for this many videos. She also said it would be more engaging had the authors and producers included more interactive media, such as slideshows of pictures, more text, or even just audio clips. It was overwhelming to have all videos. When I asked her to find a “Contact Us” button she struggled. First, she looked at the top of the page for drop down options or at least tabs for the site. When she found nothing, she scrolled to the bottom of the page to look for credits or an author name. Nothing again. She never did find anyone to contact so I showed her the link to NEWS 21.

If I could critique the website and change three things I would first change the layout. I agree in thinking a horizontal scroll option would be more effective for videos. I would also limit the number of videos and add more content to other multimedia platforms. It was very difficult to see the graphic options that were hidden by the much larger links to video, maybe balance it out?  Finally, I would change the top of the website and give it tabs for reaching certain parts of the website such as “About Us”, “Videos”, “Slideshows”, “Coal Calculator”, etc. This way it would simplify the site and its length.
At the same time I would also keep some of the things the same. I would not change the fonts or designs. They were good at making a bold statement to the audience and reflected the content of the story, especially the creativity with the plug. I would also leave the clear labels and descriptions of all the links and stories the same because that was helpful to direct the viewer. The last thing I would not change about the website is its repetitive position of links.  This allowed the viewer to ALWAYS know where to click to access a link. check

Altogether, I think that News21 did a decent job at producing an interactive website.  I believe that any site that entails a high level of creativity can be difficult to the viewer, but also very impressive once they find out just how to use it.

War on the Homefront

Newtown Remembers the Heroes

Newtown Remembers the Heroes

It was only a couple months ago when we all remember saving our money for the holidays, putting up Christmas trees, and baking mom’s favorite holiday cookies. Unfortunately, this was also the same time we all remember some Connecticut families forced to break from tradition.

The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was one to take a beating on our nation as a whole.

A Desire for Normalcy for the Children of Sandy HookPhoto Courtesy of msnbc.com

A Desire for Normalcy for the Children of Sandy Hook
Photo Courtesy of msnbc.com

This horrific event struck the hearts of not only those families involved, but parents across the world that now fear the safety of their own children. The New York Times and their article “Updates on Connecticut Shooting Aftermath” did an excellent job keeping their viewers updated as December 14th became a day we will never forget. With text, photos, videos, and Twitter links this multimedia story was ready to inform the public.

The story does more than just inform the public of what happened on that tragic day, but also gives meaning to the lives of those killed in the mass shooting. It was almost like a virtual tribute to everyone affected. It displayed pictures of those killed, slideshows of the heroes, and press coverage of parents who mourned the life of their children. The story served as an outlet for those involved in the massacre and complete coverage for the rest of us across the United States.

I personally found this presentation to be extremely effective.  Not only did it include multiple aspects of media coverage, but it also was very informative with captions, text, Twitter posts, and YouTube clips. Even better, the story included several links to other news pages that had more detailed coverage on a specific topic. This is a very effective tool because it allows readers to explore the entirety of the online news world. It was structured and exceptionally easy to follow as it was structured from story to story, life to life. With its multiple media outlets it was also very engaging. Long text was broken up by videos such as President Obama’s weekly address and images were inserted where needed as an explanation.

These links, videos, pictures, posts, and personal stories all helped to strengthen the package of an already engaging story. However, I do think that the author made it quite extensive. While it is nice to have a lot of media included, it can also be very overwhelming. While it did leave me very satisfied and emotionally connected to the story and the people, it also made me wonder how they could have outlined this differently. The only suggestion I have is that the author break up the story into separate website pages.  This would eliminate the long scroll bar and avoid distractions from the story as a whole. It would also be organizationally effective if the author of the page make tabs to structure the story.

New News Outlets

news

Being in college, and on a tight budget, not everyone these days has access to cable or local news channels. But in 2013 who says that puts a damper on our access to news twenty four hours a day, seven days a week? Now news is more accessible than ever, from the internet to social networking. Facebook and Twitter both have become two of the most powerful social networking sites to spread facebook v. twitter

spread ideas, trends and news. In fact, as a student with no cable at my apartment, Facebook is my first source I get my news from. With just about 2,000 friends on Facebook, whether I know them all or not, my news feed is full of opinions on new news topics from politics to sports games, and even world crises and weather updates. Not to say that it is always one hundred percent accurate right away, but when you see multiple friends post about the same thing it is easy to see how many sides of a story news can present. This makes it easy for me to trust my news when I know a majority of people are posting the same story. One of the things I find even more beneficial about this news source is that people can comment on these statuses and share their opinions, beliefs, or even add more to the story after the original post. However, with multiple opinions and comment sections, comes bias. This is neither a professional nor monitored form of news outlet and therefore everyone has a right to voice their opinion on the matter at hand.

While I may find social networking to be an effective way to communicate news to society, I don’t know how much I trust entertainment sources to be very informative. While movies, magazines, and music for example may reflect upcoming events in society, they are also very opinionated based on the artists and producers. They more or less take a spin on actual news coverage and create a story. Entertainment sources aren’t rapid and I don’t personally feel they are a good source for news coverage; at least they wouldn’t be my first outlet.

News is an everyday part of our life whether we realize it or not. It’s a topic of conversation, it’s an explanation for current events, and it’s a story of our lives. I may not realize it but I talk about news a lot! My best friend and I often find ourselves in heated debates over politics, my parents and I sulk over major crises, and my teachers start discussions on current events. But this keeps us up to date. This keeps us informed, and this keeps us aware. If it weren’t for these discussions with my parents and my peers it would be hard for me to keep updated on everyday news. In fact, it would be even worse if we agreed on all of it. Differences in political parties and oppositions to controversial issues often give us more knowledge and awareness on our news.

Although it may seem like I am always on the ball when it comes to receiving my news, I too am guilty of not always being aware. I think it is important to get your news from SEVERAL different sources. Who is to say one source is always correct? Or always the fastest? Or even always has the news? It’s important I learn to add variety to my news sources. Like maybe including local newspapers like the Laramie Boomerang Boomerang or the local radio station. Maybe listening to NPR on the radio so I have a different audience to relate to. I also need more national coverage and one source on the up and coming is YouTube News. It’s almost like free cable… with an internet bill!