(The page layout at ESPNWisconsin.com)
In Chapter 2 and 3 of Writing for Digital Media, Brian Carroll discusses the differences between traditional print media and the new digital realm of media and how a publisher should go about placing content on their blog or website.
Electronic media and print media are vastly different and that means a web developer, designer and writer must consider a number of different factors before publishing online content for the public to consume.
First, a website or blog must be credible. Newspapers and magazines didn’t worry as much about credibility because there were fewer media outlets to compete with. Papers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and magazines such as TIME and Sports Illustrated sold copies based off of their reputations.
Today, there are millions of outlets in which an online user can consume news. Therefore a site must be seen as credible to a consumer on a daily basis.
The site has to withhold as much bias as possible. It must identify the most important stories. The site must also be transparent and accountable while appearing non-commercial and non-amateur.
Carroll also went into how important delivering information online is. Internet users are not going to read a 2,000-word article about a very detailed subject. They will either get eyestrain from a glowing computer screen or get distracted by something else.
When delivering information it’s important to be concise. A reader should understand the gist of what the writer is delivering in a short amount of time. If the writer is unable to do that, then the site has failed the consumer.
You can draw a reader in with a short post and other forms of media such as videos and pictures. If your story needs a lot of words to communicate the message, then the writer can simply layer his or her work into separate categories or slides.
One of the most successful sports media websites on the Internet is Bleacher Report. I wouldn’t say they have the best journalists. They don’t even do investigative reporting. However, they understand the concepts of drawing and keeping readers. They’ll make lists and slideshows ranking every team in the NFL.
As a Green Bay Packers fan, I don’t care where a random team like the Kansas City Chiefs are ranked. I simply want to see where my favorite team is ranked. Bleacher Report makes it easy for me to quickly find where they are.
In Chapter 3, Carroll mentioned that typical Internet users only read 25% of each story they stumble upon.
Therefore, planning the layout is a crucial step in creating an effective website. Web developers use the term storyboarding to define the practice of creating a layout for the site. Hollywood writers do the same thing for their movies.
Layout and content are important but a developer can’t forget the importance of usability. If I can’t use a site, why would I want to go there often throughout my day?
Carroll uses a list of questions as guidelines to determine how usable a site truly is.
- What are the easiest/hardest and most common to use sites on the Internet?
- Does academic writing translate at all to writing for a digital outlet? My experience with writing papers is a long and thorough process. Never concise.