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For our topic of online writing, we invite you to use this thread to participate in discussions about:
- websites that you find useful and persuasive as well as websites you find frustrating or irritating.
- your experiences of writing online.
- the audience for website: how do you attract and/or identify an online audience?
- assumptions and outcomes: how do you discover whether your website is achieving its purpose?
Useful and persuasive web site: http://www.google.com.au
As a self-confessed Googlite, I cannot forget the web site I use the most. Google succeeds in its clean design with great use of white space and consistency. If one uses more than just its search engine, one can see the seamlessness with which they can navigate from one service to another. Plus, there is simplicity and functionality in all the messages displayed on their domain/s.
They make great use of images to illustrate what they want users to glean from their sites (e.g. http://www.google.com.au/think/multiscreen/ – this example gives the user those small chunks of manageable information, without feeling overwhelmed. Plus, images are used to enhance the message being delivered, rather than hinder or clutter it.) Furthermore, many people tell me at work when Google has changed its banner for the day – it’s almost a matter of routine – to check Google to see if something interesting is going on, like anniversaries, special events, milestones in history, famous birthdays, etc.
When one uses many of Google’s services (as I do), one hugely appreciates the consistency for each of the sites produced for the company. This is true for USA Google, Google Australia, India, UK, Chile, Vietnam, Israel, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Egypt, Russia… too many to mention! I couldn’t find a Google page for Antarctica, but tonnes of stuff can be found on Antarctica in Google “street view”. Google China and North Korea don’t have sites, for obvious reasons.
As Siva Vaidhyanathan stated, “We are addicted to speed and convenience for the sake of speed and convenience. Google rewards us for our desires for immediate gratification at no apparent cost to us” (55). The convenience that Google offers us in all of its services necessitates the need for good design and professionally appropriate, quickly consumable, online writing.
An irritating web site: http://www.007museum.com/
Wow! I didn’t know where to start looking with this one! It strongly reminds me of the first information-heavy web sites of the 90s! Some web page creators liked to cram as much as they could on the one page, making use of tables and frames as a way to organise the information. Plus, there are so many hyperlinks in the table’s cells and frames, you immediately feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. This site owner definitely doesn’t know how to effectively use white space!
Even though a lot of the web site uses pockets of white space, it is not done in an effective way. Most of the space is there because of poor formatting and a bizarre need to throw almost every news story into their own separate frames. Nothing is listed coherently and the entire design clashes damagingly. The viewer would be hard-pressed trying to navigate around this site with ease.
The whole approach to the design of this site is irritating and annoying. The owner makes use of bold text randomly, in a variety of sizes, which further irritates the viewer as the font size can be huge in one section and painfully small in another.
I’m sure that the die-hard James Bond fans out there would eventually stumble upon this page. Since I’m not one of those fans, I wonder if this site contains information that cannot be found elsewhere? That would be the only reason to re-visit it. However, I think the owner is Swedish – I noticed that some text is in English and some in Swedish – but this is not consistent! There should be two versions of this web site – one in each language… after the site is cleaned up, of course! That way, if there are English speakers out there interested in the information on the site, they would keep returning to the version they could read and wouldn’t feel so isolated by the fact that they may not understand the Swedish information the site contains.
I can’t believe the site was only updated yesterday (at the time of writing this). Looking at it is like a flashback to the 90s, when everyone was still using HTML 1.0 and just putting up information to prove that they could do it. As for the professional “writing” on the site, I could find nothing but headings (I think that’s what they were) with hyperlinks and pictures of random sizes. Definitely not a site I’d revisit unless the uni forced me to do so.
A disclaimer: I have never visited this web site before today. As a person that uses the internet heavily, I don’t recall many web sites that irritate me, as when I encounter one, I don’t even stick around to find out what it’s about. I am ruthless with bad web design and I think, because I’ve been a netizen for such a long time, the bad sites rarely make it to my screens. I guess I have my own “filter bubble”, as Eli Pariser talked about at TED.
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Googlization of everything (and why we should worry). Updated ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Print.
Pariser, Eli. “Beware Online “Filter Bubbles”.” Online video clip. TED. TED, Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2014.
Your experiences of writing online
As I have mentioned, I have been using the internet for quite some time. Over the years, I have had experience writing for blogs, social media outlets, web sites, bulletin boards (in the old days), promotional information of many kinds, e-learning and course writing, MOOC planning and deployment, emails, infographics, etc… The good part about having been online for this amount of time, is that I have seen the web evolve from grey and black, stale, boring, HTML 1.0 pages, to the colourful, smart, dynamic, augmented and interestingly designed web presences that are proliferating the web today. I have learnt through the years what works online and what doesn’t. I’m sure I still have more to learn as the web continues to evolve and an individual’s experiences using it become even more augmented. The fun part is playing and finding out what is effective and what fails dismally.
The audience for website: how do you attract and/or identify an online audience?
In the old days, you’d attract visitors and customers to your web site via being in as many places as possible. This included print media as well as adding yourself to search engines so your web site could be found. There was some degree of word of mouth to increase traffic, but it was heavily reliant on blog posts, hyperlinks from other sites and being listed on search engines such as Altavista, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo!, Excite and Webcrawler (to name a few).
Now, driving traffic to web sites is not the only thing to be concerned about. A web presence needs to exist, one that is multi-faceted and accessible and findable from a variety of places, not just via a Google search. Social media is key – if you are mentioned, retweeted, commented on in your blog, hyperlinked to and from, use SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and metadata effectively, your chances of being found, sought and revisited regularly improves. Then, there’s the ongoing maintenance of your presence – whole, separate jobs have been created to managed the web presence of companies, for example. It’s no longer a job for one person. Analytics, focus groups, cookies and other tracking devices helps to see where your traffic is coming from and being constantly flexible about changing your approach to the presence is of high import. These tools all ultimately help one to identify their audience online, but also provide useful data to see other areas where branding and promotion can be targeted and delivered to entice new audiences that one had not previously considered.
Assumptions and outcomes: how do you discover whether your website is achieving its purpose?
As mentioned above… analytics, focus groups, cookies and other tracking devices helps to see where your traffic is coming from – they help. Sometimes, what you assume your presence will do doesn’t eventuate – especially if your managers, with no experience creating for the web, dictate what you should be doing. They can be taking a traditional approach to a web site, thinking “build it, and they will come.” I have found this to be a falsehood on many an occasion. There are so many things to consider around a web presence, so I always endeavour to ask people to come in as reality checkers – to take a look at what’s been created and tell me if what I had in my head about the design is what they see and interpret when they look at it. I can’t stress enough that flexibility on the part of the writer and designer is HUGE – what makes sense to you may not make sense to another pair of eyes. So, the designer/writer’s ego has to fade into the background if they are to effectively write for online audiences. Bottom line? Survey, survey, survey… ask questions, check, check and recheck. Re-visit, upgrade and check again.