Multimedia Round Table | Scientific American’s “Powering a Green Planet”

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It’s time to dust off those round table discussions so II readers can voice their opinions on the latest use of FLPY, the online multimedia magazine, as seen in Scientific American’s latest package “Powering a Green Planet.” Take five minutes to look through the nine “pages” in this package and think about the layout of content. Do you like the flipping animation imitating how one would flip a page in a book? Were the graphics effective in explaining energy conservation issues? Take a stand one way or the other and let’s start this month’s round table discussion!

FLPY has been used in a variety of commercial, advertising, and journalistic presentations. You may have seen a similar interface in several of Reporte Indigo’s packages, such as the 2008 SNDies quarterly finalists “Love in political times” and “The Obama Factor.”

As a comparison, check out the text-only version of the site. As you can see, a great deal of text went into this package, but it didn’t seem overwhelming in the online presentation. While some of the “pages” contained more text than others, I believe that they did a good job dividing out the content so that each section has enough material to engage the user, but not too much as to overwhelm them.

My question to you is whether or not mimicking traditional HII (human information interaction) principles in the digital sector is really what we should be doing. Is the page flipping animation innovative or limiting innovation? I would argue the latter, because the Web allows us endless options to display content, rather than the traditional information flow seen in sequential pages. If we are borrowing usability practices seen in print copy, how can we break apart from what users obviously don’t want anymore to meet them in this evolving dare-I-say-it Web 3.0 realm?

Agree or disagree? I love a good debate so let’s get to it!

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  • Adam Westbrook

    The scientists plan aside (which I think is awesome) I can see your concerns about the way this is done…but I can’t help but really like it.

    The good thing about mimicking the book is it is self contained, and you feel everything you need to know is contained within a single page.

    My problem with a lot of multimedia sites is you log on and you’re immediately hit with information overload. You feel a need to click on all these dozens of buttons taking you on a multitude of different paths and you don’t know which is the right one.

    Here, they’ve kept text to a minimum which I appreciated; the clickable graphics made it easy to understand.

    Aparte del plan de los ciéntificos (que creo es buenísimo), puedo ver tus preocupaciones con respecto a cómo esto está hecho… pero no puede dejar de gustarme.

    Lo bueno con respecto a imitar el libro es que es auto-contenido, y sientes que todo lo que necesitas está dentro de un mismo paquete.

    Mi problema con muchos de los sitios multimedia es que entras e inmediatamente eres sobrecargado de información. Sientes la necesidad de apretar en todos los montones de botones que te llevan a una multitud de caminos diferentes y no sabes cuál es el correcto.

    Aquí, mantuvieron el texto a un mínimo, locual aprecié; y los gráficos interactivos lo hacen fácil de entender.

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  • Tracy Boyer

    Interesting viewpoint, Adam. Thanks for the comment. I would argue though that there are a variety of ways (besides the magazine format) to organize multimedia presentations so as to not bombard the user with countless links and buttons leading to multiple paths. This magazine layout works for more linear presentations where content needs to be presented in a chronological order in order for the story to make sense. And of course it is more engaging than other passive formats like slideshows or videos. However, I still feel like it is limiting. Especially on the homepage … why couldn’t I click around to all of those button-like hotspots to explore energy issues on my own?

    Es un punto de vista interesante, Adam. Gracias por el comentario. Yo argumentaría sin embargo que hay una variedad de formas (en vez del formato revista) para organizar presentaciones multimedia y no bombardear al usuario con incontables links y botones que llevan a distintos caminos. Este formato de revista funciona mejor para presentaciones lineares donde el contenido necesita ser presentado en un orden cronológico para que la historia tenga sentido. Y por supuesto es más atractivo que otros formatos pasivos tales como diaporamas o vídeo. Sin embargo, aún siento que es limitante. Especialmente en la página de inicio… porqué no puedo no puedo apretar en todos esas áreas tipo botones y explorar los temas de energía por mi misma?

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  • duckrabbit

    I have to say I wrote to a friend just a couple of days ago saying how much I hate presentations on the web that mimic books. Personally I find it really annoying and a bit daft. I love 100 Eyes the online photography magazine but I hate the way you have to drag the corner of a page to see the next photo. It’s not a book, its screen, so why make things complicated for me. It just gets in the way of the content.

    Tengo que decir que le escribí a un amigo hace unos días dicéndole cuanto odio las presentaciones que imitan libros en la Web. Personalmente encuentro que es molesto y un poco tonto. Me encanta “100 eyes”, la revista en línea de fotografía, pero odio la forma en que uno tiene que arrastrar la esquina de la página para ver la siguiente foto. No es un libro, es una pantalla, y para qué hacer las cosas más complicadas para usuario. Sólo se interpone en el camino.

  • Carol Devoe

    I found this ‘rich media’ report thoroughly informative, easy to navigate and perhaps most importantly inspiring. Sometimes these kinds of multimedia programs can be overwhelming, with too many cool options, providing lots of eye candy but relegating the news and information to second place. I was relieved that you couldn’t click on all of the little icons on the front page and that they only served as a road map for the journey ahead.

    I agree that the page turn device is an unnecessary distraction. I don’t like it all. A simple slide to the left would have sufficed.

    I like the integration of the video interviews and audio. The scientists deconstruct fairly complex ideas in terms that just about anyone who cares to listen will understand. And their recommendations not only seem doable but imperative. I will forward the link to my representatives.

    Encuentro que este reportaje de “rich media” es muy informativo, fácil de navegar y, tal vez lo más importante, inspirador. A veces este tipo de programas multimedia pueden ser abrumadores, con demasiadas opciones, entregando muchas cosas visuales, pero dejando las noticias e información en un segundo lugar. Me alivió ver que uno no podía apretar sobre todos los pequeños íconos en la página principal y que sólo servían como un mapa del camino por venir.

    Estoy de acuerdo con que la ‘vuelta de página’ es una distracción innecesaria. No me gusta para nada. Un simple cambio de diapositiva sería suficiente.

    Me gusta la integración de entrevistas en vídeo y audio. Los científicos deconstruyen ideas bastantes complejas en términos que casi todos los que queremos escuchar podemos entender. Y sus recomendaciones no sólo parecen factibles, sino también imperativas. Mandaré el enlace a mis representantes.

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