Friday, July 16, 2010

Expectations of the visual media today

It wasn't that long ago, really, that websites were primarily text. I remember thinking we were doing something quite innovative in the mid-1990s, when a photographer and I put together a primarily visual section of a news story online, essentially a slide show, with maybe 20 images (a typical news story in print might have three to five accompanying images, at most). Such an effort today (at least the posting online part) could be done by a child, almost effortlessly. I also recall thinking was doing something quite innovative a couple of years ago, when it started streaming its video content online on its home page. Now, when I want to watch a highlight of something I'm interested in viewing, I certainly don't hang around for 22 minutes on SportsCenter, waiting for a five-second clip. I go to the website, find what I want, and leave in less than a minute, usually. That approach has a certain efficiency that I love but also a direct path that I loathe, aware that while taking that line I will never stumble upon something else interesting along the way, something that I might not even know I want to know. In a supermarket metaphor, if I could get my carrots without walking past the cookies, I might be better off, but I might not, and vice versa. That walking of the path -- at least in news, not commercialism -- is helpful to keeping your mind open to the world of knowledge bubbling up around you. You might never know when some little piece can trigger an important thought (or at least something you think could be important), and the partisanship chasm that has developed between the two major political parties in America almost certainly has been nurtured by neither side ever really having to listen to the other anymore. But that's another topic. Visual media on the web today must deliver what I want, when I want, with increasing quality. A grainy YouTube video was fine two or three years ago, but not anymore. I'm disappointed with anything but HD. I also want basic controls, being able to stop the stream, reverse, skip to the next segment, etc. I don't necessarily want to insert my commentary in whatever I see, like what Viddler ( offers, although I do appreciate that option. For now, I'm content just with high quality video and basic remote control options. I do like to have embedding code available, in case I want to share, and I suppose, the day will come, when I do want to jump into the stream, and add tags and commentary to everything I watch. I'm just not there yet. But the web is already, and it will never goes backward in terms of its visual emphasis. I can't imagine anymore, for example, the allure of an all-text website (except, of course, my text-heavy, which has only two images at this point, a banner and a photo of the iPhone; that, by the way, is more of a time issue than design decision). If you can show me any that purposively are going back to more text, please share.

1 comment:

Craig Baehr said...

Your remark about 'not quite being there yet' is a point well taken. And not every trendy tool or feature ever gets to the point of cultural immersion, too, on the flip side. It's indeed amazing, as you reflect back to what was stunning 10 or 15 years ago, and see what is possible and how easy it can be done today.