Lynch and Horton’s Web Style Guide Chapters 4, 7 & 9

Navigating a web site shares many similarities to finding your way around a real, physical, geographical place.  For one thing websites have paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks.  Websites may have a central “home” page and then other pages that are connected through navigational links to that home page.  They also have signposts that orientate the user as to where they are and how they can get where they want to go.  This being said there are a number of differences between navigating a physical space versus navigating a website.  When finding your way around a physical space the landscapes enfolds around you as a series of landmarks.  In contrast travel on a website is more abstract.  Instead you are transported from point to point with no sense of journey between them.  There is also no sense of direction when navigating a website.  Often your orientation from the homepage is the only sense of direction that we see on a website. Things like search functions don’t provide easily repeatable paths that can be followed between pages.  Due to these differences between navigation in the physical space and the website there are a number of ways websites can improve their user experience.  Websites should provide consistent, predictable navigational links that appear the same way throughout the site.  An example of this could be a breadcrumb trail showing the users where they are in relation to the overall site.  Each region or district in a website should have a unique identity that distinguishes it from other regions.  This allows the user to see when he moves between regions.  Websites should avoid overwhelming the user with too many choices on home and menu pages.  Finally websites should provide landmarks and graphics to orient the user to where they are.  Users may arrive on a page deep in the hierarchy of your website and have no way to find their way to the home page without the use of landmarks.

Gestalt theory encompasses how we tend perceive unified “wholes” from complex visual parts.   Research into the perception of visual elements yielded a couple of consistent principles.  Elements that are in close proximity to each other are perceived to be closely related to each other.  Similarly elements with the same visual characteristics are treated as a group.  For the most part we prefer continuous, unbroken contours and paths and we have a bias towards seeing completed figures.  Another aspect of gestalt theory are figure-ground relationships.  The viewer’s perspective alternates between two possible interpretations of the same visual field but both cannot viewed at the same time.  Gestalt theory relates to visual rhetoric by helping understand how we perceive visual elements and how changes to these elements can change our perspective.  Lynch and Horton recommend a balance between visual sensation and graphic information.  Websites should be able to adapt to different mediums such as a a mobile device or a print out.  They encourage consistency but emphasize the use of contrast to draw the viewers attention.  That being said they discourage the use of too much contrast in exchange for a simpler design.  The site should have a good organizational structure such as the grid layout that most sites use.

Some people find reading on a computer uncomfortable because of the low resolution of the screen and the awkwardness of the scrolling page.  Most people prefer to scan on screen text and print pages for further reading.  The inverted pyramid is a method for presenting information where the most important information is presented first and the least important is presented last.  This allows important information to be more likely to be seen and remembered, permits efficient scanning of information, allows the initial major facts to provide context for later secondary information, and places keywords at the head of a page where they carry more weight in search engine relevance.  Information presented this way usually starts with a lead, followed by the body, where the the lead is elaborated on in descending order of importance.  In their own website Lynch and Horton practice good web design by organizing elements into a clear hierarchy of information.  They separate the information into chapters and provide understandable links between these pages.  They use multiple headings and subheading to organize their content on each page.  They also use the inverted pyramid style by presenting the most important information first usually in the form of a chapter overview and then elaborating on that information below.

Twitterative Design

Design 1: President-elect DONALD TRUMP will reshape U.S. politics

Good:  Concise and the name Donald Trump is bolded to catch the readers eye

Bad: Not specific enough and doesn’t contain frontloading.  Also is not as punchy as it could be.

Design 2: DONALD TRUMP wins presidency and will reshape U.S. politics

Good: Contains frontloading of Donald Trump in order to further capture audiences attention and has the word “win” which is more catchy to reader

Bad: The wording seems a little awkward

Design 3: DONALD TRUMP becomes 45th U.S. president: could reshape U.S. politics

Good: Removed awkward wording and replaced with a semicolon.  Very specific and “45th president” carries more weight than before.

Bad: It is a little long for a tweet

Design 4: DONALD TRUMP becomes 45th U.S. president: could reshape politics as we know it

Good: Very punchy by changing “could reshape politics” to “reshape politics as we know it”

Bad:  Still a bit long for a tweet

“Twitter Postings: Iterative Design” and “Writing for Social Media”

Mr. Nielson redesigns his tweet to make it more punchy, credible, and viral.  He wants it to catch the readers attention and provide important information to them.  He redesigns it to make it more efficient and concise.  In general tweets are meant to convey information quickly and cannot be overly confusing.  Initially he eliminates the word announcing from the beginning of the tweet as it is redundant.  Of course it is announcing something because otherwise he wouldn’t be tweeting it.  This had a large impact on the quality of the tweet because it “frontloaded” the city names.  Because this is naturally what you read first the important information should be placed here.  Another revision that had a great impact on the quality of the tweet was changing the words “are the” to a semicolon.  This made the tweet much more concise and eliminates the added wordiness that isn’t necessary for this short content.  I disagreed with his revision to change the words “biggest of the year” to “biggest ever” because this seems like it is just a tactic to generate clicks instead of actually giving accurate information.  Some good practices for businesses communicating to clients through social media were to write posts that contained something of substance, are timely, and provide information expected from that source.  Users did not like companies that posted too frequently, had overly aggressive advertisements, or where not easy to locate on social networks.  Even the choice of username was important.  For example the United States Department of Education’s Twitter ID was “usedgov” which sounded like used government and was off-putting to some users.  Mr Nielson seemed to follow his own advice by making his tweets concise and to the point.  His tweets were easily scanned by the user and he even made sure to post them at the right time as to be most available to users.

“The Future of Food Production” and “What’s Eating America”

Both essays establish an ethos of reliability in their reporting by citing numerous research sources.  In Forman’s essay, he starts with a discussion and explanation of the industrialization of agriculture.  He even cites his own personal experience as a resident of the town of Grinnel, Iowa as examples of both the industrialized food system and the local food system.  This personal experience gives him more credibility because it is primary research that he has conducted.  Pollan starts his essay off with a historical discussion of the Mayans and their reliance on corn.  He then discusses in great detail the history of Fritz Haber and how he had an impact on the corn industry.  The depth of research that each essay goes into helps to establish the authors ethos.  These essays both fall under the genre of research report.  Like most reports each of these essays convey a significant amount of research by informing the reader.  They also present a claim which they support throughout the essay.  They both present their information in a informative and confident tone.   They are unbiased when presenting information and only present a bias when discussing their opinion.  One thing that seems under-utilized in Pollan’s essay is the use of visuals such as the bar chart in Forman’s essay.  In both of these essays the authors alternate between informing and arguing so that they can back up their claims with evidence.  In our mapping the problem essays there should be a similar mixture of informing and arguing.  Both essays convince the reader why their topic is important and give a “call to action” for the reader.  This means that they want the reader to get involved in some way to help solve the problem.  These aspects should both be used in our mapping the problem essays.

Luke Pearson’s “Some People”

In this graphic short story by Luke Pearson, the verbal elements are intentionally brief and the visual elements are left to tell most of the story.  Most of the time the verbal elements are meant only to enhance the visual elements.  These elements also help tie the story together.  For example we can see that the women on the bus is angry by her physical expressions.  This is reinforced by the fact that she says “Look at this selfish *****..sat at the front and won’t even offer his seat..some people make me sick.”  If we were only left with the verbal elements however we would not be able to understand the story very well.  The visual elements help show the passage of time and the change in the characters personality.  For example the man in the beginning is shown as getting older by his changing physical features.  We can see that his hair turns white, he becomes bald on the top of his head, and wrinkles form on his face.  We can tell that it is meant to be the same person though because his nose did not change.  In addition his personality is changing.  In the beginning he is scowling and in the end he is smiling.  This is reflected in the background where it changes from red (a color associated with anger) to yellow (a color associated with happiness).  Another visual element that helps tell the story is that the color of the background seems to change to black when a significant emotional event is taking place.  This is seen in the beginning when the character thinks “Christ what is the matter with some people” and again when the man on the bus is too afraid to offer his seat.  Yet another visual element is the changing of the background from light to dark when the mother and daughter are walking home.  This not only shows the passage of time as it has now become night it also reflects the emotions of the passerby.

Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genres”

Before having read Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genres” I would have defined genre as a category or type of some artistic work such as a book or movie.  I specifically thought of genres of books like mystery and science fiction and genres of movies such as horror and action.  I thought of genres as relatively static and I didn’t think of them as particularly useful.  If I was choosing a book to read or a movie to watch I would look for a particular genre that I like.  After reading “Navigating Genres” I would redefine genre as a set of guidelines for writing for a particular situation.  This situation is usually recurring and each new addition should build on previous writing in the genre.  That being said he claims that writing in a particular genre isn’t just an exercise in filling in the blanks.  In addition, this writing should also focus on the purpose that we are trying to achieve.  The author should think about what response he wants to get out of the audience and write accordingly.  This purpose then determines the genre used.  A joke is written to make people laugh whereas a ransom note is used to get someone to give you money.  It is also important to consider location when discussing genre.  This is the context in which you write.  If you are writing a research report for a first year english class this is different than writing for a psychology class.  A useful metaphor for describing genre would be genre as a foundation of a building.  Although the foundation gives the general structure of a building, each person can build a different building on top of it.  Similarly the conventions of a certain genre are really guidelines and not just a formula to be followed.  They help shape a piece of writing but they are only a foundation to be built upon.

9/11 Commission Report

In the graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report only the most important or shocking content has been used.  All the unnecessary information has been taken out and we are left with only the important details.  The commission report is also a very dry description of the events that occurred.  The graphic adds some emotion to the situation by only keeping the details which add the most pathos to the situation.  A graphic novel also helps paint a picture of what happened.  Just hearing a list of events can sometimes make it hard to picture what is actually going on.  In a graphic novel we are able to see the events.  This again gives a more emotional effect to the reader.  The commission has to remain fairly unbiased while the graphic novel does not.  That being said the graphic novel can only paint one picture for its audience and this is the picture every audience member sees.  In this graphic novel Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón are trying to represent the information in a way that lets the reader not only understand what happened but also puts the reader in the place of the passengers on the planes.  This makes the events seem very realistic instead of just words on a paper.