Evaluating Multimedia

Note: There will be a quiz on this material on Wed. 9/7. Be aware of current events in the news as well. 10 questions, 10 points.

Navigation, Interactivity, and Usability: Ch. 4 Highlights

All media-content creators need to think about how the audience will experience and explore their work. Good multimedia presentations are intuitive and easy to explore. There is little confusion of where to click next or where to go for a particular piece of information –> this is called good “usability”.

If there is confusion with understanding the navigation (i.e., exploring the content) or the interactivity (i.e., the control the user has over the content), then there are problems with usability. Major usability problems can create frustration and anger within the user, and users  may abandon your content. Leaving the website is the easiest thing to do when there are literally hundreds of other places to get their news, product information, entertainment, etc. This is clearly not the path you want your user to take.

You want your user to fully explore and experience whatever media content you create. You didn’t spent all that time and effort for nothing. So let’s review some quick tips.

Navigation Tips

  1. Keep navigation simple: Limit choices. Avoid scroll bars and drop-down menus. Avoid layers and layers of navigation.
  2. Make navigation buttons large enough for a finger touch, not just a mouse click.
  3. Place controls and navigation in logical places. We glance pages from left-to-right and top-to-bottom. Set up navigation and controls that reflect this.
  4. Integrate multimedia into text, so if users what to explore the multimedia while reading the text, they can take a detour. This is nonlinearity.
  5. But be sure you make it easy for users to return to the previous content. –> Don’t remove key navigational buttons that were available before.
  6. Don’t change the position and location of links.
  7. Try not to offer more than 7 options for primary navigation. Exceeding 7 can overwhelm.
  8. Use clear labels and descriptions to users don’t guess where a button or link will take them.
  9. Use clean, simple design so it is easy to read and view your content.
  10. Conduct usability tests! (see more detail below)

Information Design Tips

Now, let’s read (re)defining multimedia journalism. Key points:

  1. Complement, don’t repeat.
  2. Integrate media types.
  3. Simplify. Only include essentials.
  4. Grab the audience’s attention visually.
  5. Nonlinear does not need to be complicated.
  6. Low interactivity is okay.
  7. Immersive experiences rule.
  8. Good journalistic judgment is still needed.

Usability Tests

A usability test is an observation and interviewing task that involves watching users interact with the content and then asking users questions about the multimedia package’s navigation and interactivity. It provides valuable feedback for how effective the content presentation is.

And research shows that you do not need to conduct dozens of usability tests to improve your content presentation. Only 5 people are needed to reveal about 80% of the problems with a multimedia presentation. If you want to eliminate nearly 100% of the problems, then only 15 people are needed. Completely achievable.

The rest of class today will be dedicated to conducting a usability test on a multimedia presentation. You will first take the usability test yourself. You will record your answers. Then, you will ask another person (not in this class) to take the usability test as well. You will write a blog post that compares your usability test with the other person’s usability test. You will make some recommendations about what is helpful and successful and what is confusing and needs improvement. See full instructions for Blog Post 2 – Usability Test on Multimedia

About The Author

I'm a faculty member in Communication & Journalism at the University of Wyoming. At UW, I have taught online journalism, advanced new media, introduction to mass media, politics and media, and alternative media. At Ohio State, where I got my PhD, I taught research methods, news reporting and writing, visual communication, and persuasion. My reserach focuses on political communication, emerging media platforms, and entertainment media. In my spare time, I love to play with my daughters, hang out with my family, cook, hike, jog, read, and blog.