READING RESPONSE: LYNCH & HORTON’S WEB STYLE GUIDE

1.

Navigating a web site contains the 4 main components that also make up navigating the physical world:

Paths- In the physical world paths is the term given the route taken by the person in getting from one position to another. Much like this, it is important to create “virtual paths” within web pages and websites that can guide users and show them where they are in relation to the entire website.

Regions- In the real world, most geographical locations are marked by unique regions with different styles and designs that can help a person navigate. Similarly, websites should ensure that webpages with different topics or webpages with different ideas can be easily differentiated by a user so that they can navigate through different parts of a website with ease.

Nodes- Generally, a term used to describe meeting places or intersections, in the virtual world nodes refer to the choices a user has in the website and the ideal website would give enough choices but not bombard the user with too many.

Landmarks- As the name suggests land marks are literally something that marks a location. Virtual landmarks dictate the search terms and can help the end user easily navigate to different locations of a website directly.

2.

First and foremost, users should be able to know at all times where they are and to achieve this, the website must contain clear, consistent icons, graphics, headings and page titles. Furthermore, simplicity is your best friend so keep the design of your different webpages simple and consistent. Users want to get to the information they want as quick as possible, so ensure that search links take users to the page they need immediately (avoiding other landmarks along the way). However, ensure that all pages within the website have a link that can help the user get back to the home page, thus preventing the user from being locked out of the rest of the website. Keep the website updated by ensuring all the links are functioning and do not overload the user with a large amount of gratuitous design elements (A good example of a simple yet functional webpage is google’s search page).

3.

Gestalt theory is the idea of how the human brain combines different things to make a whole that is cannot be created without all the parts. Our brain visualizes a “modular unit” as the book states and groups pieces of similar looking elements together. When used correctly this can help a user easily identify different groups of information in a webpage.

4.

Flexible page widths are recommended as these would help users from different devices, with different screen sizes have similar experiences. Fixed page widths are easy to build and maintain, but break apart when the user needs to zoom or look closely destroying the user-friendliness of the webpage. Moreover, generally smaller line lengths of about 12 words is recommended as it makes reading a easy task for the user. However, universal usability can be used to ensure that the page can adapt when the user narrows the browsing window. Generally, home pages, documents to be read online or pages with large graphics should be in shorter web pages. On the other hand, longer web pages are easier to maintain and easier for users to download. If longer webpages are used ensure that the user always a reference point that can help the user figure where they are in the webpage. Moreover, give many links to other parts of thee page to help navigate a long webpage. Page headers should contain a large heading that can immediately tell the user the website and purpose of the site. While footers should be used as well in all webpages to convey age and origin of the page. Hierarchy and contrast must be used to effectively guide the user through the webpage from one important point to another.

5.

The awkwardness of the scrolling page makes it more difficult for an user to read on a computer.

6.

The inverted pyramid places the important information at the beginning of the webpage which allows for users to easily get to the main information quickly. Moreover, this information also sets the tone for the rest of the information allowing the user to keep up with the rest of data. Furthermore, by placing key words and facts at the head of the page, the webpage can be more easily discovered by search engines.

7.

The website for the book adheres to the recommendations Lynch and Horton give. Each webpage has an easily identifiable heading with many sub-headings that help the reader easily scan for the information they need. Moreover, they make use of many links within their paragraphs to reinforce their ideas. One such example is the link they provided to a Wikipedia article for the “Inverted Pyramid”. The authors also frontload their content by giving the reader a short summary, at the beginning of a webpage, of what to expect in the page allowing the reader to get an idea of the information the webpage wants to communicate. They often use bullet points instead of long paragraphs, allowing many entry-points for readers to get into the information. Finally, the webpages all contain information in easily distinguishable groups or modules that help readers know where a specific type of information ends and another begins.

Twitterative Design

News Event: Venezuela Oil Spill

Name of News Story: Venezuela Oil Industry- Spilling Over

Tweeting on behalf of: The Economist

Objectives for audience: Make the readers aware of the oil spill and make them visit the Economist page to learn more.

1st Design:

Breaking News! OIL SPILL threatens the lives of many people in Venezuela by cutting their supply to drinking water.

Learn more: http://www.economist.com/node/21547829

Good: Draws the eye to the oil spill

Bad: “Breaking news!” not required since this is a tweet by the economist, which is known for tweeting about news.

2nd Design:

OIL SPILL threatens the lives of many people in Venezuela by cutting their supply to drinking water.

Learn more: http://www.economist.com/node/21547829

Good: The main information  (Oil Spill) is brought to the front allowing for the reader to easily get to it.

Bad: The country in which the oil spill occurred is at the back of the sentence.

Cause of Revision: The Breaking News at the start of the tweet is redundant as this a tweet by a known news organization- the Economist.

3rd Design:

OIL SPILL IN VENEZUELA threatens the lives of many people by cutting their supply to drinking water.

Learn more: http://www.economist.com/node/21547829

Good: The first part of the tweet highlights the problem and the location of the problem to a reader. This immediately gives the reader an idea of what the tweet is about.

Bad: Contains extra information by mentioning the effects of the spill. This will prevent the audience from visiting the economist web page to learn more about the topic.

Cause of Revision: By bringing the country to the front of the tweet I am increasing the specificity of the tweet allowing the reader to get an idea of who the oil spill is impacting.

4th Design:

OIL SPILL IN VENEZUELA threatens the lives of many people.

Learn more: http://www.economist.com/node/21547829

Good: The tweet is short so can be easily read and understood by a casual twitter surfer.

Bad: “many people” is a vague statement and reduces the effect of the tweet

Cause of Revision: By removing the effect of the oil spill from the tweet I am allowing interested readers to pursue more information by following the link to the web article. This increases the visitors to the Economist web page.

5th Design:

OIL SPILL IN VENEZUELA threatens the lives of 550,000 people.

Learn more: http://www.economist.com/node/21547829

Good: The tweet is concise and is specific about how many people are affected. This increases the impact of the tweet on the reader.

Cause of Revision: The impact of the tweet on the reader will be greater by mentioning the number of people affected and will make to more likely that the reader wants to know more.

READING RESPONSE: “TWITTER POSTINGS: ITERATIVE DESIGN” AND “WRITING FOR SOCIAL MEDIA”

  1. As Mr. Nielsen mentions in the summary, the main purpose of redesigning the tweet was to make it “more punchy, credible, and viral”. He made minor, yet progressive changes to the tweets and with each iteration the tweets became closer to having the qualities that would make it more appealing to the reader.
  2. The first change Mr. Nielsen did that removed “announcing” from the tweet helped simplify what he wanted to say and brought it straight to the point. Moreover, the 5th design which highlighted the point that this the biggest usability conference ever gave the tweet more weight and told the readers that this something that they should not miss. Both these changes made a great impact on the tweet as it helped make the tweet more approachable to a casual internet surfer, while also delivering the main information in a concise manner.
  3. Mr. Nielsen’s research showed that most people preferred companies to have a more casual attitude in social media as this helped create a friendly atmosphere that went along well with the personal posts of a user’s social media account. However, not all businesses are recommended to follow this casual tone as the research participants wanted companies like BBC to remain formal and serious in most occasions and I believe the users wanted this because companies that deal in facts like a news networks need to maintain an image of trustworthiness which would be lost if a casual, informal tone is used. Furthermore, businesses should refrain from bombarding customers with frequents posts, but at the same time businesses should also post frequently enough to remain within a customer’s thoughts. The trick would be to find a hot spot that ensures that the right number of posts are put up on social media ensuring that the company does not encroach on the customer’s personal posts but keeps the customer updated. It is important to consider who the audience is, so that the social media posts can be tailored towards a specific set of people.
  4. Mr. Nielsen mentions that the messages that received the highest scores in his research all contained some substance, were given at an appropriate time and provided information that the users expected from the company. So, in line with this, Mr. Nielsen tells us that his favorite time to tweet is 9:01 am because now he can approach a wide range audiences from California to the U.K. However, when Mr. Nielsen wanted to target German audiences he pulled the time of posting back to 7:51 am Pacific time which is 4:51 pm in Germany so that he could primarily reach the German audience while still allowing the post to reach Californians who check social media during breakfast. By changing the time of his posts Mr. Nielsen ensured that the information he wanted to communicate arrived in a timely manner and by specializing his post to different countries he ensured that the information provided is apt to the audience he is targeting.

READING RESPONSE: “SOME PEOPLE”

This short graphic story by Luke Pearson happens over many years from the perspectives of different people connected by random encounters. The verbal elements of the story complement the visual elements by giving the readers more information of what is taking place, while giving an idea of how certain actions can lead to unexpected results.

However, a major plot point used in this story showing how time changes people, and this change in time is never mentioned in the speech bubbles. The change is portrayed by increasing or decreasing the age of the main characters of the story making it impossible to deduce a change in time from just reading the text.

Another important use of visual in this story is to elaborate on anything mentioned in a speech bubble. For example: the speech bubbles in the scene showing the man sitting in the bus describe the thoughts of the main character, but the facial reactions of the man shown by the visuals helps give the reader a better idea of the distress the man is going through (by not giving his seat to the elderly) by better portraying emotions.

Visual elements also help show entire plot events never mentioned in text, along with transitions from one plot event to another. A great example of this is the change from the bus scene to the scene in which two men meet and kiss. The one character who is common to both these scenes is the brown-skinned man and we would never know this and the transition if visuals were not shown. Moreover, the subsequent scene in which the father does not want his son to get involved with Pakistanis is shown using text and visuals but the reason the father does not like Pakistanis is only shown visually. The reason the father does not seem to like Pakistanis is because he was separated as child from his Pakistani friend which left a deep scar of abandonment within him fueling his current negative disposition towards anyone who is a Pakistani. This entire plot point was never mentioned in text, so if a visual element was not present most of the story would be lost to the reader.

Another great example of this happens towards the end when the author does a full circle and shows the reader what happened to the guy who was harassed during the introduction of the story. This, once again, was never mentioned in text and by using visuals the scene had a greater impact on me which would have been impossible if only the words from the speech bubbles were used.

In conclusion, if only the words from the speech bubbles were given then the story the author intended to portray would be lost and would feel incomplete. However, if only the visual elements were given the reader would have some idea of what is happening, but key plot points would not be noticed. But by using both visual and text elements together, with an emphasis on visual elements, the author conveyed a story that had a greater impact on the reader than any one element alone would have had.

Reading Response: Remediation Reads

  1. To begin with, page 4 of the graphic adaptation provides names and sketches of the hijackers, unlike the commission report which did not give descriptions of the physical appearances of the hijackers and only provided names. However, the other times any information from the commission report was shown in the graphic adaption it was often simplified and some points were left out. For example: in page 5 of the graphical adaptation one of the hijackers is shown to be called for a surprise check by a security personnel in a random manner, but the commission report further elaborates on this and shows that this was indeed not random and the hijacker was chosen by a computerized system known as Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) for this surprise check. Furthermore, page 8 of the graphic adaptation tells us what happened at 8:24 am and then jumps straight to 8:42 am without mentioning all that occurred between that time. On the other hand, the commission report goes more in detail into this by mentioning things like the controller realizing that the plane had been hijacked and requesting help. These examples help illustrate the point that the graphic adaptation mostly uses the important parts of the commission report and excludes the parts that it believes did not contribute much to the main story.
  2. A graphic novel can help the reader visualize the events that took place. Words can only take you so far, but words coupled with illustrations, as in a graphic novel, can give you a complete picture that neither one can do alone. Furthermore, the graphic novel can better communicate the emotions of both the people and the setting of the story by showing the readers the faces of the characters involved and the destruction this incident brought about. This is not possible in a report as all the visualization is left to the imagination, which is often not the best course of action for events that have already happened. However, a report can elaborate on certain parts of an event and go more in-depth giving us multiple angles on the same story. This flexibility ensures that the reader is completely educated on the topic and is given all the information, unlike in a graphic novel which only presents the reader with the important events.
  3. I believe the authors of the graphical adaptation of the commission report created the adaptation to increase the appeal of the report for a wider audience. To be honest, most people would prefer not to sit through many pages of words which continuously bombard them with names, times and other pieces of information. So instead, by having illustrations complement words the authors have ensured that a wider audience is reached because the illustrations ease the readers into the pieces of information that need to be conveyed. As they say “A picture speaks a thousand words” and this is exactly what the authors of the graphical adaptation are trying to accomplish with their drawings.

READING RESPONSE: WHY ACADEMICS’ WRITING STINKS

  1. Outside of academic settings the most common explanation for why an academic’s writing sucks is because the academic is trying to mask a lack of knowledge with complicated terms and complex words. To prevent the audience from discovering a lack of material, the author often dresses up the report in fancy words that are difficult to understand or grasp. The logic is that, if the audience is too busy with deciphering the words then the faults of the writing will go unnoticed.On the other hand, within an academic setting the common explanation for bad writing is that the material being written about is too complex for everyone to understand. Like the example Pinker provides, the excuse which most academics give is that they cannot explain every obscure or complex term for the audience.

    However, Pinker disagrees with both these explanations and instead provides two reasons which he believes explains the bad writing better: self-conscious style and the “Curse of Knowledge”. The self-conscious style is employed by some academics because they want to protect themselves from the repercussions of their writing, while other academic writers use this style to escape persecution from the other academics in their field for any mistakes or oversights in their writing. While the “Curse of Knowledge” is the disability of an academic to perceive the idea that their audience might not always have the same knowledge as them. This leads to writing that is unnecessarily convoluted preventing most people from understanding what the academic is trying to convey.

    • Metadiscourse: The use of signposts in writing that help guide the writer and act as an obstacle to the audience. The time taken to decipher the meaning behind these words will make up for the so-called shortcut the writer believes they are giving the audience.
    • Professional Narcissism: When academics write more about how they spend their time instead of writing more about what the audience wants to hear.
    • Apologizing: When a writer starts mentioning that the topic they are writing about is difficult and complex, instead of realizing that a reader can often judge the difficulty of a problem independently and is actually reading the report to see how the complexity of the given problem is tackled.
    • Shudder Quotes: This is when academics use quotation marks to separate themselves from something which they wrote.
    • Hedging: The use of certain words like nearly, almost, apparently, etc. to prevent the writer from fully backing up their statements. Academics make use of this when they are unsure of something they mention and do not want to be persecuted for what they wrote.
    • Metaconcepts and nominalizations: This the use of abstractions and unnecessary terms in writing by academics. As mentioned by Pinker, academics are excellent at talking about problems using abstractions but after a while they begin using these abstractions for all common terms as well
  2. I am most prone to using hedging and shudder quotes in my own writing. I believe that when I am unsure of certain points or if I want to tackle a problem I am not comfortable with, I make use of these self-conscious styles. I believe both hedging and shudder quotes are redeemable if I put the effort to abstain from using these style in any of my future writings. Moreover, now that I have a concrete definition for these styles, I believe I can start working on solutions to prevent their use in the future.
  3. I value clarity above all else. I want to be able to understand what the writer is trying to put across and I want to be able to easily retain that information. A writing that is concise and well-organized flows from one point to another naturally and this I believe is the epitome of good writing. Moreover, I also appreciate it when writers make use of examples or metaphors to further the explain the concepts they introduced as this often helps me pick up the idea quickly and apply this idea to other situations.

 

 

 

READING RESPONSE: “THE FUTURE OF FOOD PRODUCTION” AND “WHAT’S EATING AMERICA”

  1. The important factor I use to assess reliability is references, and both these authors make great use of outside sources to support their claims. Forman uses phone interviews he had with local farmers and professors along with census data from the government to back up his claims on why farms needs to transition from large-scale mono-cultures to small, integrated farms that contain both livestock and crops. While Pollan uses historical and scientific facts with some quotes from professionals to bolster his stand on how synthetic nitrogen is slowly destroying our planets ecosystem.

    Moreover, by providing proof for what they wrote these authors are making their reports more trustworthy, and are also making it more likely that the readers will agree to their particular set of viewpoints.

  2. Both essays contain an authoritative tone and they both provide a purpose to each paragraph that ensures that the reader transitions from one information to another in a fluid and authentic way. This helps keep the flow going and maintains a rhythm that would help retain the information within the reader’s mind as you are more likely to remember something that is presented to you in an organized manner than something that is just clumped together without any particular order to read in.

    Furthermore, these essays each direct their information towards a specific primary audience but also cater to a wider secondary audience ensuring that what they have to say is heard by the right people. Part of a reports purpose is to inform a certain group people and these writers use this aspect of a report to keep what they write about always directed towards their specific audience.

    On the other hand, both authors have made limited use of mentioning solutions to the problems they have put forth. One of the uses of reports is to recommend solutions to the issues being talked about and I believe both the authors should have included more examples and real life situations to help the reader understand how the problems being talked about can be tackled or at least mitigated.

  3. Forman wants me to think of large-scale mono-culture farming as the bane of our food industry. He includes various references and examples, such as the horrid living conditions of the chicken, to convince me that such large-scale farms seem to be prioritizing profit and yield instead of the well-being of the customer (me). Although overall, the report has made me curious to know more about the food industry so that I can better understand how large scale food requirements are being met while still somehow making a profit to maintain the business.

    Pollan on the other hand wrote on synthetic fertilizers and their effects. This report had a greater impact on me than what Forman wrote because the way Pollan weaved multiple random facts altogether in one package appealed to me and helped me see the wide arching history of why the world came to rely so much on artificial fertilizers. After reading Pollan’s report I seem to be convinced that mankind’s reliance on synthetic nitrates could lead to a bleak future of food insecurity and decreased biodiversity, meaning that, at least with me, Pollan’s report seems to have accomplished its purpose.

    My Mapping the Problem Essay must be very similar to the essays both these writers have written, as the essay I have to write must contain features of a report in the form of the information and data I want to put across, and must also contain features of an argument as I need to convince the reader by the end of the essay of the validity of my viewpoint. Thus overall I believe both these essays are a perfect introduction for into a genre that I need to delve deeper into with my Mapping the Problem Essay.