“What medium should we choose for this subject matter?” Given the profusion of video clips that attempt to tell a story, deliver an interview or teach/entertain on YouTube, it’s a question not asked often enough by Web-sters.

Just because it’s easy to shoot video doesn’t mean that should be your preferred medium for the content you’re trying to convey.

I see video interviews with interesting information but no transcript, forcing me to sit through the thing in real time versus being able to speedily read through it for the nuggets I crave. Wasted time. Sure, it’s nice to see the faces and body language of the Q-er and A-er, but a still of each, or a two-shot, would suffice.

Granted, some interviews are so fascinating because of the guests’ and questioners’ renown and erudition that they satisfy as video-only experiences, but those are the cream off the top. It’s much more often that A) an entire Q-and-A lacks a constant fascination quotient, B) the video should thus have been edited, or edited more tightly, and C) again, a simple transcript is your best medium.

Consider: A friend emails you a link to a “fascinating interview.” Would you rather the link be to a 17-minute video or a transcript? At what point in your day will you have, or desire to invest, 17 minutes on something that might or might not be fascinating?

 So this is, if nothing else, a plea for choosers of video for their interviews to produce transcripts.

A roundup of my other digital peeves, mostly in the journalistic realm, and addressed only to offenders:

• Your website needs more white space! The ads already make it too busy. There seems to  be a fear that if a favored item isn’t on the top of the home page, visible before the user hits the page-down button, it will be lost. That’s being too scared. Building breathing room into your content says, “Hey, this is the REAL stuff, not ads!” That makes the home page deeper, but so what? It actually gives the useful illusion that there’s more content.

• Adopt more of the reader-friendly rules of print page design that have been proved over the decades, such as PROPORTION: The rule is that the eye prefers stark differences in size, shape or thickness in trying to distinguish differing elements. That means no 30-point subheadline for a 36-point main headline. Go at least half the size on the smaller element. The heds and body type on your home-page blurbs are way too close in size. At least color one of them differently.

• Why do so many of your headlines break off onto a second line, ending in just one word, flush left? Talk about visual imbalance. Even the New York Times does it.

• Why do your home-page blurbs touting your top stories end in mid-sentence? Because you lifted the lede and the whole sentence wouldn’t fit? You must have a complete thought, whether lifting the lede or not.

• Don’t run tiny photos that can’t be enlarged. That’s frustrating, especially for those without 20-20 vision.

• Highlight the day’s best quotes on the home page. They make the best reading.

Image on front page by World of Good and available on Flickr. 


I agree with much of what you have to say here I think we—the editors of web content—have yet to find the best way to display multimedia content and I think work that incorporates text, video, images, and sound can be some of the most frustrating. Ads are another problem as the clutter up a site, or worse pop up, or even worse, are included in the content of a blog post. Projects like Scalar, however, are really raising the bar to what interactive mulitimedia online content can be.

As the editor of an online open source publication project, I’m very aware of the balance between usability and readability. We (MediaCommons) invite many different contributors to the site who bring with them different levels of experience in publishing and publishing with technology. Every layer of work we add to that process is an collaborator that we might lose. Since some of our contributors may only post to the site once (though that seems to rarely be the case) we cannot expect them to be trained in our interface. So, while digital publishing should continue to improve, do you think that there is a justification in taking a hit at readability for the opportunity for more voices to be heard in online publication?

Hi: Nice to make the acquaintance of another Virginia prof. Haven't actually visited your campus yet (too busy earning tenure the past six years).

True, what you say about ad clutter. Perhaps just adding more white space between ads and editorial matter would go a long way.

Not sure what you mean in your last sentence (question). If you mean, is it worth adding clutter if it consists of more reader voices, I don't think it's an either/or choice. I think you can avoid clutter while still adding more voices.

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