RIA site critique: Lizzie Hart

FIRESTORM

Overview

http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/may/26/firestorm-bushfire-dunalley-holmes-family

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I choose this site because I wanted to look at an example of an interactive alternate news story format. Recently I have been noticing online various news sites creating interesting ways to tell stories with full page photos, videos and graphics. After the New York Time’s published “Snow Fall,” there have been similar long form, multimedia stories popping up throughout the web. The purpose of this particular site by The Guardian is to tell the story of an Australian family who just nearly escaped a forest fire that whipped through their home.  The story alone is powerful in that the reading imagines being in the family’s frightening position. With the addition of the quality photo editing, information graphics and compilation of interviews The Guardian has put together a compelling piece.

User Profile

I would say the most common user of this site would be a middle aged person who reads the Guardian regularly and is invested somehow in Australia or wildfires. Their interests may be natural disasters or news in general. They may be a reporter, fire fighter or just anyone with these interests.The user may live in Australia, near where the fire took place. The viewer would need access to an internet browser and flash. The user wouldn’t need many technical skills though. The site makes it easy to navigate for those who are inexperienced with the internet and technology.

User interface

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The interface of the site includes a menu bar on the right hand side. (see image) This breaks the site up into more easily digestible chapters. In each chapter there is a combination of scrolling text, ambient sound, moving background images, auto play videos, and controllable videos. If you roll over the chapters on the right it is broken up into subchapters that again make it easy to navigate, and skip to the parts you are interested in.

Over all the site has a clean straightforward design. The large type is easy to read and works well with the background images. The subtle ambient sounds works to add dimension. The videos are powerful and add to the emotional reaction the viewer has.

Functionality

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The simple scrolling functionality makes it easy for the user to navigate the site. It is a linear experience. The viewer simply moves down the page, and new elements like videos and images pop up. This downward motion makes sense to the viewer and is natural.

One thing that frustrated me was that some videos were auto play, while others were controllable. I wish this were more consistent. As the user I’d like to be able to control all the videos, and skip through parts I don’t want to watch.

Another larger scale issue I have with the site is there is no way to get a quick synopsis of the story. Sitting down to experience the site takes quiet some time. This may not be practical for the average person. It is a big time commitment to experience the entire story.