Component 3B - iv. Multimedia system case studies

posted Jul 16, 2009, 4:39 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 16, 2009, 11:19 PM by Eddie Woo ]
Research three comparable multimedia systems (e.g. websites, television broadcasts, radio programs etc. that align with the chosen genre of your multimedia system) that are professionally produced and designed, and write a case study of how each uses its particular medium effectively.

Case Study 1: NationMaster
Note: this case study aligns with the numerical component (statistics) of my multimedia mini-assignment.

NationMaster, "a massive central data source and a handy way to graphically compare nations",
combines selective elements of multimedia to effectively convey information to its intended audience. As the name and description suggest, this website allows end users to compare nations from around the globe in terms of a wide range of graphable measures. These can concern aspects such as agriculture, crime, economy, government, lifestyle, religion, and sports; with many individual sets of statistics under each category.

NationMaster's home page, as shown on the right (click image to view full size), at first glance does not appear to be anything particularly special. The standard banner ads and list of links running down the sides do not do much to distinguish it from any other website out there. However, the large slogan "NationMaster: Where Stats Come Alive!" quickly draws our attention to the interesting-looking image of a pie chart. The testimonials from the NY Times and BBC World, though not immediately obvious, further serve to draw the viewer in.
The observant will also notice a randomly generated "interesting fact" has been placed up top; an example of how simple text can interest and engage a viewer.

By now the viewer's attention will have been drawn to the search box near the top of the page. A quick glance at the drop-down selection menu reveals that there is a huge selection of categories and an even larger number of statistics available; a fact that is supported by the unobtrusive box above. This subtle use of numerical data in conjunction with hypertext serves to drive home the sheer amount of data available, while linking interested viewers to more information.

Let's take a look at one example of a graph that this system cam produce. Under the Economy category, the GDP by country statistic can be presented as either a bar graph, pie chart, or map (click images to view full-size):

The first graph is a barely functional bar graph. Things get interesting with the pie chart - one can hover the mouse cursor over each sector of the pie to see what country it corresponds to; and clicking it will lead to more statistics for that country. Finally, the world map represents different values as a range of colours, and clicking on a region will "zoom-in" on that area for a closer look. These hypermedia links make the presentation truly interactive.

Thus, the creator of this website has definitely succeeded in creating an interesting and engaging multimedia presentation without even needing to use complex videos or audio. The primary mediums being used here are simple - text, numbers, and images (to display graphs) - yet the viewer is compelled and encouraged to try different statistics, to play around with the system. I certainly did.

Case Study 2: Sydney Morning Herald
Note: this case study aligns with the audio component (news coverage) of my multimedia mini-assignment.

The Sydney Morning Herald website, just like its actual newspaper counterpart, is a trusted and widely used source for news, weather, and other information relevant to people living in Sydney. This site provides breaking news, up-to-date articles, and opinions covering events both locally and internationally.

Taking just a quick glimpse at SMH's front page as shown on the right (click image to view full size), it is evident that nearly all the different types of multimedia are present. Text is the primary medium to convey information through headlines and brief descriptions, hypermedia links to further details on specific stories, numbers are present in the weather update at top-left of screen, images are used for decoration and to draw the viewer's attention to certain areas, and animation is present in the form of an advertisement (although this animation cannot be seen in the screenshot). The only thing that's really missing is audio, and with good reason - not only would it be intrusive for the end user, but it would also serve little practical purpose on a news-based website, which by its very nature is updated all the time.

Scrolling further down the page, we see that there is clearly a huge amount of content available for perusal, divided into specific sections of interest. See the below screenshots (click images to view full size):
The left-most image shows that video is in fact present right on the SMH homepage, in the form of a seamless streaming flash player that does not intrude upon the rest of the viewing experience. More numerical data can also be seen in the "Business" section, in particular the stocks and graphs for the ASX. The centre image reflects a continuation of the same general layout template further down the page, with images and text used in a similar manner. Finally, the right-most image depicts the bottom of the page - the top 5 most viewed news articles across a range of news websites are hyperlinked to for viewer's convenience. This is an example of analysis (sorting, identifying patterns and trends) of multimedia articles (by contrast, the ASX graph would be an example of multimedia as analysis) to increase the meaning and relevance of information to end users.

Clearly, the SMH website has done a good job at establishing a consistent layout and sticking to it as new stories turn up (which is almost all the time). For a regular visitor, this can be considered as a familiar and established place to check a wide variety of news stories across a broad range of categories. Viewers can even watch videos, browse photo galleries, and view other multimedia presentations seamlessly within the one webpage. However, for the unitiated the site may just seem a bit overwhelming; as if there is an explosion of information. Nevertheless, as a reasonably regular visitor I believe that SMH's website is another prime example of the effective use of multimedia on an Internet site.

Case Study 3: PowerShift
this case study aligns with the video component (subject promotion) of my multimedia mini-assignment.

PowerShift was a mass youth gathering, held recently over three days
(July 11-13) as a public demonstration in support of action against climate change. This was the website set up to help promote and spread awareness and support of the event amongst Sydney's youth. (Note: I am not including the PowerShift stickers which ended up all over our school as part of this case study!)

Despite the actual formal rally of PowerShift having passed, the website remains active to celebrate the event and what they achieved, as can be seen to the right (click image to view full size). The main header logo remains the same as it was before the event - bright, bold, attractive, and especially appealing to young people. The remainder of the page is largely filled with articles describing the success of PowerShift. A combination of the various media types has been used to great effect on this main page. Text and hypertext are ubiquitous as always; many photographs have been used to decorate articles and draw the viewer's attention whereas logos (such as of Twitter and YouTube) are used as hypermedia to denote links leading to these external sites. Several seamless flash video players have also been embedded on the webpage, allowing videos relating to this event to be streamed from YouTube and played right on the page. Also, though it cannot be seen in the screenshot, the "features" box in the top-right of the page is continuously scrolling through a list of relevant articles and links. This is an example of animation; however it has been implemented well in order to be noticeable but not draw the viewer's entire attention away from content on the rest of the page.

Multimedia has been used to a great extent throughout the PowerShift site (click images to view full size):

The left-most image shows the "Features" articles page. A major "headline" article with picture takes priority at the top of the page, while hypertext linking to articles runs down the page. Smaller thumbnail images have been used to illustrate individual articles. The centre image shows off the very intuitive and user-friendly menu system which PowerShift have implemented into the top navigation bar of their site. Although it cannot be technically classified as multimedia (apart from perhaps clever use of hypermedia; or animation that only occurs when the mouse cursor moves over a certain part of the nevigation bar), this system assists in the usability and logical organisation of information on the website. The right-most picture shows PowerShift's "Media Room" - this displayed live "tweets" from Twitter during the event; as well as videos (such as of the "flash dance"), photos, and general news updates concerning PowerShift.

Out of the three case studies, I would have to say that PowerShift gives the most appealing first impression. And so it should - the site is specifically targeted at Australia's increasingly tech-savvy youth, notorious for their short attention span. Perhaps this is due to the large number of photos of people - many visitors will be looking to see themselves or their friends pictured at one of the events. The use of multimedia within the PowerShift website has been carefully engineered for maximum impact; ensuring that its overall message is conveyed effectively.