Multimedia design & content management

Effective multimedia story allows the audience to focus less on the fact that there are multiple story forms and more on the story as a whole. Thus, packaging multimedia content is a complex process for a number of reasons. It is easy to assume that because the Web is the only place we can combine all story forms, multimedia design is merely an exercise in Web design. However, as an increasing number of people use other devices for the consumption of information, we must recognize other platforms when we create and package multimedia content. Mobile phones, tablet devices, and touch screen interactivity must all factor into our design and presentation processes.

Too often, both practitioners and audiences define “multimedia” storytelling as only a digital media endeavor. However, a true multimedia approach to storytelling is not limited to Web-based formats, but also includes other platforms, such as print and broadcast. Newspapers and magazines have contained multiple story forms for decades in their packaging of text, photos, and information graphics. Television news has too, with video, audio, photos, and graphic animations. Additionally, most print and broadcast organizations also publish Web sites; and some are even publishing mobile media sites and tablet-based applications.

This chapter will address multimedia story packaging and design from two important perspectives: 1) the platform(s) on which content will be encountered, and 2) how the pieces of a story come together in a physical, designed space.

Topics Covered

Information architecture
Information architecture relates to the interpretation and expression of information for complex delivery systems. For journalists, systemic, structural, and orderly decisions are paramount to a good story and ease of use.

Bringing it all together
When planning a presentation, consider how the individual parts of a story are consumed and whether they make sense independent of the package. Because most multimedia presentations are nonlinear, each user may take a different path through the stories we construct.

Designing multimedia packages for the desktop experience
Packaging multimedia content for a single story is, by nature, an exercise in designing for Web-based or application-oriented platforms. On the Web, we can combine all forms of media–text, video, audio, still images, and graphics–in one place and create rich interactive experiences.

Designing multimedia packages for the mobile experience
As the number of touch-screen models such as the Apple iPhone, Blackberry Storm, and Palm Pre increases, news organizations across the country have expanded their online efforts to develop mobile media sites that allow users to access content in formats and screen sizes customized for mobile devices.

Content management systems
A content management system (CMS) is based on a collection of procedures that help manage collaborative workflow. A good CMS for journalists allows a group of people within the organization to contribute and share content, from video files and written pieces, to photos and graphics.