Experience Design

For most contemporary audiences, the terms “navigation” and “interactivity” trigger images of computers, digital devices, and the Internet. These terms have, in fact, become common terminology when we talk about interface design, software applications, Web sites, and other content for digital screens.

Navigational considerations are important on two levels. First, some parts of a story may include interactive features. For example, data visualizations and instructional graphics have a strong potential for user interactivity. Likewise, photo galleries often allow users to choose how they will navigate through a package of photos and captions. So, any time a story includes the potential for interactivity, the internal navigation of each interactive piece must be carefully considered.

Second, as the various pieces of a story come together, multimedia developers must pay close attention to the navigational patterns established for the entire story package. In this sense, designing a multimedia story package is much like designing a Web site. A clear focus must be established, and the story must be logically divided into its nonlinear parts. Only after you have drafted this navigational plan can you begin to decide which parts of the story are best told through video, still photos, audio, informational graphics, or text.

Topics Covered

Working across platforms
If a story will be presented across multiple platforms, the ways users navigate and interact with different types of publications– i.e., print, online, mobile, tablets, television, etc. – must be considered. In fact, interactivity means different things, depending on which news organization or platform you are talking about.

Levels of Interactivity
The degree of interactivity varies depending on the story form chosen for a particular piece. The way in which you allow the user to interact with a piece not only affects his or her experience, but it also affects the pacing of the story. 

Linear and nonlinear story structures
Multimedia stories are layered and multidimensional. Thus, developing a great multimedia story package often has as much to do with potential for a story to be told in multiple story forms as anything else. Some stories simply may not lend themselves to a multimedia approach. Other stories, however, have multimedia potential because they are comprised of concepts and narrative elements that can be separated into different formats.

Developing a navigational plan
Developing a strategy for how users will navigate your multimedia story package is an important part of the planning process. The navigational patterns you establish lay the foundation for how users will engage with the story, how long they will stick with it, and even whether they come away feeling satisfied.

The user experience and usability research
Usability refers to how easy interfaces are to use, as well as methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. Usability tests provide developers with important feedback from real users about how effective the site is. And studies have shown that a simple five-person usability test is capable of revealing about 80 percent of the problems with a Web site or multimedia package.

From planning to production
Too often, journalists dive into a project without first laying the groundwork for healthy, efficient collaboration and solid story planning. However, if these areas of project development are cultivated in the early stages, the story will be stronger and the process will be smoother.