The following chapter illustrates a few best practices and writing conventions you can apply while creating different genres of digital media: websites, presentations, infographics, podcasts, and videos. You may be asked to create multimodal texts like these while taking your Composition I and II courses at CNM.
Writing for Electronic Media indicates you may have to create websites for professional, personal, or academic reasons. By following basic guidelines to make your website aesthetically pleasing and well–organized, you can create a site that functions well and accomplishes its purpose.
Apply Aesthetic Design Principles
Aesthetic design principles include utilizing relevant photos, graphics, and font variations to create interest in your site. Another tip is to leave plenty of white space because a crowded web page is not inviting. Use an easily readable font and font size with ample spacing. Small, tight text is hard to read.
Choose a background that does not distract from the text. Make sure your background does not engulf the text, making it hard to read. As a rule, make your background is light and your text dark. Take care when choosing background effects. A very busy background can detract from your content.
Organize Your Website
A website’s ultimate goal is to garner the visitors attention, so plan for little or no scrolling. Instead include clearly marked navigation links to move to different parts of the information. Utilize navigation links to all parts of the website from all pages so a person never feels stuck on a page. Ultimately your goal is to design an overall look that holds from page to page to give your website consistency. Use an easily recognizable format for navigation links so that they clearly stand out.
Respect Your Audience’s Bandwidth
Utilizing images is a great way to draw interest but they can create issues for the viewer. Use images that are between forty and one hundred kilobytes to ensure clear images that are easily and quickly loaded on most people’s computers. Since one hundred kilobytes is the maximum suggested size, you will have your best luck if you stay well below that level.
Don’t add features just to try to make your site impressive. Remember that the more features you add, the more likely it is that someone will have trouble with your site. Some people’s computers will have trouble opening pages that include audio and video. If you choose such an opening page, include an override button for people who can’t or don’t want to view the opening page. Make sure all the links and paths are obvious and work smoothly.
Focus Your Website’s Purpose
There are so many guidelines to remember but focusing on your main purpose is key. Make sure the home page is uncluttered and clearly states the purpose of the website. This is your main chance for attracting attention. Make the website as visual as possible. The more quickly a person can glance through web content, the more likely the person is to take in the information.
You can make a site visually appealing and easy to navigate by including subheadings that stand out, relevant images, short blocks of text, white space between blocks of text, and numbered or bulleted lists. Keep the website up to date. Depending on the content and purpose of the website, keeping it up to date could be a daily, weekly, or monthly chore. An out-of-date site ceases to be visited. Include a contact link so viewers can reach you. Remember that anyone with Internet can access your site. Take care with the information you post. Always assume that instructors, employers, parents, or friends will see it.
Adapted from Writing for Electronic Media by Brian Champagne, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Make Your Website Accessible
It’s important to create web materials that are accessible to all your audience members. You can use principles of inclusive design to make your digital media accessible to everyone regardless of their disabilities or technical limitations. For example, when using images, you should insert alternative text so that images can be read by screen readers. Another helpful rule: don’t use color alone to make information understandable. Readers who experience difficulty deciphering colors may miss important information on your site.
Tools for Creating Websites
Whether you are asked to give a presentation for a class you are in or for a job, you can make the presentation aesthetically pleasing by illustrating with spoken and written examples.
PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezi.
Microsoft introduced PowerPoint in 1990, and the conference room has never been the same. Millions were amazed by the speed with which a marketing professional or an academic could put together a consistent, professional-looking slide presentation. And then…
At some point, somebody with critical thinking skills asked a great question: “Do we really need all these slide shows?” The stock images of arrows, businesspeople in suits, stick figures scratching their heads, and the glowing, jewel-toned backgrounds eventually looked tired and failed to evoke the “wow” reaction presenters desired.
Microsoft is attempting to refresh the design options for PowerPoint, and there are dozens of good alternatives, some of them free (Keynote, Slide Bureau, Prezi, SlideRocket, Easel.ly, Emaze, Slidedog). But the fundamental problem remains—text-heavy, unfocused, overlong presentations. If you are sure a visual presentation provides something necessary to your audience, keep your slides and text down to a bare minimum. Think of a slide presentation as a way of supporting or augmenting the content in your talk, but don’t let the slides replace your content.
If you had planned to read your slides to the audience, don’t. It’s considered one of the single most annoying things a presenter can do. Excessively small text and complex visuals (including distracting animations) are frequently cited as annoyances.
Try to design your slides so that they contain information that your viewers might want to write down; for example, good presentations often contain data points that speakers can’t just rattle off or quick summaries of key concepts that viewers won’t be able to make up on the fly. If you can’t explain how the slides add value to your presentation, don’t use them.
To get a feel for what may annoy your audience, try Googling “annoying PowerPoint presentations.” You’ll find a million hits containing helpful feedback and good examples of what not to do. And finally, consider designing your presentation to allow for audience participation instead of passive viewing of a slideshow—a good group activity or a two-way discussion is a far better way to keep an audience engaged than a stale, repetitive set of slides.
Tips for Good Slides
The guidelines in this chapter and in Chapter 18.2 Design Principles—CRAP in particular—will help you create consistent, helpful, and visually appealing slides. But all the design skill in the world won’t help you if your content is not tightly focused, smoothly delivered, and visible. Here are some general tips:
- Simplicity is best: use a small number of high-quality graphics and limit bullet points and text. Slides are not pages of text your audience should read.
- Break your information up into small bites, and make sure your presentation flows well. Slides remind you and the audience of the topic at hand.
- Slides should have a consistent visual theme; some pros advise that you avoid using the stock PowerPoint templates, but the Repetition and Alignment aspects of the design principles know as Contrast Repetition Alignment Proximity (a full definition of CRAP is in chapter 18.2) are so important that if you don’t have considerable design skill, templates are your best bet. You can even buy more original-looking templates online if you don’t like the ones provided with the software.
- Choose your fonts carefully. Make sure the text is readable from a distance in a darkened room. Practice good Repetition (the “R” in CRAP) and keep fonts consistent.
- Practice your presentation as often as you can. Software is only a tool, and the slide projector is not presenting—you are presenting.
11.5 Slides and PowerPoint Presentations by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
What is an Infographic?
Information + Graphics = Infographics.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, an infographic is “A visual representation of information or data, for example as a chart or diagram. ‘a good infographic is worth a thousand words.’”
Additionally, according to Writing Commons, infographics do the following:
- rely primarily on visual language rather than alphabetical language to convey a message
- visual represent information, typically quantitative data but at times qualitative data that
- tell a single story or argument in a visually appealing and interesting way
- clarify and highlight logical relationships, trends, patterns in data, comparisons of data, and knowledge concepts
- communicate in a medium that is informed by principles of Graphic Design, including typography, color theory, Gestalt and/or CRAP design theory.
Infographics go well beyond using elements of graphic design (e.g., a table, image, graph) to exemplify an important concept. They replace traditional purely alphabetical texts by visually telling a story or making an argument about complex data and concepts. The University of Sheffield Library writes that the human brain is well adapted to processing visual information, which makes data visualizations and infographics powerful tools for communicating complex and detailed information in an easily digestible format.
Infographic Best Practice
The mark of a good infographic is its effectiveness in communicating a message concisely and quickly. David McCandless (2010) – data journalist and information designer – describes this as “knowledge compression”.
- See his website: Information is beautiful.
- Watch his TED talk:“TheBeauty of Data Visualization.”
- Choose your topic and ensure it is relevant and engaging.
- Define your audience. This will dictate your content depending on their prior knowledge of the topic. 3. Define your aims and objectives to give the infographic purpose and structure.
- Research your topic and find images to effectively illustrate your key points.
- Organize your information, references and data in a clear and visually appealing design.
- Choose a digital tool and get creating.
You don’t need to be a graphic designer or an artist to make effective infographics – there are lots of free online tools available to help you.
Tools for Infographics
Infographics is adapted from Communicating with Infographics, from The University of Sheffield Library, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Infographics. Writing Commons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License