Digital Headbutt

A sports blog about stuff…stuff that involves things.

Archive for September, 2006

Critique of Yahoo Finance

Posted by Mike on September 24, 2006

 

Assignment

Choose a Web site you visit regularly, one where you read a lot of the content. Let’s imagine that you have been hired as the site’s new editor-in-chief. Make specific recommendations to improve the presentation of content at the site, integrating and referencing this week’s module as much as possible. What elements or features promote consumption of the site (again, think of all the elements described in this module)? How are graphics and visuals incorporated in the site and do they encourage or discourage use of the site? How do they do this?

 

Website: Yahoo! Finance (http://finance.yahoo.com/)

Target Audience: Users who want to access a fairly wide range of financial information, including stock quotes and news articles on individual market sectors, available in an organized fashion for free. Yahoo! Finance has a very large audience; the site gets nearly triple the traffic of any other financial site on the Web, according to PC World.

Organization of the Site:

  • Homepage. The homepage is fairly simple. Attention is directed to the top of the page, where the stock search bar is. This is very important, as stock quotes constitute most of the traffic to Yahoo! Finance; the site caters to what Steve Krug calls “search-dominant” users who navigate the site using its search tool. All you have to do is type in a stock symbol and all its information is at your fingertips. No matter where you are on the site, the are usually three ways to return to the homepage: The Yahoo! Finance logo on the top left corner, the Home Page hyperlink on the top right corner, and the tab that says “home”, on the top left corner just below the main logo. One also finds the top financial headlines at the center of the page, and a summary of the U.S. market to the left. (In most pages of the site ads are placed to the right with other features.) There is a fair amount of whitespace, and the site design is far from exciting, but I’m able to access basic information like the stock price of my stock(s) within 5 to 10 seconds.
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  • Site Navigation. Stock search feature on the homepage, so users can access quotes on any stock instantly; known as catering to “search-dominant” users. At the top of the page there is a set of tabs that separate content by subject, and within each sub-heads there are sub-heads to narrow interest even further. Almost all of the information within the site is presented in an orderly fashion. However, the problem is that making the non-highlighted tabs white makes them more difficult to notice on the page. That sort of navigation should be very clear to the eye, as it is far too important for the site to leave as is. I would use a dark, contrasting color such as the navy often used within the sight to better show the navigation bar.
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  • Interest Levels. Almost all of articles presented on the site are newswires from other sources, such as the AP, online newspapers, and websites of the companies themselves. Many of these articles use the inverted pyramid form of writing, identifying the major points at the very beginning of the article and leaving minor points towards the end. Each stock quote page contains basic stock information as well as links to more detailed articles, including charts, company profiles, statistics, and recent newswires on the company and its sector. The website does a good job of catering to different interest levels; readers view as much or as little as they like. My main complaint is the lack of interest that I have in the advertisements. As a reader I like to see content which is relatively ad-free, but the ads fail to accomplish the goal of grabbing one’s attention and getting a reader to click. This is partly because these ads are often placed out of the way, where they are difficult to see. From a purely capitalistic perspective, Yahoo needs to place those ads in more visible spots. For example, the space above the search bar on the homepage is not being used; an eye-catching ad should be placed there (changed on a daily basis) to get as many clicks as possible.

Conclusion: While there are several design flaws on the Web site, Yahoo! Finance does an excellent job in helping the user to find exactly the information they need in very little time. The home page is efficient and navigation is neatly organized. It’s doesn’t have an ultra-cool design, but the site gets the job done. And ultimately, that’s what keeps me coming back.

Although it will never be as entertaining as getting my financial news from Jim Cramer.

Sources:

Steve Krug, “Don’t Make Me Think”. His website: www.sensible.com/

Nathan Wallace, “Writing for Many Interest Levels”.

PC World article on traffic at financial sites.

Web Style Guide 2 Chapter 2: Interface Design

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Online Communication is not the End of Writing Well

Posted by Mike on September 3, 2006

This opinion piece is intended for those who are unsure about the matter and those who have an open mind but are convinced that writing ability has worsened as a result of online culture.

There are many who believe that our writing abilities have been severely hampered as a result of email, instant messaging and online communication as a whole. Anyone need only be pointed to a MySpace chat room as evidence supporting this theory, with the kind of shorthand and disregard for spellchecking that would leave government cryptologists baffled, or turn any high school English teacher into a grammatical Torquemada. This is what we as a society have accepted as proof beyond reasonable doubt that the online culture has created a monster who can’t spell ‘monster’. However, I think this rationale has quite a few holes. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the opposite is true, that the online culture has improved our society’s writing skills.

My personal experience is that online forms of communication have forced me to become a better writer. I thoughtfully analyze what I am writing about and make sure that I have produced a good piece before even considering putting my words online. There is reason to believe that many others feel the same way, since it is common knowledge that any online posting is public information, potentially accessible to friends, family, teachers, critics, government officials or potential employers.

For example, using the internet and especially e-mail is an alternative means of communicating to phone or live conversations. More often than not, most Americans are now deeply inclined not to make a phone call when they can send an e-mail just as easily. As a result, we write more often and in much larger volume than ever before, which I believe make better writers in our society. In fact, many individuals prefer this form of communication, since they can leave a “paper trail” making future misquoting or alteration of facts impossible.

While there are clear acts of treason of the English language in various chat rooms worldwide, these are isolated and very informal gatherings in the web. They constitute a small percentage of online writing, and such butchering of the language is rarely transferred into writing in daily life. This point also underlies a much more important reason why online communication has positively impacted writing in this society.

As much evidence of misuse of the English as there is out there online, there is one great inescapable fact. When you put a piece of writing online, especially in a chat room or blog, that piece is out there in the open for everyone to see. It is thus highly probable, if not almost certain, that an innumerable amount of people whom you don’t know are going to get a first impression of you via what you’ve written online. And if you’ve written something horrendous, he/she is going to either dismiss you as an idiot or contact you and rip you a new one for writing something so idiotic. This culture therefore creates tremendous pressure to write well online because whether you like it or not, what you write is going to be read by strangers.

Consider the example of a boss or potential employer. He or she wants to now as much about a current or future employee as possible. So your boss performs some “web reconnaissance” on you or hires someone to do so. Your boss finds everything you’ve written online, including chat rooms; potential employers are allowed to look in places such MySpace and Facebook to find or dig dirt on a potential employee. If employers like what they see, you get hired, or your job is secure. If they don’t, chances are that you’re looking for a job elsewhere. It is very similar when you send an employer an e-mail for the first time; you must impress or else.

This is the nature of online communication. The majority of those who are savvy regarding the realm of the Web simply would not be comfortable putting anything out there for all to see and judge that they do not consider of high quality. It is this pressure which in my opinion helps most of us to become better writers online.

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We are forever bound by our audience

Posted by Mike on September 1, 2006

I believe that general debates over whether good online articles are determined by length, or even by a web-specific writing style, is irrelevant when compared to what every form of writing is bound by: your audience.

This is especially true when it comes to online pieces. There are literally millions of authors, columnists and bloggers vying for your digital eyes on a daily basis. You must do something to cater to them and make them read. The manifestation of this is that the online reader can be a much different animal when compared to the print reader. The web has created a different animal, and thus different tastes to cater to.

Consider, for example, online viral video advertising versus the ads we see in mainstream media (TV, print, etc.). Web advertising must be more creative in this new medium for two reasons. First, viewing a video advertisement on the internet is exclusively a choice, whereas viewing certain commercials on TV or in print is almost inevitable. As a result, advertisers must find a way to make you want to see their commercial. Second, online advertisers have more freedom regarding what they can show in their ads, as the Web is a much less regulated medium compared to print and TV.

Now, what does have to do with writing online pieces? Absolutely everything! It is precisely this beast manifested by the Web that you as a blogger (or online columnist) must cater to. As Vonnegut warns us, “If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead–or worse, they will stop reading you.” Like online video advertising, you must make them want to place their eyes on your words, or you will be forever relegated to “cob website” status, with mice riverdancing in the crevices of your blogroll.

So, who is my intended audience (besides whoever is reading this piece at this very moment)? Tune in this weekend and find out…

See, that’s another thing. Cliffhangers don’t work quite as well on blogs. But it’s late (12:20 am EDT) and I’m tired.

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