Category Archives: More to the story

Your web content dreams come true

Counterspill3WebOne of the best websites of 2012 was created by the folks at CounterSpill. It has an interactive map of coal, gas, nuclear, and oil spills, tons of videos, up-to-date news stories, a community blogs feed, and an updating Twitter feed.

The centerpiece of this site is the interactive map. Readers can click on a specific spill and be taken to a landing page with video, a timeline of events, photos, and facts about the spill.

From interactive to engaged

In contrast to the Pine Ridge Sioux site, which is an interactive and interesting site, Counterspill goes the extra mile to engage its readers. Right up at the top the homepage, readers are invited to become part of CounterSpill’s social media community. There is a rotating feed of the latest Tweets about various spills. Bloggers’ and activists’ videos feature prominently on the site, below the fold. And news stories, also below the fold, show the number of engagements, e.g. Facebook likes and re-Tweets.

This is a beautiful site. I especially enjoy the way the Tweets, news, and community feed rotate horizontally as well as vertically, offering readers twice as much information without scrolling. Genius!

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.


Does your site “close the sale”?

There’s more to the story (Vol. 4)

framedIf you read as many online marketing blogs and follow as many web content experts as I do on Twitter, you already know that everyone is buzzing. It’s all about “engaging” readers rather than click-through rates these days. If they’re right, then websites that invite readers to explore must be sitting back smugly at the moment.

In my experience, the sites that do this really well — that create an online sense of “place” are few and far between. That’s probably for good reason. Readers who want to renew their driver’s license online aren’t looking for a sense of place. They want to complete a transaction and get back to re-runs of Arrested Development.

What we can learn

But sites that invest the time, money, and creativity into creating an experience of place have something to teach the rest of us. Everything about the Pine Ridge Sioux site is engaging. The images dazzle. The navigation is elegant. The text is brief and impactful. It’s harder to not engage with this site than to engage with it. Feast your eyes; enjoy. That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, site falls short on the actual engagement. Engagement being encouraging social sharing, measuring content ROI, and capturing leads on readers who might be drawn to the Sioux cause. How can visitors to the reservation share their experiences? How can readers see what pages attract other visitors? These problems might be solved with something as simple as Digg Digg. But after the content and design did so much heavy lifting, they’re left hanging waiting, wanting for a high five.

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

There’s more to the story (Vol. 3)

ImageLook at Oxford University’s homepage for a minute. What’s your assessment of this page? Again, it uses two contrasting colors to good effect. Negative space is the dominant feature. The logo is prominent, so I know where I am. Overall, the design is straightforward and familiar. But is it too familiar? Whether intentional or not, the design, layout, and content communicate conventionalism, even, I dare say, orthodoxyIs that the primary message Oxford is trying to communicate? One can only hope it is.

The point I’m trying to make is that it’s critical that your web design and content not undermine the message you’re trying to communicate elsewhere.

5 second test

But I chose this page to illustrate a different point. When I land on any web page, I try to clear my mind and approach it as if I don’t speak the language and have never heard of the product or university. When I land on Oxford’s page, I have one question. What’s it about? I should be able to answer that question in my head in less than 5 seconds—before I click away. Try it. What is your answer?

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

There’s more to the story (Vol. 2)

MemphisCollegeofArtCompare this page from Memphis College of Art (MCA) to the one from Wooster College [There’s more to the story (Vol 1)]. Does the MCA page tell a story? If you had to summarize the page in a sentence, how would you describe it?

I’d suggest that this page tells the story of the environment students’ can expect to find at MCA, as much as anything. It does this with imagery but also by highlighting visiting artists and exhibitions on campus.

While both pages share a number of essential elements: image centric, a scrolling column of campus happenings, and contrasting color to cue the reader, they each tell a very different story. Importantly, they do this before the reader has to do any reading at all.

Which page, MCA or Wooster College, do you prefer? Without spending time analyzing your thoughts, can you explain why?

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

There’s more to the story (Vol.1)


One great thing about the Web is the limitless possibilities it offers for telling a story. Every page tells a story. Some are good. Some aren’t. By good, I mean clear, effective, and deliberate. Images, of course, can help convey your message. So can design.

Even without the benefit of sufficiently large text in this screen shot (right) for Wooster College, a quick review reveals a great deal to the reader. The reader knows instantly what is important and where to focus, thanks to the F-Shape design. The page expands the story using four rotating images with captions (visit the page to review); it features live social media streams; and, it employs contrasting colors to re-enforce the page’s important features. This is just what’s “above the fold.”

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

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