Usability Analysis on “Coal”

In today’s ever-evolving world of media, one can get lost in the change.  It takes a while for someone to adapt to said change, but over time, it becomes the norm.


Snippet of the headline.

Today, I analyzed “Coal:  A Love Story” from the website News 21.  The first thing I noticed when I arrived to this website was the large headline.  I also noticed the creative way the designer incorporated the theme of energy into the webpage design.  I thought it was very creative.  Underneath the headline was the tagline “It’s more than a rock.  It’s power.  It’s people.  It’s a relationship.”  Normally, I wouldn’t be interested in a story such as this:  not because I am anti-coal, but because the topic of energy consumption doesn’t intrigue me.  However, the way the page was designed, paired with the interesting tagline, made me want to continue reading.  It’s a clever way to market your story.

As I scrolled through the page, I noticed that I kept clicking on the “learn more” tabs in chronological order.  Like many other readers, I find it important to follow these links in order to get the full story.  These tabs didn’t redirect me to another page, which I liked.  However, majority of the tabs I clicked on were videos.  In fact, the first three tabs were videos.  I lost interest mainly because I am a person that wants to get the point as soon as possible.  It’s hard to do when videos are 5-7 minutes long.  The next tab I clicked on said “calculate your coal use.”  I was drawn to this mainly because it was a departure from the videos I had seen so much of already.

Screenshot of the story and the interactive elements.

Screenshot of the story and the interactive elements.

The infographic was especially interesting in the fact that you could calculate how much coal you used according to your zip code.  Within this “interactive infographic” was a chart that calculated what energy sources were used most often according to that zip code.  I decided to compare Rock Springs, Wyoming where I’m from to Laramie.  Rock Springs is a coal-rich city.  While I assumed that coal would be the biggest source of energy there, I was shocked to find out that a plurality of our energy (49%) came from hydroelectric energy.  Only 32% comes from coal.  Conversely, Laramie gets 71% of its energy from coal.

I tried to follow the navigation tips to the best of my ability.  I followed all of them, primarily because of the setup of the website.  The setup was simple and easy to navigate.  This was one of the navigation principles mentioned in the book (on page 70).  The worst thing that I can complain about was that I couldn’t find any way to contact the author or publisher.  At that, there was no way to identify a publisher anywhere.

Living in a fraternity has many perks.  One of those perks is the fact that many people are always walking in, wondering what you’re up to.  I was able to gauge an initial reaction to the website from three members.  The general feedback was positive.  Members enjoyed the simple, straightforward layout.  They were interested in the topic of coal, with most being engineering majors.  Because of that, they took more time to look at everything.  They accessed the first three videos, followed by the coal infographic, and watched a few other remaining videos.  Like me, they analyzed everything in a chronological order, mainly because you have to scroll down to access all parts of the website.  One person stopped before they got through all the videos because they lost interest.  Nobody had any issues in navigation other than the fact that they too couldn’t find any publisher or producer.

Our experiences were generally the same.  We all agreed that the layout of the website was clean, organized, and user-friendly.  This website could work on a tablet as well.  I tried, and it works very well.  The one issue that both myself and one other person had was the fact that some of the videos were lengthy.  I lost interest after the first couple of minutes, possibly because I was not interested in the subject at hand.  Nobody could find information about the author other than the fact that it was published in cooperation with “News 21.”

Three things that should not change about the website include the layout, the graphics, and the amount of multimedia.  The layout is very simple to navigate.  The graphics grab the reader’s attention and are relevant to the story.  The multimedia lets the reader get information from the story in many different forms, which is a huge bonus.  However, there are three things that I would like to see changed.  I’d like to see less videos.  There are other forms of multimedia other than video.  Maybe more infographics or other interactive materials?  I feel they’d be just as beneficial.  With the videos, I’d like to see them shorter.  A reader doesn’t want to spend a huge amount of time watching a video.  They want to get to the point.  Finally, I would make sure that the authors get more recognition.  They put together a wonderful piece, and they need to be recognized accordingly.

Epilogue:  I found the authors or contributors to the story.  I was scrolling through for the fifth time and found them under the “about” section.  Who’d a thought, right?



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