Tsumani Reporting as User Experience

In the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan, there’s been an wide variation in the way information has been presented as media channels scrambled to be the first with images and news.  I’ve been as compelled as the next person, watching endless versions of the same video and  pictures  – to the point of horrified overload.

Then, thanks to friend’s Facebook postings, I happened upon the following, similar pages: one from ABC News Australia and the other from the New York Times.

Before/after tsunami image- ABC Australia

ABC Australia

Before/after tunami image from NYTimes

New York Times

Both do well what others did poorly, or not at all – they provide context. Each makes it possible to understand specific information in terms of the bigger picture.

If the objective is to inform us in a way that we can make sense of what we see, these pages hit a home run.

  • As information design, they excel:  they communicate clearly without needing a narrative, just simple captions.
  • As user experience, they excel: they’re straightforward, easy-to-use, the interactions follow a consistent pattern. -The user doesn’t have to work at all to “get it.”

Why is this important?
Each page on your site should make it easy for the user to achieve her/his goal in addition to serving your business purpose. Do your key pages resemble early tsunami information presentation? Or have you done the work, as the two sites above have, to make it simple for your user, and therefore more likely that they will do what you want them to do while there? Hopefully it won’t take a disaster to see the bigger picture.

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