Seeing (And Hearing) Is Believing

Images help sell a story, which is why newsprint is usually livened up with photos. That holds true in the online world as well, where there are even more choices to augment even the driest copy. As is always the case, however, sometimes there can be far, far too much of a good thing.

Even with a compelling blog post, the copy can be enhanced with subheads, bullet points and other ways to make the text stand out. Photos are a strong addition as well, providing a counterpoint to the words as well as an image that keeps the eye on the content — and the page. The other cool kids on the block are audio and visual aids, usually sound clips and/or videos. Again, these are excellent ways to augment the material, but if overused can create a jumbled page that the reader can’t get out of quickly enough.

Trouble is, finding that point of overload is complicated by personal tastes. Some readers like a lot of multimedia on a page; ever been to People magazine’s site? It’s crowded with features, and it’s quite popular. Other pages are much more limited in their content, but not in their impact. Content may be king, but knowing who your reader is remains the power behind the throne.

When it comes to video, creative use will set you apart from the competition. It may pull in readers (and potential customers) you’ve yet to reach. Placing video content on YouTube, for example, and linking to and from your site can generate a lot of cross pollination when it comes to new readers.

The downside to video is that it takes more equipment to produce, and if you throw up something that was done quickly and cheaply it shows. If you go this route, be prepared to invest at every stage so that your final product enhances, rather than embarrasses, the blog and the overall site.

This holds true for audio as well. If your post is highlighting a speech or presentation, and all you have is audio, then putting some up isn’t a bad idea. If it’s 30 minutes long, however, you’re going to lose that listener before they’re 10 percent through. Edit down to the key elements so that, again, your additional element enhances the core content.

Another audio element that’s horribly overused is music on a site. If you’re not a band, think this one through very, very carefully. This is another place where tastes diverge, and if your chosen selection grates on the viewer’s nerves, they’re not going to just hit “mute” and keep going. They’re going, all right — away. (There’s also the drag on loading time that embedded musical files can have, not to mention that if not properly set up, they start over. And over. And over. Every time you click back to, or refresh, a page.)

As web technology continues to evolve, and recording devices on smartphones and as separate handhelds become more high level, look for more ways to add depth to posts with audio and video. But always ask yourself this question before larding up your content: Does this element help me tell my story? If you’re not sure, then either fine-tune it, tone it down or take it out.