Online page design tips

Eyetrack has some interesting research findings and tips on Article-Level Page Design:

  • When readers encountered a story with an introductory paragraph, 95 percent of them read all or part of the introductory paragraph.
  • Those who spent time carefully reading the introductory paragraph of a story on article-level pages typically spent little time with the full story. Those who gave the intro paragraphs little time usually spent even less time with the story text.
  • Shorter paragraphs encouraged testers to continue reading.
  • Story text in one-column format was read more extensively than story text presented in a “newspaper-like” multiple-column format.
  • Subheads in online stories had little affect on how much of the first or top portion of the story was read when the reader’s interest was strongest. However, subheads increased reading for “skimmers” and for those whose attention in a story was beginning to wane.
  • When readers got to an article-level page, they seemed to be there to view the text. Overall, participants’ eyes fixated on the story or other text elements before the accompanying image.

They also have detailed results on everything from eye-viewing patterns to headlines and font size. Useful resource!

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Download movies to DVD

Just finished reading a Yahoo news story about how movie studios are finally offering download to DVD technology that will allow users to play downloaded movies on their TVs. As is usually the case, the Adult Film Industry is again taking the lead in this initiative – Vivid has signed up with CinemaNow to offer movies for download to DVD. CinemaNow already offers movies from major Hollywood studios as well but those are restricted to playing on the PC.

NYT also has an article: “Can TV’s and PC’s Live Together Happily Ever After?” where they analyze the 4 important roadblocks to this concept taking off:

  • limitations in broadband infrastructure
  • the degree of readiness among electronics makers to provide a product with mass appeal
  • the behavior of consumers and
  • the agenda of the players in the TV ecosystem.

The reality is that just as the MP3, i-Pod and i-Tunes trio dismantled the traditional way of music distribution, if the movie studios don’t figure out a way to offer movies for download, someone else will.

I can think of 2 ways that such movies can be distributed:

  • a commercial-free premium version which can be purchased/rented in the same way and for about the same price as a regular DVD.
  • an advertising-supported free version which would be supported by highly targeted ads which the viewer is obliged to watch. The studios would have the complete demographic details of the viewers and would place highly relevant ads. Viewers would have an “add to shopping cart” button on their remotes, thus queuing any items which they like for check-out after the movie completes. To take it a step further viewers would even be able to pause Top Gun and buy Tom Cruise’s aviator sunglasses (as forecasted brilliantly by Bill Gates 10 years back in his amazing book The Road Ahead)

NYT: Going online for savings

NYT has an interesting article on online savings banks, covering most of the popular ones like HSBC, ING Direct, Emigrant and Citibank. These banks have started offering upto 4.8% yields in some cases, which at zero-risk (since these are FDIC-insured) makes this a better investment option as compared to several mutual funds / stocks.

My personal favorite is HSBC with its clean interface, trustworthiness, ATM withdrawals and competitive interest rates. They had an offer where you got a $25 bonus by entering the promo code start while filling in your application [thanks Spoofee, for the tip] although I am not sure whether its working now.

Capture streaming video for free using Videolan

PCMag recently had an article suggesting using Replay A/V (a shareware tool for $50) for capturing streaming audio / video streams. I was left scratching my head why they didn't suggest a wonderful free tool like Videolan. Here's the lowdown on using Videolan to capture video streams:

  1. Download and install Videolan for PC/Mac/Linux.
  2. Click on File > Open Network Stream.
  3. In the dialog box click on "HTTP/HTTPS/FTP/MMS" and type in the URL of the network stream you want to record.
    Videolan Open Network Stream Dialog
  4. Select the "Stream output" checkbox and click the Settings button.
  5. In the dialog box select the File option and browse to create a file for the stream to be written to. Leave all the settings as they are.
    Videolan Stream Output to File
  6. That's it! Click on OK twice and the stream will be written to the file. You can stop anytime you want. For best results use Videolan when playing the file.

Tomorrow: recording MP3's from online radio stations for free!

WSJ: Judge okays surfing at work

WSJ has an interesting article on a NY Judge ruling on an employee taken to court for surfing at work. Judge Spooner ruled that “the internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for work.” And city agencies, he noted, let workers make personal calls as long as they don’t interfere with their jobs.

The Real Time column goes on conclude that:

“…it’s a mix of things, including the productivity gains of information technology substantially outweighing the losses of high-tech goofing off; the fact that the workday has always included a certain amount of goofing off; and the likelihood that workers aren’t any more slothful than they’ve ever been. If anything, perhaps they’re more efficient about doing whatever they shouldn’t be doing: Buying a book for your nephew almost certainly takes less time clicking around Amazon than running out to the mall bookstore on your lunch hour.

But here’s the thing that should give office workers toasting Judge Spooner pause: While the Internet has let us bring our personal lives into the office in new ways, it’s also let our office follow us once we leave. Witness your coworker ignoring his beer because he’s Blackberrying, or your spouse in bed with a VPN-connected laptop propped against her knees. And therein lies the other half of the emerging bargain. If surfing the Web is OK in the office, you’ve got no cause to carp when the boss wonders why you didn’t respond to that 8 p.m. email.”

🙂

Using Google to find stereotypes and prejudices

Based on the idea of The Prejudice Map of the World, I decided to localize it to India, specifically two of the vibrant castes within India – the Gujaratis and the Punjabis. Here are the findings (as of May 3rd 2006):

Gujaratis are known for:

  • grit
  • entrepreneurship
  • Dandiya and Garba
  • pickles and chutneys
  • hospitality
  • business and trade
  • entrepreneurial skills
  • sweets

Punjabis are known for:

  • hard work
  • carpentry
  • creativity
  • boisterous humour
  • rich foods
  • loud, opulent and flamboyant weddings
  • extroverted nature
  • incredibly laid-back, blase demeanour, but steely resolve

Another very interesting website to find out what Google thinks of someone is Googlism.

Original idea for this post by Google Blogoscoped [via Napsterization].

Don’t Blame the Web When Newspapers Die

John C. Dvorak examines the causes of declines in newspaper readership in PC Magazine:

Syndication. Local papers have become cookie-cutter products loaded with syndicated material, mostly from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Filling space in the San Francisco Chronicle with New York Times articles saves money, but many people now just get the Times instead.

This might be one industry where the US emulates India. In India, major national newspapers completely dominate the media landscape.

One point which John misses is customization. Today readers demand (and get from niche websites) increasingly customized news and opinion. They no longer want to scan through 50 pages to read 2-3 articles they might be interested in. As for "news" we are no longer dependent on the newspaper with media like Internet and TV delivering news in real-time.

Also, couldn't help having a hearty laugh at John's use of the word "disinterested". Obviously John hasn't attended any Journalism School 🙂 (Hint, John: disinterested means unaffected by self-interest, fair, impartial; it is not the same as uninterested).