It’s easy to see why it’s become common practice: your organization (business, blog, whatever) builds a site, and your initial focus is on text content, since that’s what you’re used to producing. At some point, you start to expand into other media types like audio, video, slides, etc. Often, it’s because of one of two reasons:
- You’ve gotten good at the whole text thing, and figure it might be worth investing in another medium to see how it goes.
- You already produce a lot of video and audio, but weren’t putting much of it on your website due to process, resource, or technological concerns.
So now you’ve got this text-centric site and this existing or potential load of content in some other format, and the question appears: where does all this stuff go?
The Multimedia Section
The common practice is to toss all of this stuff into some sort of “Multimedia” section of your site. Maybe it’s even divided further into “Video” and “Audio” sections, but the principle remains: take this non-text content and segment it off into an area of the site. It’s an easy solution, and it addresses the question at hand.
On some sites, where the user is coming strictly to
waste time and procrastinate browse around, this can be a decent approach. Some users, on these types of sites, may in fact occasionally be looking for video to watch, or audio they can listen to while they do other things, etc.
For most sites, and probably the sites you work on, users aren’t coming looking for content in a given format: they’re looking for the most relevant content on a given subject, regardless of format. If they’re looking for information on the US Economic Stimulus on your news site, giving them the best content is the most important task, and that has more to do with relevance and recency than it has to do with format.
So instead of faceting or segmenting your content by media type, do what you’ve always done and continue segmenting by topic, tag, author, date, etc. Present content in the context of those more-relevant segments, and allow users to make an informed decision about content type once they’ve seen how the most relevant content available is presented.
This is a harder thing to do, from a design and implementation perspective, for sure. Creating layouts that support multiple types of content in a well-designed way can be a significant challenge on the web. It’s certainly not impossible, though, and there are plenty of sites that do this well.
Here are some examples of ways to get this right:
Many of these sites also have some way of finding only videos, but they are secondary at best, and often even lower-priority. They all treat the integrated approach as the primary one, and that’s part of what has made many of these sites successful as news and content portals.
That’s not to mention the facts that:
- Text is a media, too.
- “Multimedia” is so single-speed-CDROM-in-my-krad-l33t-486-Gateway-2000-that-came-with-Mavis-Beacon-Teaches-Typing.