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Time to analyse

3 May

The Times is a daily national newspaper which has been being published in the United Kingdom since 1785. The Times has a dedicated website which provides its users with a database of news stories, new and old as well as extra features that are written especially for the website. Well known organisations such as The Times must be “aware that they have to give their visitors good reasons to visit their site and good reasons to return to it.” (Geest,2001, p1) There are a number of aspects of a webpage that if not done successfully can automatically put a reader and viewer off.

Searchability

In order for a site to be effective it must be searchable. When typing ‘times’ into Google, the Times Online is the first webpage that is presented. As well as a link to the site there are direct subject headings that will take the user directly to a specific type of news category for example “sport”. A search bar means that if the user is looking for a specific news story the Times Online search bar will allow the user to make a search before even entering the website.

Navigation

A website’s navigation scheme should be intuitive, predictable, and easy to find. (Summers & Summers, 2005) The Times Online site is simple to use, its main toolbar makes it easy for a user to navigate to their desired topic of the website, whether it is ‘businesses or ‘travel’ for example. Once selecting the desired toolbar the link is highlighted and another toolbar underneath gives a number of further options.  A Clearly labelled navigation bar is one of the easiest ways to create a satisfying navigational experience for its users (Cox and Koelzer, 2004).

Usability

A professional website must be faultless when it comes to the links. All the links on the Times website work fast and efficiently, taking the user to and from their selected topics of news. The simple layout of the toolbar allows the user to navigate around the website successfully. There is no overcrowding on the site and although at times attention may be given to the adverts bordering the page, the main information is centred in the middle of the homepage making it easy to gain the user’s attention to the most important news stories and features.

Design

According to Burgess (2008) a “website needs to objectively promote visual, functional and design consistency.” The design of a website is the first aspect that pulls a user in and persuades them to read on further.  The Times Online uses a plain design with blue, green and clear black font and a number of different headlines and images all placed on a white background.  The Times has a well known reputation so therefore the design of the website must work with the newspaper and its reputation in the industry. The majority of the layout suits the newspaper, and the plain white background promotes maturity. The green, white and blue colour scheme is kept across the whole site to follow through with the theme of keeping the site simple and business like.

Content

Content for the Times Online must be rich and informative to follow the reputation that the newspaper has held for many years.  At an initial glance it is clear that the site will fit within this requirement, the amount of news stories is ongoing, and when reading them they match closely to what would be expected of the Times newspaper; mature yet engaging news stories which are well written and presented.  The website boasts a high quantity of feature articles and other articles such as recipes, league tables, reviews, and interviews to name but a few. The news stories are sorted correctly under the specific headings on the toolbar. Burgess (2008) says that “content should be organised clearly and in a logical manner so information context is maintained.”

Video/Audio

A large variety of the news stories are supported with images or appropriate media, allowing for the user to support their reading with other mediums. Any media on the website which is provided in the format of audio, videos or slideshows load fast and play effectively on a regular internet connection.

Interactivity

“Interactivity” describes communication with a medium (Jucker, 2002, cited by Janoschka 2004). It allows a user to get involved with news topics and debates. The Times’ website allows people to comment on every news story published in a “have your say” box at the bottom of each story.

User Generated Content

User generated content comes from the “my profile” section, once registering with the Times Online the user is able to set up a personal profile and manage their own account. By registering the user is able to take part in competitions and promotions and sign up for free email bulletins.

To conclude, it is the clear that The Times Online works closely alongside the theme of The Times newspaper which has a high reputation in the newspaper industry. The website follows a simple yet effective design which reeks professionalism. Not only is the website easy to function but the straightforward layout makes it easy to navigate to a specific area of choice. On the whole The Times Online and its effective database provide its users with a satisfactory website experience.

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I’m banking on Strickland

21 Apr

Most will know 26 year old Ben Drew by the name of Plan B, recognised for his rapping career in the UK and explicit lyrics of his views of young urban life. Lines such as “her arse is tight and her breasts are bloody enormous” being some of the “nicer” words used in his lyrics.  Others may recognise him for his role in Noel Clarke’sAdulthood” or more recently his role in Harry Brown (2009) where he starred against the famous Michael Caine.

4 years on from his gritty debut album “Who needs actions when you’ve got words“, Plan B has released his next album “The Defamation of Strickland Banks.” The album sees a fresh style completely different to his grime raps. His shift includes a clear conceptual old-fashioned Motown feel to it. This at the moment is proving to be working in his favour. His first single “Stay too long” reached the Top 10s and “She said” isn’t far behind as it takes an evident role in the playlists of most radio stations.

Plan B’s soulful voice definitely works in the album. Each song tells a different story of Strickland Bank; a British soul singer finding himself in prison for a crime he hasn’t committed. It is clear Ben has decided to follow a new path in his career, but I’m pleased to say his old ways aren’t completely forgotten as his casual rap voice slips through in the album, proving that he is still a very talented MC. The songs in the album combine his old ways with his new, while others take a completely soulful and relaxed feel. Personally I think the new contrast works very well and I can guarantee the album will remain in a well deserved slot on my ipod!

Personal favourites:

Hard Times

The Recluse

She Said

My opinion:

A definite must listen

Usher: Raymond v Raymond

9 Apr

Usher’s last album ‘Here I Stand’ wasn’t a massive hit and I was a bit wary to listen to his new stuff. However I’ll give him credit as he’s won me over and I’m definitely rating his new album.

There’s a lot of speculation in the US at the moment that Usher still isn’t steering himself in the right direction. To be fair I think you’ve got to be a bit soft on him as after all he hasn’t had it easy for the past couple of years. (Especially after his divorce from wife and mother of his son, Tameka Foster.)

I think Usher’s definitely put his head down and put everything he has into his new album Raymond v Raymond. OMG (feat. Will.i.am) is at number 4 in the charts at the moment and I have a feeling this album could do well, (better than his last anyway!) The album boasts a nice balance of slow jams and club hits.

However I’m still not a die hard fan of his new stuff and definitely think his old stuff is unbeatable, nothing beats his Confessions era. But maybe it’s time for us Usher fans to grow to love the more mature (but still well toned) Usher?

Personal favourites:

Hey Daddy (Daddy’s home)

Lil Freak (feat. Nicki Minaj)

OMG (feat. Will.i.am)

There Goes My Baby

My opinion:

Definitely worth a listen!

It’s grime time

22 Feb

It’s definitely a week for the English grime scene, as the likes of Giggs and JME release their latest tunes and Tinie Tempah climbs up the chart ladder with his latest song “Pass out”. I jumped in on the bandwagon by visiting Bournemouth 02 to see Tinchy Stryder, supported by JME and Example and backed up by Ruff Sqwad. (20/02/10)

Catch 22 concert

I visited Richmond Classics in Bournemouth in the day in an attempt to get my “Star in the hood” t-shirt signed by Tinchy himself. When greeted by him he recognised the retro t-shirt (its quite old as I caught it at a gig when Tinchy was just starting out and supported Kano in London). Personally I prefer Tinchy’s old stuff, but I decided to give the concert and his more commercialised music a chance.

The Stryderman himself

Members of Ruff Sqwad & Myself

It was an early event starting at 7pm, when I arrived I was pretty disappointed and was convinced I’d walked into a school disco, the room was overcrowded with youngsters! JME and Shorty from Boy Better Know faded into the background as I took more notice in the children jumping up and down over excitedly. Don’t get me wrong I love Boy Better Know but was upset they had been put on so early before the queue from outside had even been filtered into the venue.

JME

Example was on next and definitely got the crowd going, the novelty of being surrounded by a majority of children soon started to wear off (until he swore, and I felt almost embarassed for the man that stood in front of me with his young daughter!)

Example

Tinchy Stryder definitely put on a show, the lighting and techniques contributed a lot to this. He performed for just over an hour, supported by members of Ruff Sqwad and Maveric, covering most of his songs from his newest album Catch 22 and his number one chart topper “Number One”.

A blurred Tinchy Stryder

So all in all I enjoyed the show after I  blocked out the young audience. I soon relaxed when I found myself a nice little spot by the bar with my friends.

Tinchy is a great example of how a young boy can do big things.  He is extra proof that the London Grime scene is at a peak and more and more artists are continuing to hit this peak and raise the level up another notch!

Entering Pandora

4 Feb

Avatar has been all over the press for the past month, I decided to finally watch it in order to make my own opinions…

Okay so the film seems a bit generic, a new planet which the American people want to tamper with and a hero that will go against his people to save his newly found romance. The film funny enough reminded me of one of my childhood favourites “Fern Gully” which no one else seems to remember

But for some reason the film for me really works. I think it might be down to the novelty of sitting in the cinema with ridiculous looking geek glasses and entering the not fully discovered Planet of Pandora.

The film centres on the character Jake Sully, an ex marine, limited to life in a wheelchair. The toxic atmosphere of Pandora means that no one can breathe without a mask so Avatars are used in order to allow people to travel deeply into the forests of the planet.

Sully is able to walk again when placed in his Avatar and it is his mission to convince the native “Na’vi” people to move from their home in order to allow the American people to extract a rare mineral they need to solve the energy crisis on Earth.

Jake Sully is granted the chance to become one of the Na’vi, Neytri  shows him the ways of their life and the importance of the environment they are surrounded by. Jake and Neytri obviously fall in love and he then feels it is up to him to save Pandora from the Americans, where he then leads the natives into a heroic battle.

As immature as this may sound, the colours definitely pulled me into this film. The film definitely wouldn’t of had the same effect on me without the novelty entrance into Pandora through the 3D glasses  The effects were very clear and the crystal like images kept my attention throughout (minus my popcorn).  On the other hand I liked the romantic undertone the film had, it reminded me of the classic Disney Films, a simple yet effective plot. I suppose I would describe the film as a Disney for Adults with the added bonus of extra pretty colours, the token relationship and a bit of Sci-Fi.

However definitely worth a watch in my opinion, one of many to come I expect!

The Sun online – good or bad?

2 Feb

Evaluating the official website of The Sun newspaper, how did I rate the website that runs alongside the famous newspaper?

Searchability: The site is the first to come up when typing “The Sun” into Google, the URL of the site is exactly the same as the name of the newspaper, so people shouldn’t have any difficulties with finding the site.

Usability: Despite the many flashing multimedia links and the diverse range of articles on the homepage, each page seems to load quickly when the links are pressed . All the pictures also act as links so if the picture catches your eye before the heading does, you can just press on the image.

Navigation: My first thoughts of the homepage is that it is overcrowded! As you click on the site you’re faced with a rainbow of different multimedia and articles. Although the link navigation proves to be successful; in my opinion the navigation could be hard in terms of finding exactly what you want. However the search bar at the top is an easy way of finding a specific article.

Design: The homepage uses a large heading at the top and a left hand side toolbar and a red and white colour screen. Although the toolbar layout seems pretty simple, there are a lot of links, and it could be time-consuming finding exactly what you want in the toolbar. In the middle of the page are print screens of popular newspaper articles, these flash from one to the other, although eye catching they take a huge amount of attention away from the website and in my opinion are not necessary. Along the right hand side there are many annoying adverts which take up too much space, wedged between the adverts are more articles headlines accompanied by small thumbnail images. Ticker lines and flashing images take the much-needed attention away from the headlines of the stories. As you keep scrolling down (quite far) there are more article headings all jumbled between forums and features. The design has a lot of potential, the colour scheme is successful in catching the eyes of its user, however the overcrowding of the features and articles makes me feel pretty claustrophobic!

Content: The content runs alongside the news of the day. However the website has taken the content out of hand. There are a good selection of well written (depends what you personally describe as well written, but well written in terms of “The Sun”) articles. On the other hand if you can’t find the articles then there is no point in having the site. The content needs to be presented simply. If the toolbar was used alongside a print screen of the newspaper’s front page article then I think it would be easier to find a specific article or just browse for the day-to-day news. The multimedia is not necessary and makes the site look tacky. The site is definitely not well signposted! The homepage left me feeling overwhelmed by the amount of articles the website is presenting.

Interactivity: The reader is invited to become involved with the website in the numerous polls named “have your say”. However these forums are lost in the homepage until the user navigates precisely to the dedicated forum “discussion” page.

UGC: The user is welcomed to create their own account in order to enter competitions and reply to discussions and forums.

Overall, although The Sun website does include a numerous variety of articles, I as a user felt lost and confused about exactly where I start to to find my particular chosen news. If I was unable to use the search bar then I would feel completely confused as to where to start a search for a particular item. The site has too much information and links which can go on forever. The headlines are wedged between flashing outside advertisements. I feel bombarded with the amount of eye-catching headlines, and feel that there is no priority given to the top stories of the day.