BC tip: The Pool - Calling time

Does stating how long it will take to read online articles make for more ‘engaged’ readers?

The Feature

The Pool, an online magazine aimed at women that was launched last year, puts labels on all of its stories and videos saying how long they will take to consume.

Subject feeds, under ‘News & Views’ and ‘Fashion’ for example, promote articles with a headline, summary and a circle saying ‘1 min’, ‘2 min’ etc. The articles themselves have these circular signposts as part of their headings, sometimes appearing right under the title. The drop-down panels in the primary navigation also use the device for featured stories.

The Takeaway

We can see the appeal of signposting reading or viewing times for online stories, where attention is scarce and infinite scrolling automatically invites the question – ‘when will I get to the bottom?’ The scroll bar used on most sites does the same thing but less explicitly. As a reader, there is a comfort in knowing ahead of time how long it might take to get through a piece.

Time stamps could be appealing in a corporate context (and we have seen at least one corporate online magazine using them). However, clicking around the Pool even briefly, all of the signposts can start to make the site appear unduly preoccupied with time, although this may play into the brand’s attraction for a ‘busy’ audience.

The precise timings, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 23 minutes, etc, invites the cynic to ask who is the presumably ‘average’ reader on which the measurements are based; maybe better to be more vague – ‘short’, ‘long’, or time ranges. Used sparingly and in the right context, it can’t be a bad thing to let people know a rough idea of the time investment before they click.


BC tip: Channel 4 News - Effectively short video

A UK news channel provides inspiration for spicing up corporate videos.

The Feature

Channel 4 News in the UK recently published a video on Twitter, ‘If America were 100 people’. A minute and a half long, it presents demographic statistics as if one percentage point represented a single person – eg, '13 are black, six are Asian, one is Native American, five are millionaires, 37 are obese, 12 are setting up or running a new business’, etc.

The Takeaway

At the same time as video is proliferating online, many corporate videos have got a little stale – too much of the same clichéd opening music, fast-moving images of cityscapes/traffic, uninspiring scripts and boring talking heads.

The Channel 4 video was created for a general audience, not a business one, but some of the ideas employed could be borrowed by digital communicators who are also trying to be informative and hold people’s interest.

A clear editorial voice, creative use of music, finding ways to humanise dull statistics – these techniques could all be applied in corporate contexts (explaining what the business does, sector challenges, CSR issues, etc) to move past the clichés and engage the audience.



'Vote Leave' or 'Vote Remain' – who has the best campaign website?

A few months ago, I had a trawl through the campaign websites for Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to see what lessons corporate web managers could learn from them. As a referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union fast approaches, I decided to do the same for the ‘Vote Leave’ and ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaigns.

First up, the campaign for leaving the EU:

The official site is easy to find – it was the top hit in a depersonalized UK Google search for ‘Vote Leave’.

The first thing visitors see on arrival is an embedded YouTube video that automatically starts playing. Potentially fine – but the site’s designers assume that visitors have their audio switched on. If they haven’t (because they’re sitting in an office, for example), the video doesn’t make any sense.

Below the video is a more successful feature: a twelve-digit figure showing ‘UK contributions to the EU’, which shoots up at an appropriately alarming rate as the visitor stares at it.

Further down the long-scrolling home page, things fizzle out.

A horizontal panel of graphical links to articles and videos is difficult to scan due to unwise use of white font on light images.

Text-only ‘facts about the EU’ are too wordy to digest quickly.

A heading ‘Tell us why you are Vote Leave’ is grammatically inelegant.

Yet deeper in the site, there are some nice touches.

A ‘Briefing Room’ section makes clever use of icons to label links to specific topics, such as ‘Security’ and ‘Immigration’.

A ‘Get Involved’ area houses a pleasingly straightforward application form for those who want to help with fundraising and campaigning.

And the entire (fully responsive) site is looks good and works well on a mobile phone. Indeed, it displays better on a small screen than a big one.

The 'Vote Leave' home page

The 'Vote Leave' home page


On now to the less snappily-titled ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaign:

This name is a drawback on search engines. Our Google searches for ‘Vote Remain’ failed to bring up the campaign site on the first results page; users must type in the full campaign title to find it.

There are plenty lessons for corporate web managers on the home page – but mainly on things to avoid.

The main headline is in a white font, overlaid across rotating images that often make it hard to read. (Like Vote Leave, this campaign seems to be struggling with making a red, white and blue colour scheme work well on a screen.)

A mobile-style hamburger icon hides the primary navigation menu, even on a desktop screen.

Multitudes of block-capital headlines clutter the page, compete for the visitor’s attention and drown each other out.

A still image in an embedded video panel is blurred.

Britain may well be stronger in Europe, but it’s the Brexit campaign that is strongest online.

The 'Britain Stronger in Europe' home page

The 'Britain Stronger in Europe' home page

By Scott Payton