Multi-media tools can certainly enhance messaging on the web. Text, audio and visual tools can help readers understand the message that is being sent, however they can also be a distraction if the right technique is not being used. Exactly what the right technique is may not be so cut and dry. To effectively use multi-media tools my suggestion is to consider the goals of the content, its intended audience and the best tools that will add to the message.
Case in point, educational institutions can make their websites more effective an accessible to learners with various styles and needs by incorporating multi-media tools that assist students in processing online text content. Read Speaker is a text to speech media tool that is used to help students with “cognitive issues, learning difficulties, or vision problems achieve higher academic performance” (Saxena 2014). For example, a student with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or dyslexia who is taking online courses can read along visually while listening to the content -helping the student to better process information they otherwise would struggle to understand (Brewer 2005). This illustrates how the practical combination of text and audio work together to enhance a learners’ experience.
I have found in my own experience how the use of too much multi-media in an online news article can be ineffective. Upon landing on the New York Times article, “Snow Fall and Tunnel Creek,” I found myself mindlessly clicking really cool graphics, watching snippets of the videos and flipping through the slide shows. I was deterred from reading much of the article because I thought it was too long and really did not want to put forth the effort. It didn’t take too long for me to get tired of looking at the screen as reading on the web is physiologically harder than reading on paper (DM n.d). My experience with this article is an example of how the overuse of multi-media tools can distract from messaging (Sunder 2000) and create too much work for readers (Meriger 2006).
Finally, multi-media can enhance messaging. It can also be a distraction if the media tools used do not add to the message (Fayad 2014). Multi-media should be used to compliment content (Fayad 2014) and help users understand the message. Overloading content with too much multi-media or not the right kind of multi-media can serve to be ineffective. The key is consider the audience and the best multi-media tools that will be conducive to the sending the message.
Branch, J. (n.d) Snow fall: The avalanche at Tunnel Creek. Nytimes.com. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek
Brewer, J (2005) How people with disabilities use the web: Working group internal draft 5. W3.org. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/Drafts/PWD-Use-Web/
Dot Marketing (n.d) DM best practices: Writing for the web. Retrieved from. Dot Marketing Inc. Retrieved from http://www.uakron.edu/webteam/docs/dm_webwriting.pdf
Fayad, A. (2014, May 5) eLearning: How much content is too much? elearningmind.com. [Web Log] Retrieved from http://elearningmind.com/elearning-multimedia-content/
Meriger, H (2006) Cognitive Disabilities and the Web: Where Accessibility and Usability Meet? Ncdae.org. Retrieved from http://ncdae.org/resources/articles/cognitive/
Saxena, S (2014, January 30) How ReadSpeaker can be used in education. Edtechreview.in. Retrieved from http://edtechreview.in/news/935-how-readspeaker-can-be-used-in-education