Project: The photographic slideshow.
"Slideshows, in whatever form, are linear presentations, and enjoy both the benefits and drawbacks of one image following another." Benefits for the person setting it up is that you control the sequencing and manipulation to create associations. eg using similar shapes can link images that have nothing else in common.
The slideshow can be automated or not. How each image moves onto the next impacts upon the experience of the viewer, whether or not images dissolve into each other, fade in or out or just jump to the next shot. Drawbacks can be that viewers have no knowledge or preview of what is coming next. Depending on the topic matter music and effects can be added.
Exercise: Research and analyse web slideshows.
Bearing the above in mind I had to research the websites of magazines and newspapers, examine at least six and select two examples that I consider to be effective presentations. As a starting point the notes gave us some sites to consider.
On looking at these sites initial responses are:
I quite liked this one as you could either watch it as an automated slideshow or manually click the "next arrow". As an automated slideshow it did play music which wasn't apt for all of the images and I couldn't find a mute button. However I guess that is what your speaker button is for! The images faded into each other with both options and captions could be seen or hidden. When switched on they appeared at the bottom and partially obscured the image. The option was also available to view in full screen. 22 images were included in this slideshow and thumbnail previews could be look at.
New York Times
This did not have an automated option you had to manually click. On doing so the screen seemed to "flick" white for a nano second before the next image appeared and this did so scrolling jumpily down from the top to the bottom. There was no option to view full screen however the captions were set to the right hand side and a link to the related news story. I didn't follow the links to discover how easy it was to navigate back as I was only interested in the slideshow itself, 13 images were available to view and as far as I could see no preview was on offer once at the end of the show it did not loop back to the beginning which was annoying.
Again this was not automated. 16 images had to be navigated by manual "next" arrow. The captions and arrows appeared obscuring the bottom of the image when you hovered over the photograph; without hovering the mouse you would not realise at first this was a slideshow. There was no option to view full screen. Images did not fade jumped straight away to the next image.
At first I found this one a bit difficult to navigate mainly as I wasn't sure about the translations to navigate to the slideshow! There is a link on their front page "en images" which yes I got lol, and when you click on it there isn't any indication that this is a slideshow with no obvious buttons. I rolled my mouse over the image but it wasn't until I got to the far right hand or left hand side that the arrows appeared. These again obscure the image on display but you do get a small thumbnail preview of the next image. Not automated the images faded in and out.The captions are permanently displayed at the bottom, the photographs are large so don't need the option of full screen. Once finished the page automatically refreshes to give you the option of other slideshows to review.
Not automated, once you click a link to the selected story the navigation is obvious and straightforward, numbers below indicate how many images are in the set and you can jump ahead if you so wish. When you navigate forward a new page loads with information above and below this means the images do not fade into each other and there is a slight jump between pages. The images filling the page means a full screen option is not required.
Following the initial link opens a large page which makes it obvious this is a slideshow. Once again it is not automated, you can navigate by either using the arrows or the numbered page links above. Large clear images mean a full screen option is not required. When moving forward the images do not fade just appear, I don't know if it is a regular occurrence or my internet connection but there was a slight delay between each image during which I got the Telegraph logo appear. This was only for a split second and didn't really impact too much on the viewing experience. Once at the end if you click the next button a new page opens to give you options to view other slideshows.
Just for fun and looking at a site dedicated to photography I investigated the Magnum site. As expected everything is really clear and easy to navigate and once on the photographers link I chose to have a peek at the work of Steve McCurry. On his page you have a selection of his work to review via a slide show. The images slide from right to left with a small selection of the last and previous images darkened at either side. These sections resize dependent on the image displayed being landscape or portrait.
Links are provided to read photo information and the images can be viewed full screen. Back to the main artists page, links to photo essays are given below. On opening a photo essay there are options to share the image via various social media, change the viewing background from light to dark and view further information. The arrows navigate backwards and forwards on either side. All in all a most satisfying experience as you would hope from Magnum.
Having looked at these sites I can see that there are many similarities as well as differences. In response to the questions I had to ask:
Do the different websites present slideshows in essentially the same way, or are there subtle or substantial differences between them? I think the question itself could be rewritten as I take essentially the same way and having subtle differences to mean the same thing? Essentially they all present their slide shows as a series of still images within a news story or as part of a feature about photographs ie Photograph of the month, Nature Photographs etc. but not one was the same. They varied in position on the page, size of images, navigation control, audio soundtrack, how they transitioned from one image to the next, social media options and colour of background.
Are there any features that all the slideshows have in common? Again no two slideshows were the same but they did have common features such as navigation arrows in whichever form they chose, crediting the photographer and having captions.
How do the slideshows differ in the amount of choice that they offer the viewer for playing them? Is the viewer choice a good thing? Here there was quite a bit of variety depending on whether the slideshow was part of a news story/ photo essay or a roundup of non related images. On the technical side I am guessing it depends on where you live and what browser you use impacts upon a viewer's experience. Taking it as read that there is no issue upon accessing the web pages there is a difference in options offered. None apart from Magnum gave the option to alter the viewing background. On the whole most sites seemed to have black or grey, others such as The Times and Stern De had white, The Times mainly as the slideshow was embedded in the news page. Other options available on some but not others were the ability to view full screen, view thumbnails of the next images and being able too advance by skipping images (via the numbered links) or having to progress one at a time. Some ran on a loop whereas some did not. Is viewer choice a good thing? Everybody has their own preferences on how they wish to view their news or how they like to have images presented. In that respect I think it is good to offer some option of choice. If you only want to view one particular image within a set thumbnails are handy, being able to leapfrog ahead when doing reseach can save time. I understand fully that having too many options makes the programming more complicated and would possibly make for a messier webpage and these are constraints that web builders have to work on but I can see that if you don't enjoy the online experience you may decide to use different websites for information.
What are the most obvious failings, in your opinion, of these slideshows? The most obvious failings that I would pick up on are the transitions. Some work seamlessly, such as The Guardian but others are jerky or too quick, such as the NY Times or Stern De. Not obviously appearing to be a slideshow seems a ridiculous issue but one encountered a few times. Information partially covering the images to a lesser or greater degree was also an irritation. How they were positioned within a page seemed to be an issue as well, for example with Paris Match the proximity to advertising links meant I inadvertently rolled my mouse over other links which would then open up over the images; I hate it when that happens. I think it is a shame that you could not alter the background or resize in some instances.
If you were constructing a slideshow for one of these sites, list the features you would include, based on your experience so far? Based on my research and the experience of the websites I have looked at there are a few basic features that I would include:
Obvious yet unobtrusive navigation arrows
The option to alter background colour
The choice for an automated slideshow or manual navigation
Captions/credits/information which did not cover the image
Large images to begin with or if not possible due to the webpage setting an option to view large screen
The choice of skipping ahead, eg numbered page links and an indication of how many images are contained within that slideshow
Smooth transition from one image to the next, fade seems to work really well.
Ease of navigation away from and back to the slideshow and other linked pages
Links to share via social media
What features set your two chosen sites apart from the rest? From the 6 news paper/ magazine sites looked at I think that the two I would choose as particularly effective are The Guardian and Paris Match. I liked The Guardian due to the array of options it offered: either to watch it as an automated slideshow or manually click the "next arrow". The fade transition was smooth and effective and captions could be hidden. I thought that the thumbnail previews were also a good idea. The initial images were of a good size but there was an option to view full screen. When viewed full screen the captions appear below the image and don't partially obscure it as when viewed within the news page. It was a close choice between Paris Match and The Telegraph but the transition of the Telegraph, for me, let it down. There were some niggles with both of my top two but this was more to do with the background colour for the Guardian and the red links on Paris Match. However the exercise was to do with the efficiency of the slideshow rather than its environs. For Paris Match the images were large and clear so you did not need a large screen option, the navigation to the next image was easy once found, and despite partially covering the image, which isn't that important if you have finished and navigating away, a small thumbnail for the next image was given. The information was below the image. Both webpages had good clear links to share via social media.
Having said all of the above I think Magnum wins hands down over all!
As with most things research and analysis always takes longer than anticipated. I can't believe the amount of hours I have just spent looking at navigation buttons! A really interesting exercise which has opened my eyes to the variation of these slideshows. I know that when investigating photographers I inwardly groan at some of their webpages and can't believe how complicated some make them. If I ever make one for me (highly unlikely) I now know what pitfalls to avoid when including a slideshow. Technically I don't know how to do any of it but know what I don't want to find out about!