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Patrick Hruby on Dock Ellis, complete with funky design

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Versatile, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member


    I should preface everything by saying that the story is good. It provides a lot of insight into a guy who is kind of a running joke in baseball lore. It's not great, not Hruby's finest piece of writing, but worth the time. The words, that is.

    The design drove me nuts. It's an attempt at pushing the E-Ticket/Outside The Lines design further, an attempt at creating unique reading experiences on a Web platform. I'm all for that. I liked what they did with Wayne Drehs' world triathlon piece, which was similarly broken up but done in a more navigable manner. I prefer the more simplistic tacts, the ones that often accompany Wright Thompson pieces such as his Guerdwich Montimere feature.

    But this one was frustrating. Neither arrows nor Page Down buttons worked with the layout, as they would toggle between sections instead of actually scrolling down. That meant, in order to read, your only option was using the scroll bar, which comparably is distracting. In addition, many of the graphics were too big, so that they didn't allow for the full photo or drawing to be in frame as you were reading. There's one photo of Ellis without a shirt on, but when you scroll past the section header, you're left with a headless body and a nipple that almost seems to protrude into the text.

    ESPN has two running experiments in long-form, online-only sports writing: Outside The Lines and Grantland. They feature opposing presentations: While Outside The Lines pieces are loaded with colors and photos and illustrations and bold font choices, Grantland keeps things plain and text-focused with hardly any artistic effort at all. I think this Hruby piece is an example of the trappings of the Outside The Lines approach, the design distracts rather than adds.

    But maybe I'm being regressive. Maybe I'm not allowing for advancement in how we display stories online. Or maybe this particular story design is an exception.
  2. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    Love the ending.
  3. lcjjdnh

    lcjjdnh Member

  4. lcjjdnh

    lcjjdnh Member

    And to add a substantive follow-up, I'll note the popularity* of Instapaper among my young friends interested in "longform" journalism demonstrates most of us want the stories we read shorn of the all the design elements.

    * Then again, most of also use RSS feeds--which I can't see not using--putting us in the vast minority of the Internet public, so perhaps we make a poor focus group.
  5. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    You know, I actually thought Part 6 served as a better conclusion. Part 7 felt more like an epilogue.

    I've never used Instapaper or RSS feeds. I'm also not old. But I agree with the basic premise that, for long reads, simplicity is the way to go. One of the flaws of the Print Screen option — and I don't know if Instapaper solves this — is that the captions blend right into the text on this story.
  6. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    I liked the design a lot, and the ambition behind it, even if it doesn't entirely succeed. Here's an earlier, maybe cleaner version of the same idea.


    We have to be more ambitious with story telling and web design.
  7. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Liked the story a lot, but I agree, the design was awful. I kept having to zoom in and out to find the story, and several times, the story would go right back to the beginning because it wouldn't scroll correctly.

    Good thing it was an excellent story. I was getting tired of the messy design and nearly stopped reading.
  8. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I'll read anything Hruby writes...
  9. silent_h

    silent_h Member

    Think I've identified myself before, but if not -- this is Patrick Hruby. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this piece, design included. Would love to hear your thoughts on what worked (and what didn't).

    I'm sorry to hear the design gave some people fits. I've gotten a lot of great feedback on it, which is nice, given that I didn't actually do anything in that department. But I like what the ESPN design people did. I like it a lot. It worked fine on my computer, I didn't have some of the technical and scrolling issues some of you are describing. I also felt the text itself was fairly easy to follow - there was a nice mix of graphical flash and clean white space.

    As far as the words go, fire away with any questions or criticisms.
  10. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    How does this look on an Ipad?
  11. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    The design overwhelms the iPad. It's just too big for the screen, and you can't size it down.
  12. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Design was horrendous on Firefox for me. I tried to ignore it and just read the story, but gave up by the time I had to scroll past the lower-left corner (all I could see) of a 2000x5000 image of a game ticket that wouldn't go away.
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