The Pervasiveness of the Web

Interface orientated blog Functioning Form have used a recent NY Times article to highlight a seep of web-orientated design onto traditional media. Observing rolling news channels and interactive TV offerings certainly shows a similarity with web layout. And not neccessarily for the better. Do we, for example, really benefit from ticking news items below the moving image? Well possibly we do but once you start adding weather data, traffic reports, time and date information, the channel and show identities and possibly a picture-in-picture you have really crowded the real estate.

Where these screens work are in silent environments. The gym, a foyer or reception or at a transport terminus (Liverpool Street sation, London pictured) where sound is muted. Then the moving image becomes semi redundant and the surrounding data (clutter) becomes the focus.

By contrast, the traditional viewer who is able to hear the sound is increasingly distracted, particularly if the story is cognitively challenging. Part of the explanation here may be due to the evolutionary psychology and the way we perceive the visual field. Our high resolution focus is limited to small cone (foveal vision) - items on the periphery (rod cells) of our vision are in low resolution and ignored until they move. Useful for spotting a predator sneaking up on you when you're focusssed elsewhere, also particularly distracting if a peripheral banner ad is blinking on a website or if a news ticker is scrolling on a TV screen. This triage of information is something we should respect, not attempt to interrupt for attention*.

Anyway, back to the main point. High-contrast visual displays and interactive TV programming is apeing the web. Even newspapers are starting to look more web like as online newspapers become less print-like. The trouble is, some of the bad interface stuff is making its way onto this old media.
* - caveat: I realise that distant high-contrast displays like those at train stations are sufficiently far from us so as not to be as profoundly affected by the strength-weakness of foveal and peripheral vision as you might a TV or TFT screen, indulge me.

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