Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Web more visual? I don't think so

I occasionally hear people assert, as if a truism, that the web is a much more visual medium than text. I don't think it is. In fact the opposite is often true if you compare two versions of the same document. For example, here's a story from a recent issue of The Guardian newspaper.

The story (about the growth in music downloads) is illustrated by a graph comparing the years 2005 and 2006 in different countries, and also comparing mobile and online downloads. It is also decorated by images of a band, some people dancing in test tubes, and someone singing.

But compare with the online version. No images (except a portrait of the journalist we didn't see in the paper version), no graph (surely that contains a key message, even if the pictures don't. And the story is surrounded by navigation - links enticing you to stop reading this story and go somewhere else.

On another matter, the pictures in the paper are a veritable semiotic feast: what are the fascist-looking symbols in front of the band? have the test-tube ladies escaped from a story about cloning? and I love the singer's Remembrance Day poppy. Nothing is captioned so we'll never know the explanation.