Instructional Design Part 5 of 5 Multimedia Menagerie: Identifying the value of adding multimedia

Review of Part 3

Part 3 of the Web Design series focused on gathering, organizing, and arranging your content based upon the content outline. The purpose of Part 4 in the web design series is to identify the considerations and evaluate the value of adding multimedia elements to your website.


The trend toward the addition of multimedia elements to websites is on the rise due to increased access to the tools available for creation of such elements, the ability of the Internet to support media, and the demand of the user for “bells and whistles.” But, before you make the decision to add multimedia to your website, it is very important to identify whether or not media will add “value” to the design by accentuating the content for the benefit of the user.

“Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.” — Daniel J. Boorstin

Any time you consider adding multimedia items or content to your website you should always return to the most important questions posed during Part 1 of web design:

  • What is the goal of the site?

  • Who is your audience?

reviewing your audience and site goal, it is necessary to ask two more questions:

  • Will the addition of the media object support the goal of the site?
  • Will the audience benefit from the addition of the media object?

The multimedia objects are probably not necessary if the addition of such objects does not meet both of the criteria of supporting the goal and benefiting the audience. If it is determined that the addition of the multimedia items will support the goal of your site and meet the needs of your audience, the next step is to address the issues related to designing and implementing those multimedia objects. The following are some environmental variables and user characteristics to consider when designing multimedia objects for delivery via the Internet.

  1. Graphics, video, and audio files can be very large and take a long time to download.
  2. Users will wait for a maximum of 10 seconds for a page or object to download. If it does not load within that time, the user won’t view the page and will in all likelihood even leave the site completely.
    • It is common practice and courtesy to inform the user of the file size and download time of a media object
  3. While the use of cable and high speed connections is increasing, the majority of Internet users still use a modem and phone line.
  4. While the file size of images, audio and video can be made smaller through manipulation within software programs such as PhotoShop, SoundForge, and Adobe Premier, the objects often loose detail and visual quality the smaller they become. (Note: There are many software programs used to edit media files. The ones named above are simply those with which I have worked before.)
  5. Be aware that not all browsers are created equally neither are all Internet Service Providers. Variations in browser and ISP configurations can interfere with the execution of some media objects.
  6. Avoid the use of required plugins or excessive javascript if possible. The user may not have these apps on their computer and thus will need to download the plugins or allow the scripting before they can view the media objects.
    • If using plugins, make sure to include a link to the plugin so the user does not have to go on a “seek and find mission” on the web to acquire it.
    • If using java script or other script language, make sure to provide a statement on the site indicating that the site requires scripting. Be specific about what scripting is necessary so the user can enable or allow the scripts.
  7. Always make sure that there are alternate ways for the information to be accessed. Implementing alternate methods of accessing information addresses web-accessibility needs as well as audience learning styles. Further information on design considerations and addressing web-accessibility issues will be covered in the next article.

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