By Hellen Tian
At the end of last semester, this piece (Kowloon Walled City) by Wall Street Journal caught my eyes. Using digital methods, journalists from Wall Street Journal incorporated audio, videos, still photographs, web interactives, and info graphics, etc. to tell the story about the “Walled City” in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The use of the natural sound at the very beginning of the project grabbed my attention and aroused my curiosity. Thus I clicked “begin exploring.”
In general, the site is engaging, and the usage is self explanatory. I personally did not experience any confusion about any content in the project. Information are presented in a clear and interesting way. For instance, after clicking “begin exploring” button, you would get into an animated snapshot of the “walled city”. When you move your mouse around, you know where to click. By looking at the human figures moving, you would want to click on them. Another example would be, in the “Explore” section, there is an info graphic that compares the population density of the “walled city” to other populous places in the world, like Manhattan. Such comparison is very clear and intuitive. It gives you a sense of how densely populated the “walled city” is.
There are also some details could enhance user experience if they are better done. For example, in the introduction video, the audio quality is not very well done. Some parts are fuzzy and you can hear clear audio jump-cuts. Also, the video ended when the man sounds like he is about to say something. This could leave viewers wonder “what is it that they [the journalists] cut off?” The visual component of the video is rather blurry as well. Not only the b-roll part (which may be old, because the “walled city” is being demolished some 20 years ago), but also the interview. That could undermine user experience and makes the piece look unprofessional.
Also, since most of the clips need subtitles, the time panel on the video should always promptly disappear when the mouse moves away from the video window. However this does not always happen (sometimes it disappears but in a delayed manner) for this project. As a result, the time panel sometimes blocks with the subtitle. Since a lot of the interviewees in this project speak Cantonese and a lot of readers of Wall Street Journal are English readers/speakers, this flaw makes information unable to get through.