Out in the Great Alone by ESPN and Grantland

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by: Mary Kate Metivier

Out in the Great Alone by Brian Phillips is written in long form about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Right away the site begins with an excellent of the dog sled and large sky that sets the scene for the entire site. The site is very easy to navigate, providing links at the top to the prologue, and chapters 1-4, which take you to that section in the site. The site has a lot of potential to be a bit text heavy. However, the multimedia elements are paired perfectly throughout the story, and are neither multimedia nor text outweighing each other.

Within the text there are highlighted words that provide archived photos and original photos from the writer, charts, definitions, and occasional audio interviews on the sidebar next to the written portion. In addition to the audio interviews, there are also sound bites of learning to “mush” and even original videos that the writer took of things like a polar bear and learning to fly an airplane. All of these elements help the viewer, reader, and listener to be thrown into the story when combined properly as this website did.

A very common element used in multimedia sites depicting a journey is the interactive map that appears at the top of the site as you begin the journey in Chapter One. I found that the map added a lot to the story because I felt as if I was on the journey and I knew when we were getting close to major checkpoints such as the pins on the map. The pins are also links to the part of the story they correspond to, allowing the user the capability to return quickly to certain parts of the story. The ability to make the map disappear was also a nice touch for those that find too much multimedia to be distracting.

Overall the site is very easy to navigate your way through, and provides many types of experiences within the story through written words, interactive maps, photos, drawings, and audio interviews. At first the only thing I found to be bland was the very basic set up of the text. However I realized that if there was any more done to the text, it would take away from the excellent pieces of multimedia provided in the sidebar.

Link: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/grantland/story/_/id/9175394/out-great-alone#trail9-hs

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3 thoughts on “Out in the Great Alone by ESPN and Grantland

  1. Andrea Jankelow says:

    I completely agree that the organization of this site is done very well. You can both scroll, or just click the navigation bar up top to get where you want to go. However, one thing I noticed that you didn’t mention, was that sometimes all the stuff was a little bit too much at once and was distracting. While the videos , pictures and maps were helpful and should have been included, they could have been done so in a more seamless or visually appealing way. For example, they would have the map at the top, then images and videos on the side and then a huge block of text on the other side. It just felt disconnected and my eye wasn’t really sure where to look. Overall though, I agree with your thoughts!

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  2. It’s quite obvious that ESPN has sensed the importance of online story telling in current digital world. Sports news and normal text-heavy feature stories won’t help them to secure their current readers but lose them; today’s readers are desperate for novel stuff. New York Times knows it the best.

    Out in the Great Alone is one hell of a great piece. I love the 5:2 layout of the page between main text and side notes, not something unique but a definitely great way to ensure the page logical and ease to follow. You wouldn’t find it frustrating just leaning your eyes a bit to the right for extra information or some great illustration and pictures. The issue here is how they set up the video. You have to manually click to start the video, which isn’t lousy at all but I believe auto-play is more preferable. It took a while for video to loaded-up and the frame takes a large amount of space that impairs a lot of the viewing experience. Using frameless video and insuring it plays almost instantaneously are essential here.

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