Review of the Literature
A large body of literature relating to the investigation into achieving accurate text legibility and consistency on the world wide web in addition to the lack of tried and proved theories provides the basis for the present study. This chapter will examine both the theoretical and empirical studies in the field.
Communication Media in the world
Media and communication throughout the world is vast, differs in many ways and is constantly evolving. A reading of both professional journals and current literature would suggest that these forms of media and communication seem to be the most accepted and thus successful types of communication: Print; Radio; Television; Ambient; and the Internet. These forms each have their advantages but also there disadvantages, whilst some being stronger and more effective than others in the communication and media world.
Media and communication
Media and communication in the world, “Very broadly, that world includes radio, Internet, television, newspapers, magazines and outdoor billboards.”(Katz 2003). It is possible to select a preferred website or desired magazine but you still receive that information through a form of communication, hence there are many possibilities of media from which to communicate, some furthermore being direct mail, food containers, key rings, coupons, these and many more provide a way of delivering information to the world.
Culture is created through communication; social nexus, interpersonal relations and technological innovations are all deemed around communication, it is just as important now as it was hundreds of years ago the difference being in some advancements of media we communicate on or with. In any topic or discussion concerning communication media there is a general focus on what is considered ‘new media,’ due to the rate of change that media develops in its services, uses and technologies. Thus it would not be adequate enough to list the latest advances in media, calling them ‘new media’ as they would quickly become outdated, more so it is better to refer to the ongoing strong types of media that are constantly evolving, progressing and continually growing well into our future. “We can define new media as those forms that combine the three Cs: computing and information technology (IT), communications networks and digitised media and information content” (Flew 2005).
In the late twentieth century, Internet communication dramatically extended the possibilities for communication media. (Campbell 2003) attributes the growth of the Internet is due to the potential it offers for interactive advertisement. It has changed our patterns of living and will do so long into the future as technology grows and expands and the demand or pressure of media and communication increases. Internet, television and radio are always pushing the boundaries of communication and interactivity and can be also thought of as digital media. Digital media consists of integrated data such as images, text, sound and videos of all kinds stored in digital format that are communicated to us via networks across broadband fibre-optic cables, satellites and microwave transmissions. However although these on going advancements are dominating the current media and communication market, we still talk to each other in small groups at a party, in class or in a store, we still listen to and turn up to live speeches or make the effort to be present at a city council meeting. These contacts are influenced by the mass media and our constant dose of communication that is situated everywhere, thus the media weather categorized new, digital or mass can reach large, anonymous audiences fast and transient by effecting the source of which most mass communication occurs, in small intimate group settings. (Holmes 2005) argues the digital media age “received its greatest momentum in the wake of the domestic take-up of the Internet from the early 1990’s.” (Flew 2005) emphasises Holmes argument by his account “An inherent strength of the internet is its anarchy compared to the established models of ownership and control of traditional media: there are no direct equivalents to the ‘gatekeepers’ of content and form which characterize the major media of the past few decades, the press and broadcasting. Everyone who has access to the Net can become their own author, expressing their own sense of identity to other net users scattered throughout the world.” The significance of the Internet is so much that it is a more powerful medium than Television or radio. Some web sites become more popular than others and over a shorter period of time, Tanjev Schultz has observed it is due to the fact they serve as “mass media” on the medium of the Internet, which allows for all kinds of media and types of communication. This growing convergence of computer technologies, radio and Television also including the emergence of various specialisations demonstrates that a variety of electronic media, information and communication are becoming quintessential.
Print and TV have long been a solid continuing communication media and are often compared together as being the two major contributors to communication accounting according to (Wright 2000) for over 90 percent of all revenue. Print is widespread having the ability to reach the total population; it is able to reach every segment in the market being an active rather than passive medium where by it is precisely selected by the consumer for interest. In our days society print media, as a form of communication is sometimes deemed lifeless and lacks impact compared to broadcast options or digital media. Newspaper executives at the New York Times are asking weather there will be print versions of their paper in the next ten years time, the cause for this being the competitive continuing rise of the Internet. The lack or slow diminish of circulation across America can be seen in the following graph (Figure 1).
Daily Newspaper circulation
Source: Association of America, 2004. www.naa.org
Coterie to this statement (Ahlers 2006) also examined that twenty two percent of the U.S have substituted online news for offline news, online being digital media such as the Internet or telecommunications, however it was noticed that for a majority of this group the online news acted more as a compliment rather than a substitute. “Most significant is the fact that two thirds of the U.S adult population have not shifted to online news consumption and appear unlikely to do so” (Ahlers 2006). With many people doubting these forms of traditional on going media towards the future it is reassuring to know that from research carried out on examining advertising markets for offline media and online media it was found that online advertisements were an imperfect substitute for offline, thus despite declining television viewing and newspaper circulation advertising revenues are actually slowly increasing for print media. This can furthermore be highlighted in the following graph (Figure 2).
News Media ad revenue versus all media ad revenue.
Source: Newspaper association of America, 2004, Universal Mccann, TNS Media intelligence, Interactive Advertising Bureau/Price WaterhouseCoopers, BiAfn.
Indeed Newspaper has always been the medium that is accessible to both big and small advertisers, from families to major corporations. Magazines also contribute to the mass circulation of print throughout the world having many niche followers and able to communicate a specific category of message in many diverse ways. “Some analysts have concluded that magazines are in many ways superior to even broadcast alternatives” (Semenik 2000). Certainly there ability to attract that selective audience’s such as demographics (Woman’s Day), special interests (Mountain Biking) and lifestyle (muscle and fitness). They also have the benefit of having multiple editions for Advertisers to communicate with and the possibilities of creative opportunities with their varying size, shape and use of colour. Again with the age of digital media many magazines turn to online sales and currently publish there magazines over the Internet before it has even been distributed to wholesalers, eradicating the need to specifically go out and buy it, when the possibility to view it can be found in your own home. Belnder, @NZone, Abound, Launch are examples of magazines that can only be found online or via CDOM, they have been dubbed sourcing from (Semenik 2000) as ‘digizines.’
To date online magazines have acquired little ad spending, due to the fact that the ads placed are of ones that are found in magazines, simply flat and lifeless. Some analysts project the view that for online magazine ads to work, they need to be interactive or digitally entertaining.
Radio has a different quality about it than any other form of communication media, in the sense that most of its listening is done whilst the audience is doing an activity, driving a car is a major example of this. Thus the radio when communicating to its audience needs to create either an intrusive noise to be strongly noticed or cleverly deliver a message under our radars.
The Radio Advertising Bureau claim that the radio is closer to the user than any other communication media present, I would argue that with the growing amount of social networking Internet sites, which will be covered in depth further on in this study, and the possibilities of communication via the Web that the Internet would strongly compete with that statistic now. It is indeed a fact that the radio now broadcasts over the Internet but with many applications allowing users to download or specifically select the music they would like to listen to via the Web how will this affect the medium of the radio in the future? James Cridland from BBC audio and music interactive also states inline with my previous argument, “Now we’ve been joined by other handheld media devices such as mobile phones and the ipod touch. It shows that media is reaching more people in more places than it has done in the past. When it comes to radio consumptions as a whole in the UK, 13 percent of this is not via FM radio, it is through the Internet, DAB or TV and other platforms.” (Source: Revolution magazine January 2009 issue 42, cutting edge tech 2009, pp.4). Statistics shown by the Radio Joint Audience Research Limited, reveal that majority of listening is done at home. Emphasising this according to (White 1999) “people are actually very loyal to individual channels and often to individual broadcasters or time slots.” Radio, much the same as Newspaper circulation, is extremely local with some catchments areas reaching only 100,000; hence the content of their broadcasts is always focused towards their areas. An advantage to this for advertisers to communicate over the local radio allows them to become part of the local community gaining a reputable presence. Whilst radio in comparison to Television and print may not be the most thought of as glamorous, it certainly maintains its advantages over them some being: It is the most cost effective communication medium both for advertisers and production teams; it maintains the largest reach and frequency being able to target audiences in their homes, cars, offices, gardens, garages and evening during physical exertion, alongside the wireless and portable features which make it very user friendly. In relation to this it does have its limitations and drawbacks first and foremost communication is delivered by sound only, ad messages have short life spans and if they don’t create an impact first time, they are unlikely to succeed. (Ruohomaa 1997) draws upon the conclusion that “Radio has not only lost its evening audiences but also its former role as a family medium, which has now been inherited by television.” This researcher believes however that listening to a radio in a social context differs greatly now with each household member having their own personal station and unique way or time of listening, this is something that Radio has adapted to and evolved over the years to gain a stronger presence in the competitive media market.
With a historical timeline of over fifty years now, having penetrated every corner of the globe whilst continually adapting and evolving Television is one of our biggest communication media tools. Following the introduction of satellite broadcasting and digital signals its characteristic and structure are changing very rapidly. Back in 1990 as the digital media age was beginning to develop, TV was a strong communication source for advertisers, “TV’S share of total media spending by advertisers has been rising consistently for many years” (White, 1998). However as will be argued later, advertising spend is beginning to reduce each year with more money being spread into online campaigns and interactive advertisements. The digital growth creates a plethora of opportunities for TV buyers and advertisers, but also could create a mass of problems, much as in the case of consumer magazine markets. Digital offers a range of focused channels, thus enabling communication to specific target audiences, whilst this being a benefit in penetrating niche markets it also contains the drawback of not being able to provide to a large audience at one time, which was TV’s biggest advantage. Never the less Television has the second highest advertisement and production costs across all media behind the press (Source: BBC News, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6675061.stm), with its dramatic colour, spectacular sound effects and continuous action, its understandable why.
Holding a statistic of reaching over ninety eight percent of all households in the UK and America, every demographic, ethnic and economic sector can be communicated to via a medium that allows an advertiser to repeat a message more frequently than any other type of media. Continuing from (Katz 2003), the implications of this fast changing media more specifically the future of digital and satellite TV project a risk for future advertisers and an important revenue source for networks and programmers. The underlying reason for this is users can pre record a selected program of their choice to watch at a later date without having to be there. Most importantly of all users are now faced with an option to skip ads or cut recording when they appear. In the future as options to the user become ever more extended the medium will gradually become a one to one personalized market tool rather than a form of mass communication. Guy Philipson, Chief executive of the Internet advertising bureau, the trade association for the Internet marketing industry comments, “I believe online spend could overtake TV within the next three to four years,” (Source: BBC News, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6675061.stm). “TV advertising spend declined 4.7% from 2005” (Source: BBC News, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6675061.stm), this compares to Internet figures which gained 10%. An issue that is fore fronting all TV companies .The BBC are developing ways to use the Internets multi purpose platform ability by creating tools such as the BBC iplayer, this again neglects the use of TV commercials and only allows for sponsor ship of the BBC iplayer by companies, resulting in a loss of revenue from advertisers but a gain in user revenue due to them purchasing programmes. Complimenting this is the ability to use the Internet and TV as a communication medium together, Andrew McCormick from Revolution magazine states, “Brands will soon be able to target viewers with personalised ads via their TV set-top boxes following a collaboration between broadcasters and ISPs. Plans to step up the delivery of broadband-to-TV set-top boxes have led industry experts to predict the emergence of internet style behavioural targeting opportunities for TV advertisers later this year.” Thus harnessing the power of direct marketing.
Many vast ranges of ambient media exist, typically known as media that you meet in your ambience. It may be mobile or some form that will attempt to reach an audience under their radar. Often strategically placed in locations it comes in many forms from beer mats to advertising on the 18th hole of a golf course flag; advertisers can place messages almost anywhere reaching out to an audience. Some forms of ambient media receive vast exposure due to their creativeness or sometimes daring attempts, such as on the side of cows or huge architectural structures. Billboard advertising and transit advertising are common forms of ambient media sharing the out-of-home experience. Transit is used for building or maintaining brand awareness; consumers see the message as they are travelling to a store or home from work. (Blythe 2006) states a prime example, “Ambient advertising makes the message become part of the surrounding environment in which the consumer operates. For example, a campaign run on the London underground involved replacing all the hanging straps in carriages with empty underarm deodorant bottles. Commuters holding the straps were in a situation where their underarm odour would be obvious to fellow passengers.” This then would obviously attract the audience to the product; it often works best when the message or medium is close to the location or point of purchase. Technological advances are aiding in promoting ambient media sales more, the Eterna company back in 2002 developed a device that sticks on shop windows and turns them into loud speakers, meaning the shop window was able to speak to consumers (BRETZ, R. SCHMIDBAUER, M 1983). Well-executed ambient campaigns help promote brand awareness, they are very effective in activating needs and when situated close to point of purchase they are cheaper to produce than sales promotions.
Most ambient media relies on surprise or shock tactics and needs to involve a sense of novelty, thus unless an advertiser can be the first to use a particular place, item or method it will not guarantee the above factors hence loosing its value. (Blythe 2006) continues, “ In the future ambient media will grow. Although great creativity is involved in producing the campaigns, the impact is high and the cost is relatively low.” Ambient media does generate additional interest with campaigns easily being created and provides a solid base to follow on with other communication tools.
The Internet as a medium
Purely a mass market medium with the majority of the world now logged on, Internet Monitor claim that people spend more than seventy percent on the Internet than they do reading newspapers or magazines in an average week. There is now a constant fierce competitive nature across the Internet with organizations striving to create the most innovative, informative and attractive website on the Web so consumers will continually return. The possibilities for communication on the Internet are still in their early stages with new developments and technological advances being introduced on a regular basis. Advertising giants like Google and Yahoo are in a constant toe to toe battle for number one advertising position in Europe, last quarter Googles Uk sales figures in just three months was £289m (source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/buissness/6619767.stm, The Online battle for Advertising, Rory Cellar Jones, 2007). Jones continues “Quadruple that for a rough annual figure, and you get some £1.15bn a number which outstrips the total revenue for TV station channel 4 during 2006 of 937m.” The claims that we are currently living in a pod cast society, envisaged by further claims the Internet will eclipse broadcast media is certainly one that has been enhanced and pushed by journalists and cyber theorists, never the less the Internets powerful medium does leave scope for the possibilities of these statements.
There are more than 150 million people in the United States alone using the Internet. Consumers using it to purchase goods, executives spending hours researching products and looking at advertisements whilst the majority of teenagers are using it to socialise and network through systems such as Facebook, MSN and Myspace. Interactive advertisements allow users to integrate with the product and order it with immediate response, this gives the Internet a sense of excitement compared to other media. The Internet allows for advertisers to constantly update or change their ads with little spenditure and fast response rates, placing them on specific sites for direct audience interaction. Communication through the Internet can be tracked, companies can analyse statistics on who is viewing their products, from which referral sites and how many times a day, opening opportunities for marketing campaigns to be initiated in popular areas or sites.
There are elements of the Internet that form a disadvantage to advertisers wishing to communicate through its medium, in particular users do not enjoy being constantly bombarded with advertisements or pop ups, especially when they are paying to browse the Web. Software now exists that blocks countless advertisements and does not permit browsers to display sites that may promote this method. Questions are constantly raised in regards to the security of the Web when purchasing products online, or personal information such as home address and phone numbers being stolen thus sites with only a strong reputation benefit in the online sales sector. The Web is still slow for the majority of people using it, users will not wait for pages to load or high, graphical, impressive advertisements to be displayed, they will simply go back or close the page down before the message has been delivered.
The future, it seems in relation to communicating to consumers, revolves around social networking sites. George Bryant, the former planning chief at Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO states “There’s no longer a question of weather or not social media will become important. It is now” (Source: Campaign Magazine, 16th January 2009, pp.22). John Bartle co-founder of BBH also agrees, “Social Media is no hula hoop and agencies will have to adjust to it. The problem is that it’s so new nobody knows anything about it. You have to work it out as you go along.” (Source: Campaign Magazine, 16th January 2009, pp.22). I would argue that the Internet is indeed the strongest medium for communication, the rate at which it is growing out sources any other type of media and the advantage of its interactive qualities, which are still being explored make it a playground for advertisers to promote brands and products.
There are many aspects of the Internet, which create advantages to advertisers and consumers. Issues such as: What is the Internet; Why is it such a good communication tool; both for the advertiser and viewer; the popularity of current websites; and how do you communicate on the Internet, will be addressed.
What is the Internet?
A web page consists of digital data that is stored on a selected server and transferred to the users computer, generally the server is run by a specified company with a powerful selection of computers and high bandwidth. The high bandwidth connection to the Internet allows high-speed data transfer from the servers to the users computer, thus any limitation in connection speed is by the users system. The link between the individual’s computer and the Web is operated by an ISP (Internet service provider), which enables two-way transmission between the server and computer. Depending on the individual’s choice of connection, ranging from a modem on an analogue telephone line to cable or DSL (broadband), will depend on the speed of the data transfer finally leading to the selected web page displaying. Each web page is created using HTML (hypertext mark up language), it is a form of code which is received by the users computer and interpreted by the browser software that displays the page according to standards devised by the World Wide Web Consortium (www.w3c.org).
The Internet is global, public and private. Computer systems are linked all around the world allowing an easy method of communication, research and information display to any single user upon any computer that is connected. The Internet has grown into a mass media medium, “from 2 million in 1994 to 5 million in 1995 to about 10 million in 1996. In mid 1998, there were estimated to be around 90 million people connected to the Internet in the United States and Canada and 155 million people worldwide. (Semenik, 2000). Comparing the previous statistics to current (Figure 3),
World Internet Usage and populations statistics
Source: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm 19/01/2009
It is clear to see how fast the Internet has expanded and the possibilities for use as a communication media are, as previously stated, still being challenged.
Why is it such a good communication tool?
“There are four main components of the Internet: electronic mail; IRC; Usenet; and the World Wide Web.” (Semenik 2000). Electronic mail or other wise known as email allows people to send messages to each other from any single destination in the world to an individual’s computer situated somewhere else in the world. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) allows people to communicate electronically in real time across the world; services such as MSN or Skype are popular IRC programs. Forums in public cyberspace are known as Usenet, they allow people to share thoughts, opinions and information on the Web; lastly the World Wide Web is the main vast database of information displayed via a graphical environment. When used as a medium for communication media the two main roles are consisted of the advertiser wishing to communicate to the viewer, and the viewer experiencing the communication of the advertiser via the platform of the Internet.
“ The web epitomises the capabilities needed to practice one to one marketing: it is an immediate and highly cost-efficient interactive channel; it can be customised to individual visitors; it can dispense complex product or service information, qualify sales leads, complete product transactions, and perform customer service tasks” (Gray 1999). The Web promotes flexibility offering many different versions of advertising from banners, pop ups, virals and direct marketing; ads can appear in many different formats in a range of sizes. Targeted messages can be personalized to a particular audience although; TV, Radio, newspapers, magazines or billboards only offer direct marketing to a large audience. The Internet has a large reach with most of the world currently connected, allowing the ability to measure who is viewing what, in which areas on current times and how many times each day, with web measurement services providing data on web traffic, lifestyles and demographics of web users.
Email relies on the fact that most people have an email account and visit it on a regular basis; hence dropping an advertisement into an inbox is a likely way to reach them. At the dawn of the Internet this was exciting to individuals, however companies began to over whelm users inbox, creating the term spam, (Campbell, 2003) states “This is the delivering of unsolicited emails and it is the single most annoying thing on the Internet.” There are data protection issues to accompany this stating that users must opt in to receive advertised emails but the immense global reach of the web makes local regulation impossible. An email still holds its potential comparing to direct mail it allows the holding of videos, the option of fast feedback and ‘Rich’ emails produced in HTML show up as a webpage in the individuals inbox allowing for interactivity. There isn’t however the craft of direct mail, an invitation maybe be beautifully presented in any print format to a direct mail client, often giving the ‘wow’ factor in comparison to email which is restricted to the W3C standards code resulting in many forms of email only differing in colour and layout.
Elaborating on the Internets ability to target (Campbell, 2003) continues, “Being able to target down to individual IP addresses means that two people sitting next to each other in the same building and on the same network could receive different ads in different languages, but selling them the same product.” This targeting ability can also be based on what the individual is viewing, companies are more regularly now buying up most of the ad space on a site and delivering a story to the user as they progress through the pages delivering different forms of ‘call to action’. However to be profitable it does rely on the advertiser knowing who views the site. Other forms such as affiliate and banner exchange offer advertising companies a different approach to communication. Affiliate relies on a company placing an ad on their site in return for revenue of the product when it is viewed or purchased, this can greatly reduce banner costs or even result in free of charge. Similar to this are the use of banner exchange schemes which are a free service designed to promote a website or micro site, most often charge per click, if the resulting banner generates enough traffic then the exchange scheme organizer will take commission. ‘Levis’ the jeans company recently signalled an important shift in its marketing and advertising strategy by advertising its new style of jeans online as a film premiere, other wise known as a viral, “The decision by Levi’s to centre the global strategy for its 501 brand online represents an important sea-change in the companies marketing, which previously relied heavily on TV.” (Source: Revolution magazine, October 2008, pp.12). This shows the impact the Internet is currently having over its rival media, for a company such as Levis who have always been associated with broadcast media to change to online which is more cost efficient, allows measuring of audience viewing and leaves room for diverting traffic to its main website with call to action strategies, may be showing the route that many other companies are taking or will be taking in the future. Further more “3.2 bn online videos were viewed by 27.4 million UK internet users in June, equating to 78% of the total UK online population according to figures from comScore Video Matrix” (Source: Revolution magazine, October 2008, pp.12). Viral campaigns can exist as a video or email with call to action links or animated banner, however viral campaigns need to have a real incentive for the viewer in order for the word to be spread. Similarly if they do not portray the message correctly it can often do more harm to a brand and there is no way of cancelling the viral or pulling it off air, as can be done in broadcast.
With the constant attack of advertisements on the Internet the plethora of it is not always liked by viewers. More and more ads are becoming ‘pop up’ which means the user must actively select to close it, thus with most people using the web to search for something specific rather than passively searching through TV programs or reading print articles, the irritation through the high level of advertisements is frustrating. However unlike any other medium it allows for a strong interactivity with the viewer, they can determine which route to take through the site and define the outcome. The search possibilities of the Web allows viewers to see specific and relevant advertisements in relation to what they are searching for with access to the product at the click of their fingers. Language barriers are simply overcome by users being able to select their country allowing for presence in other continents. Elaborating on the benefits is the amount of control the viewer has, more control than any other medium, they can select or close advertisements at their will, block direct email messages or pop up ads, become their own authors and comment on companies or products for others to see, destroying or advancing that particular identity. I would argue that audiences like to feel in control when being communicated messages, they do not want to be aggravated with communication that is not essential to them, hence unlike TV, Print or Radio the viewer has the choice of what to watch or listen too immediately on the web, there is not the changing of stations to search for their desired content or the flicking through of pages, it can be available to them quickly, in many forms most being interactive with a strong call to action.
Viewers are influenced in a majority of ways; the concern is not always about a product, service or company. Influencing their political participation or democracy, government activities for example the new president of the United States had a very strong online campaign. New cultures have been born with the immergence of the Internet, questions are raised and Forums flooded with gender, family and religious activity issues, concerns regarding health for viewers, especially the younger generation spending hours at a time in front of the computer screen. It can affect personal relationships and working environments in organizations, it is more than just a platform of media it has become a way of life for some.
Popularity of websites
“If the 100 million Facebook users worldwide or the 1.5 million new blog posts indexed everyday by Technorati weren’t proof enough that social media has gone mainstream, then the news that Hollywood is making a film about Facebook should convince even the most hardened social media sceptics.” (Source: Revolution Magazine, October 2008, pp46). Social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace now dominate in the cyber communication world, “people are spending more and more time on social networking sites,” Blake Chandlee European Union commercial director at Facebook points out. “ We are attracting 300,000 new users every month and that’s across all demographic groups, not just youth.” (Source: Revolution Magazine, October 2008, pp46).
However social media does not just concern sites that allow networking and communicating, it is also the likes of Youtube, Flickr and Tripadvisor that allow the viewing of different forms of content uploaded by people all over the world, that can be a communication media playground for advertisers. Campaigns go viral because people want to share them through these networking sites, resulting in brand awareness. Using the example of O2, which harnessed Facebook as an advertising platform Sally Cowdry O2 marketing director stated if O2 were going into this media sector they needed to be “interactive allowing feedback and participation,” “enhance communities not interrupt,” and most importantly “we needed to be fresh and different” (Source: Revolution Magazine, October 2008, pp47). O2 devised a Facebook page encouraging a battle for the UK’s favourite University to promote O2’s brands favourite place tariff. Within eleven days it was reported that the campaign had attracted over 63,000 students from all over the UK uploading photos and comments hoping to win the major prize of £50,000 O2 branded party at their University. This raised O2’s popularity and provided them with good research into specific areas of their student demographic, what’s even more impressive is that campaign was free to create on Facebook, any other medium especially broadcast would have cost the company a lot in producing costs or even page space in many magazines.
How do you communicate on the Internet?
Using text to communicate on the Internet
With text comprising the major use and essential need on the Internet for communication, it is important to discuss two main factors: Presentation and text layout on the Internet and the future of the Internet in relation to using text to communicate with it. There are many forms of presentation especially regarding a specific sites function, so the following will address text presentation in relation to communication and advertising stating the importance for legibility and accessibility.
Presentation and text on the Internet
The future of the Internet and communicating with text
There is strong competition from companies wanting to target specific audiences from the likes of Facebook or myspace, due to social networking sites containing each users interest and vital information. This is beginning to allow companies the option to purchase rights to use the social sites as market research. With over 2.7 billion people now owning Internet cellular phones and the endless amount of wireless, Bluetooth, Wi Fi, 3G and ultra-wideband laptops that are produced and sold every year with constantly extending battery lives, experts say according to (Mathieson 2005), “These whole new levels of connectivity and computing power will fundamentally redefine how-and where people live, work, learn and play.” He continues “In the future, wireless systems will be tied to back end databases and loyalty programs. When you walk into a grocery store, you may enter a code that sends a message to the stores database to let the store know you’ve arrived and that your open to business.” The databases will be stored on servers and connections will rely on wireless Internet technology, this leaves open the possibilities of communicating advertisements directly to you any where in the world through your mobile or Internet regarding specific offers individuals will be interested in. Subsequently to this, how will the information be viewed when sent over the Internet? By text, and that text will display through the HTML code telling the browser how to display it, its size, position, colour, hence it is vital to have the correct coded text for the viewer to be able to read the advertisements or information. With the future of the Internet evidently growing rapidly and proving a strong competitor in the communication media market, it is vital that the method for coding legible text is proven, but with so many different types of code, vast numbers of browsers interpreting and displaying the code differently, this obstacle provides a problem to all Individuals wishing to communicate via the Internet.
Issues with communicating through text on the Internet
and the reasons why they arise
Many problems arise when communicating through text on the Internet; the main being there is no standard font size interval system for text display on the web. The worst-case designers often turn most if not all the text into graphics as pre mentioned this is not suitable for accessibility issues. The main factors that will be addressed are: Different browsers and the platforms they run on; popularity of browsers; screen resolution; and finally the different methods of HTML and CSS.
Different browsers and the platforms they run on
Browsers are applications of software that allow the user to navigate the Internet. The user will enter an address usually beginning with ‘http://www.’ Standing for hypertext transfer protocol, World Wide Web, this address then points the browser to the location of the data, sending a request to the server for the webpage and displaying it according to the formatting instructions received. The market is dominated by common browsers, some more popular than others, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is the most used on the Windows platform, it successfully beat its main competitor Netscape, however Apple’s safari maintained so effective on the rival platform, Mac, that Microsoft discontinued Explorer for that system. Other existing browsers include Opera and Firefox, each having their own advantages selected by users preferences. The fundamental principle is that correctly coded websites should display on screen correctly although they do not always appear identical in each browser. This creates problems for web designers, for example a layout of text may seem correct in size and layout in Internet explorer, when viewed in Safari it may have a completely different look affecting the aesthetic value of the website and thus becoming off putting or unusable to visitors. The reason for this is due to the companies who produce the browsing software, in reality browsers weather Windows or Mac based should adhere to the W3C guidelines but some accidentally or deliberately step outside the agreed guidelines. Resulting in the browsers interoperating the code differently and hence displaying it differently. The challenge then for the designer is to code the website to suit the most popular used browsers, but this is a difficult task and often if not all the time results in acceptance of the differences across the Web. There are some clashes between operating systems that cannot simply be corrected via code (Campbell 2005) explains, “The Mac operating system anti-aliases text by default, but windows does not (although some laptops and TFT monitors do). This means body text may appear a fraction wider on Mac, while characters may not look completely smooth under windows.” Although this is a flaw for web designers there has been some satisfaction in the fact that both platforms now generally display text at 96ppi, so fonts in Mac browsers no longer appear smaller.
Screen resolution is based on the factor that the greater number of pixels in the screen display generate a greater the amount of detail that can be displayed. Screen resolution is a crucial element when deciding upon the optimum size of text and images; early monitors were restricted to displaying 640 x 480 size pixels however advances have led to monitors displaying a varying range of sizes with the minimum usually being 800 x 600 pixels. Browsers take up space when used, there toolbars or menu options all account for screen pixels and thus designers must be aware of this and build sites that are sized to what is known as the ‘live space,’ the actual space the web page will be viewed. Text is also affected by screen resolution, if set in a specific type face less than 10 pixels high, it will look crisp and legible in a low-resolution monitor but almost invisible in a high-resolution monitor. Similarly are the gamma variations in colours on different operating systems, screens and browsers leading to designers having to test there designs on several computers to check for accuracy. Various methods for layout have been assigned to deal with screen size variations such as fixed or fluid coding however there is still no proven method to consolidate the text variation on screens.
HTML and CSS
All individuals require the use of different font sizes on screen depending on their eyesight, environment, equipment or purpose, so generally speaking it is a god idea when designing websites to allow the user to stay in charge of the size ‘medium’ which can be controlled through their browser and specify larger or smaller elements in relation to the medium. However this will still mean that fonts will display larger on some computers than others and especially different browsers will interoperate the code ‘medium’ differently strongly affecting the aesthetic value. It would be more suitable to find a code that suits all browsers on any operating systems and set an adequate font size and layout that would display equal for all users. The Web Accessibility Initiative’s guidelines recommend when dealing with specifying text size the use of relative “em” or percentage lengths rather than “pt” or “cm.”
However there is a problem when specifying percentages or relative length units. Browsers for the Mac, have until recently displayed the code “medium” at 12 pixels per em (12pt @ 72ppi fixed logical resolution), characters in the roman alphabet cannot be read at fewer than 9 pixels per em. This means that if anything lower than 75% was set it would not display legible in Mac OS x browsers unless the user had individually chosen a value higher than 12pt for the browser to display. Sizes specified by Windows users smaller than 9pt would not show on Mac and the problem was so bad that Mozzilla Firefoz even created a hack pre installed in their versions to automatically render any size lower than 9pt to a minimum of 10pt. As pre stated the solution was to change the Macs browsers default resolution to 96ppi the same as windows. It is also a problem to use percentages when elements are nested inside each other, for example if a ‘div’ was placed inside another ‘div1’ then the progression would be smaller for the text every time a ‘div’ is placed inside another
This is medium text ‘div2’
This is ‘div1’ inside ‘div2’
This is ‘div’ inside ‘div1’
There are many different variations of codes when using HTML and CSS to specify text size, ranging from ‘line-height’ and ‘font-size’ as elements, to ‘pt,’ ‘em,’ ‘px,’ ‘xxsmall,’ large,’ ‘xxxlarge,’ as attributes. It is tempting to set a text size using pixels ‘px’ as this is how computer displays are measured and so most people assume it is a safe option, however this causes issues of accessibility as Internet Explorer on all versions does not allow text zoom with ‘px’ attribute thus if an individual cannot read the specified font size, this means they cannot gain the information or communicated message. According to (Robbins 2007) “the only acceptable values for font-size in contemporary web design are ‘em’ measurements, percentage values and key words. These are preferred because they allow the users to resize text using the text zoom feature on their browser.” Keywords are the words like ‘xx-small’ or ‘large’ and ‘small’ they are classed as predefined absolute keywords and as pre stated they do not have a certain measurement but are rather scaled consistently in relation to each other or be it the set ‘medium’ size on the users browser. The figure (4) below example shows how each of the absolute keywords appear in a browser set with its default text size or ‘medium’ size to 16px.
Text sized with absolute keywords in Veranda and Times
Source: (Robbins 2007)
As can be seen there is a certain degree in the variation quality of the fonts, the sans-serif being more legible than the serif. The benefits of these keywords is that modern browsers will never let text render smaller than 9px which is the smallest text is able to display before it becomes un clear using certain fonts. However flaws do also exist with this method too, keywords are imprecise and unpredictable, most browsers will scale each level up by 120% but some will scale it up by 150%. In Internet Explorer 5 and 5.5 it will use ‘small’ as the default rather than ‘medium’ thus the text will display a lot smaller in those older versions of Explorer. Most commonly used are ‘em’ and percentages, they are both relative measurements that are based on the font size of the parent element. If no parent element font size has been specified then the browsers default ‘medium’ will be used. Again with ‘em’ there are errors such as rounding issues, browsers will round an ‘em’ of 1.2 to 2.0 and thus the outcome will result in much larger than intended text, also with ‘em’ and percentage specification there is that constant issue of not knowing the users default browser size. A method suggested by (Jennifer Robbins 2007) is “ to make the text slightly smaller globally (using the body element) with a percentage value, then size all the elements up as appropriate using em measurements.” One other key issue worth investigating is the fact that each browser has its own standard default settings for many attributes such as line height, paragraph spacing, default borders and many more, reset codes exist for this which automatically place all the attributes to zero when placed inside the CSS. It may be argued weather there is a need for this reset code when trying to achieve accurate text legibility and consistency.