Teaching Examples

A model Flash slideshow (profile)
June 16, 2006, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Washington Post is running a series about American black men, and within the well-integrated online package, I found an almost-perfect slideshow about Eric Motley, who works in the State Department. It’s a profile of a man who came up from Alabama and now lives in Georgetown, collects antiques, and calls his grandma three times a week. It succeeds well at giving us a feeling for his personality (although not his personal life today — but then, he’s not obligated to give up his privacy).

Design by Nelson Hsu. Photos by Jahi Chikwendiu. Audio: Not credited.

A couple of things right up front: The photo editing is excellent. There are 36 shots for 3 minutes 47 seconds of audio (roughly 6 seconds per photo), so it never drags. You’re not staring at the picture wondering if it’s never going to change.

The content and pacing of the audio are first-rate. Mostly it’s Motley speaking, with a few bites from people who know him (including his grandmother, who appears in one picture too). I really love this way of hearing a story, from the people in it, without any voiceover or intrusions from a narrator. The only flaw is that the volume is a bit uneven and could have used a few technical tweaks. That’s quite minor.

You have the option to switch out of the audio-driven slideshow at any time and see the caption for the photo onscreen. Once you’re in this manual viewing mode, you can go forward or back, always with full captions. If you return to the slideshow mode, unfortunately you will need to start over again at the beginning. The captions are excellent, very informative and rich.

While in slideshow mode, you can pause at any time (too bad we can’t switch the caption on and off while it’s paused). This controller shows total time and also time elapsed — nice!

To switch from automated slideshow to manual (self-paced) control, click this text at the bottom right corner.

One more plus for the design: The photos are nice and big! The pictures center automatically, and they have been cropped to a variety of widths, but the height is the same for all of them. This provides a sense of solidity that works very well. Anchoring the photos between two very thin lines (top and bottom) that never move and stay at a fixed width also works great. Some slideshows seem rather slippery to me, with things changing postion too much. None of that here.

Overall, I recommend this slideshow as a truly outstanding example of a strong personality profile with excellent online design.

UPDATE 1: Credits have been added to the package (lower right corner). Nancy Donaldson did the audio.

UPDATE 2 (June 27): I realized that it’s now very difficult to FIND this slideshow within the growing package that contains it. Under “Photo Galleries,” its title is “Outrunning Labels.” Here’s a roadmap:

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