Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228). Discuss:
When it comes to making money, it’s always easier to stick to what you know. Take John Howard for example, a perfectly established politician and Prime Minister in his own right…but get him on the cricket pitch(jagobbin 2008) and err… it kind of goes downhill from there.
In the same way, the internet and new media tend to function on the assumption that change is bad. Advertising, reporting, even video content are all established visual metaphors from old media sources. What’s more is that they are effective visual metaphors, so business boffins can take a low risk when transferring their associated strategies onto the internet because their success is already well established.
Now, it’s possible to argue that these are intuitive features of the media and so no matter the format it is likely that media will continue to function through the same features for years to come. Certainly if one takes into consideration the landscape of the internet before web2.0 and the prevalence of clunky, aesthetically-vomit-inducing site layouts (due to data limitations) this can be argued. However, it does not seem to be the imperative rule throughout the online realm.
When analyzing a website like tuckermax.com (tuckermax 2011), the prevalence of old media visual metaphors (which also manifest themselves in old media economic revenue methods) is obvious. Merchandise, advertising, pictures, video and text create an experience almost like that found in any magazine. While this is obviously a lucrative example, it pales in comparison to something like…oh I don’t know, say… google.com (Google 2011)?
When you access goggle, do old media visual metaphors establish themselves? The answer is no. Informative text, videos are traditional advertisements are not initially obvious… Google operates through a medium which is not prevalent in old media.
Obviously, through the setup of Google, an intuitive experience is created however without the assistance of established media designs. Through targeted advertising and mining of user data, Google is able to turn profit to the tune of approximately 6.67 billion(Alexei Oreskovic 2010) U.S dollars, albeit a lot of that coming from revenues other than its website. Regardless, this revolutionary new media shows how it is possible to bring new ideas and concepts to visual metaphors and ultimately become far more successful than your average webpage still relying on established principles.
Okay, perhaps it’s not fair to compare an entertainment site like tuckermax and a power-hungry company like Google. I mean, their audiences may intertwine but ultimately their purpose is much different, so one may expect visual metaphors to differ across the two sites. Furthermore, in reality Google still operates on principles of the old media (text based communications, limited advertising… a big flashy logo) but it more transcends the limitations that occurred in the past, servicing a vastly improved system to the consumer instead. I guess this does not mean that it has created a brand new set of visual metaphors, only that the metaphors it brings to the table are highly specialized to suit the online medium.
Either way, I think it is fair to say that moving into the future more web interactions will follow the example of Google and use the new medium to create more productive visual designs and hence maximize potential economic gain, rather than rely on the media metaphors of old.
– Alexei Oreskovic 2010, Reuters, San Francisco viewed 2 June 2011, <http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/22/us-google-idUSTRE60K33U20100122>
– Google Web 2011, Google, California viewed 2 June 2011, <http://www.google.com>
– jagobbin 2008, Youtube, California viewed 2 June 2011, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o8by05rtMY>
– tuckermax 2011, WordPress, Austin viewed 2 June 2011, <http://www.tuckermax.com>