Happy New Year!

Another year over and new one has begun. Christmas been and gone, yet the crazy shoppers are still around with the famous January sales. Which I’ve decided to opt out for, for obvious reasons.
Now I really should set some new years resolutions although I always know that I never stick to them, it will always be the usual go to the gym more, stop eating rubbish food or start a new hobbie, although every year is a fail.
Now with exams coming up it could be a tricky month but I will be sure to celebrate when it is all over and for whoever does not have exams I envy you all very much!
But with this year already starting in The Alps I could see that it will be a good year, so a Happy New Year from me to you and good luck to all those with resolutions!

The Alps

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Boscombe Creates Waves of Excitement…

Walking around Boscombe, it is fair to say that the most attractive part of the town is the seaside. That’s why the council have decided to spend an extravagant £8 million to renovate Boscombe into a town that defines Bournemouth. Hoping to change the dull colours of the streets to bright happy ones, along with an artificial reef to put Boscombe on the surfing map.

Boscombe’s Surf Reef has been around for over a year now and with a huge three million pound being spent on it, you would have thought it would have been money well spent. However, surrounding the reef lay issues, disagreements and debates amongst the public, the contractors but most importantly the council Councillor, Roger West and ASR’s Adam Daigan provide contrasting statements on how they believe the reef should be dealt with. Recently vast decisions have been made as to whether ASR, the contractors, should come back and improve the reef.

Speculation for the reef started as early on as in 1999, where the expected to cost of the reef was £500,000. Little did the councillors know that 10 years later on the 4th November 2009 the reef would have its grand opening day, costing a staggering £3 million. The ups and downs the planning of the reef experienced over those 10 years were very stressful for the council and for the people of Boscombe. Peoples homes were being jeopardised for the sake of the reef to be able to gain funding and councillors were backing out of the project, making the journey of creating the reef very bumpy and not as smooth as it should have been.

The people of Boscombe were then the people who wanted the reef most as they believed it would increase the status of Boscombe and improve the tourism for the area.

An increase in costing of the reef was due to delays of the construction of the reef as it was set to launch in 2008. With the council spending another £10,000 to fly to New Zealand to visit ASR, which then created more of an upheaval. Controversies aside, the reefs construction commenced in July 2008, taking nearly a year to complete it was then up (or down) and ready to roll.

Currently, waves of discussions have arisen, consisting of whether the reef needs reconstruction and improvement. Roger West, Bournemouth Council, projects a negative insight suggesting the whole project has been “badly managed” and an “awful job” has been done.  Begging the question; why should he think this?

It is down to four main reasons: money, safety, the quality and the worthiness of the reef. Reasons, that cause conflict within the community and between contractors and the council.

Demand for improvement has become more of a necessity, with certain safety issues requiring serious attention. Adam Daigan however expresses that “there is some inherent risk in surfing as a sport” thus, the danger of the reef is minimal as the sport is hazardous irrespectively of this. He goes on to say yes, there are gaps in the reef that can cause harm but these are minor compared to the naturally occurring reefs. Does this mean that it is okay to have the reef there? Shouldn’t there be extra safety precautions considering that this reef was put there on purpose? Roger West argues that “it is not safe, people can catch their foot and maybe never get it out.” With harsh statements like that, surfers could be discouraged from coming to the reef; certainly not what was intended!

Birds Eye View of The Reef

The threat of safety has led to questioning whether ASR should come back and improve the reef. Debate surrounding the report presented by the council, stating that they will not pay the company until they come from New Zealand to improve what has been asked. ASR however insists on receiving the money before they are willing to return.

Another issue in fierce debate involves whether the quality of the reef is acceptable, or does this also need improving? Again, this could be argued both ways. The ever-changing waves caused by the reef have insert much confusion amongst people. Sometimes they can produce enormous waves that only the professionals can tackle; yet other days the sea is calmer than the sand. With this, Mr West believes that the company has been “incompetent” in the way ASR have designed and gone about construction. Mr West also portrayed that, if the reef is man-made it should live up to expectations, and fulfill potential, providing a quality that the users of Boscombe beach never experienced before. Although is this fair to say? Because no one can control the natural seawater. Daigan conveyed, “I do not believe that Boscombe reef needs to be improved” as he thinks the people who use the reef have been happy about the way it has produced boisterous waves.

Daring body boarder Matthew Trollen, claimed that the waves were “perfect” for him who has been doing the extreme sport for six years. With a response like this, why is there need for improvement? £150,000 has been kept a shore to ‘perk up’ the reef, is still being thrown around as to whether they should get ASR, who would be “happy to help” advance the reef.

Money used on this project has produced major discussions as it has gone £1.8 million over budget. Shocking to everyone including the council, they deemed this okay, as it is part of an £8 million revamp on Boscombe itself. West is quick to say the whole project has been “overpriced” and to give away another £150,000 is “pointless”. However, the original plan of waiting until ASR return to give them the money, has now is quickly capsizing as the council are ignoring the official report and are becoming more willing to give the money up front.

West believes the “original contract was poorly put together by the council and the contractors.” The mishaps exemplified it is hard living on different sides of the world when organising a big project like this with West stating “no communication” was involved in the plans.

Boscombe’s long awaited Surf Reef had been a long time coming and now it’s here, it has suffered from criticism, yet been greatly praised for what is has achieved. Boscombe’s reef is going to take time to reach its peak and adopt the popularity it hoped to originally achieve. With more and more surf festivals being held in Boscombe, the reef can attract further surfers and body boarders to come and experience the waves for themselves. Hopefully after the trauma and disasters the reef has encountered, it can revive Boscombe as the place to be in the surf community.

Boscombe Beach

Below is a short video on how the surf reef has now renovated Boscombe.

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Website Comparative Analysis

Part of a unit (Web Communications) I am currently studying at University I had to complete a website comparative analysis essay, I decided to choose two magazines to compare and look at the different features in which they differ. Looking at women’s magazine, Look’s website and men’s magazine, Men’s Health website below, provides a more in-depth analysis…

The internet in present times has impacted our lives hugely, especially for journalism as this was originally all on paper. However, most aspects of journalism can now be accessed online, such as magazines. Although it may not give the audience its full content it can provide a substantial amount of information that the paper version offers too. Looking at Look magazine’s website (www.look.co.uk) and Men’s Health magazine’s website (www.menshealth.co.uk) it became apparent the differences they had between each other.  Look magazine’s website has the target audience for women already differentiating from the Men’s Health website which is targeted at men. Look magazine is based on fashion, beauty and shopping, and the website has coverage of all these aspects. The target audience would be women aged late teens to early thirties with interests in fashion, beauty and shopping. Whereas Men’s Health is directed at men from the age of early twenties to mid forties, showing already a broader scale of men involved. They also have the interest of health, fitness, sport and style, which is generally what the website offers. McCracken and Wolfe (2004, pg 44) believe that the “purpose of a website is to help people do things”, which hopefully both these websites should fulfil.

To find Look magazine’s website, it seemed easy enough to use a search engine, however this also helped determine the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of the website. When using Google (www.google.co.uk) Look appeared in the first four listings of the results all which were relevant to the website. The first result taking the user straight to the homepage, proving that the website has already got good expectations, for it to be one of the first results to appear on a search engine. Yet, when using  Yahoo(www.yahoo.co.uk) as a search engine it only showed one listing that was appropriate, although it was the first one and did lead straight to the home page.  A sponsored result was also shown, advertising a subscription to Look’s magazine, which means Look has used Yahoo to their full advantage to then advertise. On the other hand, Men’s Health magazine’s website seemed like it has a decrease in popularity compared to Look. The SEO for Google and Yahoo for Men’s Health were like Look, the first website; however there was also an American version of the website that could confuse the user as the only thing showing the difference was “.com” or “.co.uk”. This could seem that Look’s magazine could appear to be a well recognised website resulting with more links.

The layout of Look magazine’s home page is very structured and organised making it easier for the audience to read the website and know where everything is. Like the magazine the website contained a lot of pictures being more descriptive through images rather than text as the images take up most of the space on the website. However, this seems appropriate because for subjects like fashion images are always better to look at. The navigation bar was easily accessible making the usability easier for the user. However, there were no drop-down menus or sub-categories to give the user more options, which could restrict the user as to what they are viewing and make them feel like they are limited. Yet, the website has a lot to offer because there are hyperlinks within their articles, although not all of them worked showing a failure in the website and leading to disappointment for the user as they cannot access what they want. Even, Rosenfeld (1998, pg 43) warns that if  the link is buried in the middle of a paragraph, it could get lost which means these hyperlinks may not necessarily be a good idea, however for Look they are placed in appropriate places. The colours used on the website are very neutral with a white background and black font, however this works as the logo is Pink and there is also lots of different colourful pictures on the website, which means the colours would not contradict each other and look better for the user.

On the other hand, Men’s Health magazine’s website seemed like it took a very different approach to Look’s. When accessing the website it seemed a lot different from Look’s as there was a lot of grey space used which seemed like it is just there to fill the page up and because it is grey it makes the page look boring and not appealing for the user. A good aspect of the website was a horizontal scroll bar being used to access different features within the website and pictures were used to illustrate the feature, so the user can have more of an idea as to what it is about and also have easy access to the feature. It seems like Men’s Health have decided to take a bolder approach to their website and make the user catch their eye on a feature rather than the layout of the website, this could have the connotation of men being over powering and wanting to be more dominant over the user.

Unlike Look’s website, Men’s Health have used sub categories within their menu bar, this is very useful for the reader as it gives more in-depth options for them to choose from and to increase the usability of these categories easily. In each page there is a “highlights” box taking the user to the “best bits” ,essentially this is an opportunity to show their website off and make the website worthwhile for the user, which Men’s Health does as each part seems relevant and appropriate as to what is going on at this present time. Men’s Health also utilise the information they display to benefit the user which means it is very useful and appealing to them. Which Robertson (2001, pg 59 cited in McCracken and Wolfe, 2004) says that the information on a website needs to be “useful and meaningful” for the website to be a success, which both Men’s Health and Look magazine both provide.

A slideshow of pictures is the first feature that most users would recognise on Look’s magazine and they have used this to incorporate their main stories so that the user can then access them from that slideshow making it trouble-free for them and more appealing. Multimedia is well used on this website as there is a separate page for both a video and pictures that the user can view. Byrd (2001, pg 191 cited in McCracken and Wolfe 2004) suggests that using videos is a good medium to use as people watch television on average four hours a day, and both websites offer this. It also makes the website more interactive and engaging for the user. The use of social network sites such as Facebook (www.facebook.com) and Twitter (www.twitter.com) have been used on the website to be able to keep in contact with the audience as they can then give their opinion on what Look has published. On the other hand, to officially contact Look magazine they haven’t made this the easiest feature to access as this is in very small font and featured at the very bottom of the site, which not everyone would be able to notice.

Unlike Look, Men’s Health’s website doesn’t include as much multimedia, it still has a page for videos but there are no galleries of photos. There are plenty used in and amongst features and this seems to be enough because there are so many there doesn’t need to be another page that is specified on pictures. Nielsen (1997) could see the use of pictures as a good feature to have as he says that “web users often scan a page”, so with pictures the user would know what they’re looking at and they don’t need to read any information. A downfall for the site is that there is no social network sites associated with the website making it seem that the communication with the user is limited because there is a forum where users can socialise between themselves, which is good, however Men’s Health could take it further and increase their audience by using social networking sites, like Look has done.

McCracken and Wolfe (2004, pg 37) believe that “the failings of many websites can be attributed to creators who assumed that their users had the same background and experiences that they did.” However, for these websites they are magazines with specific interests and therefore to fully understand the users they need to share the same interests to make the website work. Which both these websites do as they contain the correct information that fulfils the users needs. However, to conclude how effective these websites are and how good their usability is, proves to be more successful for Men’s Health in the terms that all links work, however they fail to use all space on their website to their advantage. Whereas, Look uses all the right spacing for their website to appeal to their user and keeps good interaction with the user, yet the failure can be that not all links always work, which then lets the site down. From this it demonstrates that even, big names within the journalism industry such as Look and Men’s Health still can not get an excellent website that is user friendly for their audiences.

References

IPC Media.  2008. Look Magazine. IPC Media. Available from: http://www.look.co.uk/ (Accessed on 28th November 2010)

Jenkins, H. 2006. Fans, Bloggers and Gamer. New York: New York University Press

Lester, P. 2003. Visual Communication Images  with Messages. 3rd ed. United States of America: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning

Newman, A. 2007. Men’s Health Magazine. Hearst Digital. Available from: http://www.menshealth.co.uk/ (Accessed on 28th November 2010)

Nielsen, J. 1997. Search and You May Find. Alertbox. Available from: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9707b.html (Accessed on 29th November 2010)

Nielsen. J. 1997. How Users Read On The Web. Alertbox. Available from: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html (Accessed on 29th November 2010)

McCraken, D and Wolfe, R. 2004. User-Centred Website Development. New Jersey: Pearson Education,Inc.

Rosenfeld, L. 1998. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. California: Sebastopol

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It’s Snow Joke…

Living in London, these are rare images that we see. Yet, its happened twice in a month, which seems a bit too common and causes the city to stop.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing it can wait (even if you don’t want to) because snow has fallen and has settled. Children will see the fun side to it, the adults will see the frustrating side to it. Kids will play in the snow. Adults will be in motorways that are gridlocked and they just want to be home for christmas.

Gridlock on the A1

Schools shut early this christmas and some students even slept in their school in Scotland as reported by Capital Bay With times like these people would love to be in a warm house by a warm fire and a cup of tea and it’s not all happy for everyone in UK.

People need to get to places, need to get home from University,need to get to work but most importantly people need to still buy present, because they have left it to the last minute like me. We only have ourselves to blame but with the snow it really doesn’t help. I personally would like the snow to hold out a few more days and snow Christmas Day when maybe I will appreciate it more. But for now I hope it has stopped for a while until my christmas shopping is done!

And so from me to you, Merry Christmas!

A Creation of Boredom

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Twitter and Its Craze

Twitter  is the new craze (well i say new, it is for me) from social networking. It has around a staggering 175 million users and has only been around for four years. Proving the impact it now has on peoples lives.

I am new to twitter and i have to say its not as easy to use as you would expect. Yet, thinking that celebrities use it, politicians use it and even high street fashion shops using it, I would think it would become an easy site to grasp and i’m still trying to find my way.

Rusbridger giving a talk

I just read a recent article by Alan Rusbridger that he wrote for the http://www.guardian.co.uk and he has pointed out 15 very interesting things as to why twitter is useful for organisations and i have to agree with him, he puts across a very strong argument.

So with reading this I want to start with a keen interest on twitter and build my contacts and communicate with people  I would never have thought I would have done.

You can communicate with me today and help me out, by following me here.

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New Queen?

A new addition is soon to be in the Royal family. Kate Middleton. It has recently been released that the young, Prince William will be marrying the beautiful Kate.

So what’s peoples thoughts?

Is she a threat to Camilla? It has been said that William could overthrow his father and become the next King. However, it has been said that he does not want to do this from inside source, claiming “he doesn’t feel ready”.

Kate has had her fair share of bad press, claiming to have not been welcomed by the queen, yet she’s passed the test and is now engaged to her prince charming.

Now we await the wedding photos.

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Remember Today with a Poppy

This is the iconic Poppy that should have been worn by all today represents the signing of the Armistice signed on 11th November 1918 ending the WW1.

Seen as my previous post would seem relevant to this day it seemed an appropriate thing to do to express the respect I have for anyone thats ever fought for this country, whether it be 100 years ago to the present day, each one of them can all call themselves a hero.

However, I have fallen across the article from the www.guardian.co.uk and although they glaze over the protestors that name themselves the “Muslims against Crusades” i couldn’t help but feel confused as to why people would want to be disrespectful on such an honourable day.

It may have only been around 30 people who took part, however thats still enough to get media attention and makes others aware of this. I don’t want to be wasting the blog writing about disrespect but instead to pay my own respects to the people who have lost their lives and to anyone who have been affected.

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