So let me start by saying that I’m a sucker for long-form text. The condo my wife and I share in Ballston is overrun with books. My office is filled with the pieces of my collections of philosophy books that I couldn’t bear to give up when I left academia. I never go anywhere without my Kindle. I mean, hell, you’re reading this on a blog, fercryinoutloud. Scroll back a few entries and you’ll see that I’m clearly a fan on long (so very long) pieces of prose. I have been an academic (where I wrote long articles), a journalist (where I wrote long-ish articles), and now work at an agency full of academics (who like to write long studies).
But I’m also a web guy. And part of my job as a web guy is to recognize that long-form text is really not the future of the web. I see this at my own site, where our average time-on-site generally hovers around 3 minutes.
So how does someone whose own background is in producing lots of text help an agency whose processes revolve around producing lots of text stay relevant in the web world? How does our three-person web team retcon a 100+ page PDF file into something suitably byte-sized? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
It’s a process.More than one person has asked me why the solution to optimizing for mobile devices isn’t just to produce a 3-inch PDF shaped like a BlackBerry screen.
Still, there’s reason to be really excited. We’ve introduced some very simple interactive charts, and we produced our first ever infographic recently. Analysts are starting to ask for help in producing charts that aren’t of the single-line or bar-per-year variety. We’re looking hard at some of our print products that are either short already or that contain a bunch of discrete pieces. Crazy ideas like jQuery and Ajax are getting tossed around. In some ways, we’re actually a little lucky: by getting into the game a little late, we can skip Flash and move straight to HTML 5 and CSS 3.
It’s a fun time to be working on the web. You’ll forgive me, though, if I slip away every once in a while to write a blog post or tweak an essay. I do enjoy some prose.