A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Research review: Metropolitan Websites as Urban Communications

If you needed information about your city, it makes sense to head over to the metropolitan website to begin figuring out what's what. A research study by Cleveland State's Leo Jeffres and UConn's Carolyn Lin appears in Indiana University's Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. The study examines how the websites of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US represented their cities and how well their websites communicated with the public, both residents and visitors, through their sites. The researchers found that while some websites offer quite a lot of useful information, they still have a ways to go to be perfectly useful, especially since the Internet is recognized as a superior platform for democraticizing society and fostering community. 

Jeffres and Lin are, in their investigation, asking a larger question, of whether or not the internet can (and has so  far) help(ed) build and support community and engagement in civic life for a variety of stakeholders, not limited to current and prospective residents, business owners and tourists. In this study, they directly ask whether or not the sample of 50 major metropolitan websites offer the kind of diverse information/content one would consider of great importance to the abovementioned stakeholders. (more…)

Network News Site: The Good News and Bad News

Our recent discussions about the national and international newspaper industry got me thinking: I wonder how network news sites measure up? Are the sites of some of the United States’ most popular news networks better or worse than those of their print competitors?


Some Things I Learned About Our Blog (and Blogs in General) from Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is a pretty cool tool that allows you to see visually how people are using your website (what page elements they are clickign one). Read a full review of Crazy Egg on Techcrunch here.

Seeing as how we build websites for a living, we implemented it on our blog homepage as a way of giving it a test drive. Here’s what we learned:

(1) No one cares about our sidebar. Like a lot of bloggers, we like to screw around with WordPress plugins and widgets. We should probably stop since it appears no one uses them. Out of around 500 visitors during the test period:

  • 1 clicked on a Most Popular post
  • 1 clicked on a single month in our archive
  • 1 clicked on one of the sites listed on our blogroll (congrats Media Shift)
  • 0 clicked on our tag cloud deal

People did use our search and our RSS feed attracted some clicks. But I think we need to realize that the sidebar toys are for the blogger and not the readers. Or it could be that our plugins are just lame. One of those.

I’d be interested if other bloggers have plugins/widgets that actually attract clicks.

(2) People read the comments. Five of the nine most clicked on links on our homepage were to comments on our posts. For folks trying to make money on their blog or website, the lesson here is that allowing (and attracting) comments increases page views.

(3) We should take the Home link off our blog homepage. Sort of stupid to have that link there to begin with since people are already on the homepage and all. Eight people clicked on it, probably expecting something other than for the page they are on to reload. I suspect they were looking for our company homepage and weren’t clear on how to get there. We’ll have to play with this.

If you are interested in this kind of stuff and have a website, give Crazy Egg a try.

Baby Name Voyager: Nifty Graphing App

If you have a thing for cool graphs and trivial information, you might want to check out IVillage's Baby Name Voyager.  This Java-enhanced graph displays alphabetically the 1,000 most popular names for Americans since the 1880s.  Any name that ever made into the top 1,000 is on this list, and you can see in what year the name was most popular, as well as each name's highest rank.  

Take a look at this screenshot.


Each "stripe" on the graph represents one name.  The thickness of the stripe indicates the name's popularity, and the color of the stripe indicates not only whether the name is for boys or girls, but also the name's popularity in 2005. As you scroll over each stripe on the graph, all the corresponding name is highlighted with a text box showing the name's popularity in a certain decade. (more…)

MyNoteIT: Useful Tool for Students?

In the swarm of new social networking/personal database websites popping up everywhere, here's a new application that I'm surprised didn't pop up earlier.  MyNoteIT is an online app specifically designed for students.  And, unlike Facebook, it is geared toward academics, not toward social networking.

The functionality of the application is well developed.  MyNoteIT allows students to input a wide variety of mynoteit.gifinformation into their account, including class schedules, grades, due dates, contact information for classmates and teachers, as well as typed notes.

Through this database, students can search their own notes and the notes of others by keywords and by course so that they can easily find specific information they are looking for.  In addition, by having "friends" listed on their accounts, students can read and comment on other people's notes.  You can also email notes to others directly from the database.  And, in case your computer is prone to crashing, there is an autosave feature that saves your work every 10 seconds, so it's basically impossible to lose work. (more…)