I am troubled by the absence of social media integration on Skeptoid. While there are Facebook toolbars on the home page, there’s no twitter, instagram or imgur tabs. While there is a community present on the forums that follows each posting, there is no instant way to connect to the site. There’s also few ways for users to submit content beyond forum posting and mail-bag podcasts. If these weaknesses were remedied, I am certtain that the site would reach a broader audience and have more repeat users.
Category Archives: Website Analysis
Alexa.com summarizes Skeptoid as a site that “provides a weekly podcast dedicated to furthering knowledge by eliminating the widespread pseudosciences that infect popular culture”. Skeptoid.com is ranked #130,586 in the world, according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings. The site is in the “Critical Thinking” category of websites. Visitors to it spend about two minutes per visit to the site and two minutes per pageview. While about 54% of the site’s visitors are in the US, where it is ranked the number 47,039th site (in terms of page views). The site is also popular in Lithuania, where it is ranked 9,259. 76% of visits to the site consist of only one pageview.
Quantcast.com has the demographic breakdown of the site. It has a greater male audience than female.The site also skews to an older audience, from 35-44. More people without children use the site than people with children. The average site user is more likely to make $100-150k annually than not. The site has more Hispanic and Other ethinicity users than Caucasin, African American or Asian. The site reached its peak in January of 2012. The site’s readership is on an upward trend as of March 2013.
Navigation is something that Skeptoid could improve upon. Though the site is fairly intuitive, more attention could be given to how information is presented. The index page of the site has three broad columns of information after the site’s main banner and drop-down menus. The central column has most of the relevant information for a first time user. It tells them who Brian Dunning is, what Skeptoid’s mission is, and its accomplishments. However, having all that information presented in the dead center of the page can be intimidating to the first time user. The walls of text add to that type of structure. The argument could be made that Skeptoid is a niche site and should thus not have to worry about having an visually appealing layout. However, making the site more dynamic could increase the amount of repeat traffic, instead of a new user being linked to the site and being lost in the cascade of information on the front page. Overall, I would recommend that Dunning get a graphic designer to help him make his site more accessible.
That being said, navigation is consistent throughout the site, and the main navigation features are at the top of each webpage. I would recommend that Dunning move the “Most Popular” sidebar to the top banner with the rest of the navigation. A new user should be able to be impulsive and click on podcasts and articles that are representative of the site. The “Most Popular” podcasts and the newest ones should be illuminated more, to show that the site isn’t just text. On the other hand, all major forms of content are just one click from the main page. The “About Us”, contact, and correction pages are the first links on the top banner. The home page’s dominant headline and pictures are first an introduction to the site and Dunning. They are followed by the most recent podcasts and articles, which do have some related pictures, such as a picture of Nikola Tesla next to the podcast about him.
Skeptoid leverages social media tools effectively without making them the focus of its content. The front page of the site has icon links along its top banner for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and the site’s own RSS feed. By positioning links this way, users have an immediate outlet to extend thier usage of Skeptoid as soon as they read the title of the page. The right toolbar of the index page gives users the opportunity to link Skeptoid to thier Facebook immediately and shows users how many people “Like” Skeptoid, 8,841 so far. Looking now to Skeptoid’s most recent episode, John Titor, Time Traveler, there’s a pplace for users to recommend the story both at the introduction and conclusion of the article. Brian Dunning also includes his Twitter handle, @BrianDunning, in addition to his signature at the end of the essay. Also at the end of the essay is a Google Plus widget, showing how many times the article has been referenced there. While social media outlets are present, they are presented in a tasteful and unobtrusive manner. The widgets are small icons and conform to the style of the site.
Skeptoid.com is a podcast site. That’s what it does. Audio and podcasts are integrated to every article published on Skeptoid. I’ve already analysed the usage of podcasts and illustations in Analysis 2, so I’ll describe the usage of additional interactive elements. At the bottom of every entry, there’s space for anyone to comment on the podcast. Basic call-and-response stuff between the commenters. There’s also a separate Skeptoid Forum where users can discuss anything even tacitly related to the podcasts. Aside from that, there is little interactivity aside from the reader feedback podcasts.
Skeptoid.com doesn’t update everyday. The focus of the site is to be a counter against psudeoscience. But if there was a huge trend in psudeoscience, like cleansing diets or anti-immunization, then Skeptoid would address it. But unlike most news websites, Skeptoid does not present an open forum where anyone can register and give thier opinions. Users are welcome to comment on each entry, and there are user-feedback podcasts, but Skeptoid is first and formost an audio essay site. Dunning, the host, selects the topics he wants to cover on a weekly basis and that’s it. Being in a niche broadcasting format certainly aids Dunning; he doesn’t have to update constantly and can run the site with a small number of staff. But there is something to be said of the missed oppurtunities that Dunning could take advantage of to broaden his audience. He could tailor his podcasts to be related to current events, such as publishing his dissection of the Bermuda Triangle near Spring Break or when Carnival Cruise Lines had a crisis aboard thier ship. I think he chooses not to do so to remain objective and not seem exploitative.
Skeptoid.com‘s use of web, text, and audio media reflects the straightforwardness of it’s content. Examining the website layout, the first thing a user sees is a drop-down toolbar that borders the site title and social media highlights.The toolbar has six sections that drop-down for additional topics under each sub-heading when the user mouses over. There’s even a search bar to the far right of the menu, useful if a user is looking for information on a single topic. To the left of the front page is a sidebar that includes biographical information about Brian Dunning, the site’s creator and host. Further down, the toolbar has a list of recent episodes, then a list of the most frequently listened episodes, then finally a list of recent user comments. On the right, there’s a Facebook “Like” widget, and below that is additional advertisement for some of Dunning’s other projects. As for the actuall text of the page, there’s an introduction paragraph that the About page elaborates on. And after that is a listing of the most recent Skeptoid episodes with short descriptions attached.
Turning now towards the actual enties, I’ll be examining the most popular podcast episode according to the site listing. That would be the episode “8 Spooky Places and Why They’re Like That”. Ever efficient, Dunning transcibes all of his audio, which becomes the text for each entry page. The text is split into medium-sized punchy paragraphs. There aren’t many pictures of the phenomenon being discussed on each entry. Images and graphics are something that Dunning neglects, and I feel that adding a few would improve his text from being an exact transcript of the audio. Obviously, the podcasts are the main feature of the site, but it would do the site better to distinguish the text more. At the end of the text portion, Dunning lists his sources and there’s a place for user comments.
The podcasts are around 10-minutes each and consist of Dunning reading his essays on each topic. The audio itself is always clean and Dunning’s narration has gravitas to it. The only really unusual thing about the podcasts is the addition of natural sound in the backround to set a particular scene or to show the age of a quoted text. But overall, the podcasts are as pragmatic as Dunning’s approach to critical thinking.