Multimedia is not really that new of a concept. Silent movies are an example that incorporated video, sound, and text to convey meaning. Educational filmstrips from the ′60s and ′70s also used similar elements, with accompanying cassette tapes for the classroom environment.
The principles of multimedia can be applied wherever information is being conveyed to make the presentation more interesting or easier to understand. While effective presentation can augment the way information is absorbed, don't think that it can ever replace relevant and topical information. A multimedia presentation, including one on a Web page, can incorporate any of the following elements:
In designing an online presentation, you must decide which of the above factors will help you to convey your information in the most effective fashion. Be careful, however, not to use elements just because they're available. Your online presentation doesn't have to have sound, for example, unless it's integral to your goals. As an example, you could publish the lyrics to a song you wrote, and then include the melody in a sound file that the visitor can play. Be careful, however, to give the user a choice and not start things like sound or video files automatically. It's best to leave it as an option. Some users don't have the best computers, and things like sound files playing in the background can take up a lot of resources and are distracting. (In fact, some people will skip viewing a page altogether if it doesn't offer the option of turning off the background sound.)
Remember — all the fancy and flashy presentation in the world won't help your cause if you're not also presenting relevant information along with the glitz.
In most cases, your emphasis will be on the information that you're presenting, not on the way you present it. A scrolling marquee may seem like a wonderful idea to you, but visitors may not want to sit through the whole thing. Others may be upset that they can't scroll back and forth in the marquee to read what they may have missed. Never use a presentation format just because you think it's cool.
What things should I take into consideration when exploring multimedia formats?
When incorporating elements, take into consideration the technological challenges your readers may face. For example, if you use special technology like Macromedia Flash Player, not all visitors may have it installed. If you use such special technology, make sure it isn't the only source of the information you're trying to present. Also offer the option of viewing your Web page as a standard HTML file.
Start with the information you want to present, and then ask yourself how it can best be conveyed to the visitor. If it's text, then use writing. If it's sound, then use sound files. If only a video will do, then use that. Remember that all of these technologies require a certain degree of expertise. If you plan to incorporate elements and you don't know how to create the files, give yourself ample time to figure out how to do it before your project must be completed — or subcontract such work to someone else, if necessary.