The Odyssey is a “social content platform” that uses social media to traffic interesting content with new perspectives to a more widespread audience. It is a platform that shares articles written by Millennials, for Millennials, using a writer-central approach to editing and publishing. It is designed to be more accessible in the age of technology by having device compatible platforms and relying on “sharing” methods to circulate content on other social media.
The Odyssey recently updated its homepage interface, but some of the changes that were made have actually made the website less user-friendly and more difficult to navigate. Using the WEDM as a guide, I will review the website and outline the strengths and weaknesses found in its current web interface.
The Odyssey presents itself as a platform for sharing thoughts and ideas of the Millennial generation, and the site does this well considering the kind of content it publishes: listicles, fun .gif-based blurbs, and “open letters” as well as political surveys and investigations into current events. The tone of the website is geared toward these Millennial readers, with an easy-to-read font, links to related content on the side of the browser, and all content is created by other Millennials which introduces a sympathetic voice to its readers on topics that they care about.
The packaging of content is mainly through “sharing” on social media, through Twitter and Facebook, meaning that readers come to the website via referrals from their friends. Also, the website has multiple viewing platforms (desktop, iPhone, Android, tablet, etc.) so as not to exclude any potential audience based on their type of device.
However, the homepage for The Odyssey is not very accessible to a user that wants to navigate the website. There is a search bar and a reel of pre-selected articles that rotate on a scroll at the bottom of the page, but otherwise the homepage is empty, with no visuals of any kind. There are no links to specific types of articles (Humor, 100 Words on, The Listicle, etc.) or campus chapters or Odyssey writers. In order to find anything specific on the homepage, you must use the search bar- this limits the accessibility of information and makes the process of finding what you want longer.
There is no consistency with the homepage and the rest of the website. The website is set up differently when you read an article than when you are on the front page. First, the articles normally have many photos or engaging graphics to prevent the reader losing interest in a block of text. Second, related links line the sides of the article to suggest more reading to the user. Third, at the bottom of the page there is a list of links to the categories of articles available on The Odyssey, something that is conspicuously absent on the homepage. Lastly, the articles allow comments and sharing on social media if the user desires, engaging the audience in the opposite way that the homepage alienates users.
Using social media to promote the website and its content is a good way of reaching the intended audience, Millennials, but The Odyssey’s lack of easy navigation within the website loses its audience’s interest once it becomes too difficult to find new content. If the site had better search optimization in-house, then users would be more likely to move from article to article to article instead of reading the article they were linked to on Facebook or Twitter and then clicking away.
The layout of article pages strikes a good balance between images and text to keep the reader interested, using parallel columns of texts and image links to organize information in a visually pleasing way. The tone and voice of the website is a work of collaboration among the numerous young writers across the U.S., and creates an honest, refreshing atmosphere that invites discussion and new ideas. With the system of editors for each chapter of Odyssey in place, the quality of the writing is consistently interesting and easy to read, but not “dumbed-down” or trivial.
As a whole, The Odyssey does very well in understanding its intended audience and incorporates very relate-able content with social media outlets. Its fatal flaw is its lack of easy and suggestive navigation to articles on different topics within the website.