11 easy-to-use tools for creating great web content

At a presentation I gave today for the staff of The University Daily Kansan, a student asked what I thought was the the most important tool was for creating stories for the web.

My answer was simple: a smartphone.

When you start looking at your smartphone as a multimedia storytelling tool, a world of possibilities opens, helping you think beyond text-only stories.

Start by knowing how to use your camera to take still photos and videos in a wide range of settings (from dimly lit rooms to bright sunshine outside). Know how to record audio. And know how to transfer that material quickly to the web so others can find it.

Once you have the basics down, find a handful of go-to apps that allow you to add creative elements to your stories or that help you combine those elements in compelling and interactive ways. Even something as simple as a .gif (see below) can add an eye-catching element to an ordinary photo.

flickering Christmas light at Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

Union Station, Kansas City, Mo.

Great new tools are being created all the time. Don’t be afraid to experiment and fail. That will help you find the tools that work best for you. Here are 11 I mentioned at my presentation today.

audioBoom. A great app for creating short audio clips and sharing them quickly online.

oTranscribe. A free desktop tool for helping you transcribe audio. It allows you to upload audio, giving you controls at the top of the screen and an area below for transcribing.

Photosynth. A site and a free app. Allows you to easily create interactive panoramic images. I created one last summer as work was being done on the KU campus to turn old tennis courts into the site for a new business school.

Storify. A free app and website, Storify allows you to easily combine many forms of social media, add your own text and create a shareable story.

Haiku Deck. A free app that calls itself a presentation tool, but it’s a great way to combine words and images in an embeddable slideshow.

Storehouse. A free app that allows you to easily combine photos, video and text into a dynamic multimedia story.

Explain Everything. I use this frequently on my iPad to create videos for class. It has great potential as an explanatory tool for journalists by capturing voiceover and handwriting at the same time. Works over images, PowerPoint, websites. It’s also available for Android.

Skitch. A free tool from Evernote that allows you to draw over an image, and then save and share your annotated image.

Wordle. An easy tool for creating word clouds. I recommend it for visualizing speeches.

Dipity. A tool that allows you to combine text, photos and video on an interactive timeline.

ThingLink. Allows you to upload an image and embed dots that expand into multimedia content as you roll over them. Combine it with Wordle to create an interactive story of a speech.


About dbward

Doug Ward is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas.
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One Response to 11 easy-to-use tools for creating great web content

  1. Thomas K says:

    Hey Dbward,

    Thanks, very helpful article!