Before attempting the activity, I thought the steps would be:
- Go to Roanoke.com
- Click a classifieds tab
- Fill out a simple form with my announcement text
- Click submit
- Went to Roanoke.com. Because I used to work for The Roanoke Times and am from the area, I was very familiar with the design of the Web site. As I've discussed before, the redesigned site offers much more than just the newspaper's headlines, which can be good and bad. Tabs take visitors to different sections if they just scroll their mouse over, which can be frustrating if you did not intend to look at a specific section. There are also many Webcasts which pop up and start playing on their own. Because I am so familiar with the site, I have no problem navigating past these obstacles, but I imagine they probably give first-time visitors, who are just looking to place announcements or obits, fits.
- Clicked Celebrations tab. Unlike most newspapers, The Roanoke Times calls its announcements "Celebrations" ... again, another twist for first-time visitors just hoping to place their announcement. At least the Celebrations link was in a navigation bar at the top of the homepage in a place where it is likely to be seen. The link preceeds the "Obituaries" and "Place an Ad" links at the top right corner.
- Selected date to place Celebration. The Celebrations page does not overwhelm visitors like the homepage tends to, sticking just to a square format. The first view you get is of a brief description of The Roanoke Times' celebration policies...such as the deadline by which you must have your announcement submitted in order to have it published. When reading the policies, I was reminded (I'm sure to the RT's dismay) of its old policy of not running announcements featuring black couples...a policy that lasted all the way until my childhood in the 1980s. At the top of the box featuring the Celebrations policies are tabs that show the viewer wedding, engagement, anniversary, birth and milestone announcements that had been placed in previous editions. At the bottom of the box is a drop-down menu with dates (Sundays) listed. After selecting a date, I click the "Next" button to its right.
- Select size of celebration, submit personal info. On the next page, sizes of advertisements you can select are shown along with their price and a button to select them. The sizes are clearly marked with the size the photograph should be along with the approximate word count of the announcement. After scrolling down, there is a form that requires information such as name, address, phone number and email address. At the bottom of the page is a note that all announcements must be paid for in advance and a button for how you wish to be contacted. I select that it is for a wedding and click "Next."
- Attach photo, fill out announcement form. At the top of this page is where visitors can click the "browse" button and attach their photo. After that is a long form, which requests the names of everyone in the bridal party along with their relationship to the bride/groom. There are also entries for education, work, outfits, etc. of the bride/groom. Finally, at the end of the form is an open entry where you can write your own announcement if you are not satisfied with the RT just using all the above info.
- Submit. After filling out the form, you can click submit or reset the form. After clicking submit, a new page comes up telling visitors that they will be contacted by a celebrations consultant within 24 hours on a business day. Here, visitors are finally given a contact phone number and an email address.
The Roanoke Times' process for submitting an announcement seems designed for internet-savvy people who do not want to talk to a consultant in person or on the phone. Personally, I'd much rather spend the half hour or so filling out forms online than chatting on the phone, but I feel the process probably does not work for most people who place announcements. I can just imagine the problems my mother or even older people would have trying to place an ad. I don't think attaching a photo is quite within their capacity. Infrequent visitors may also have a tough time finding the Celebrations page from the RT homepage, but at least once they get there, it clearly guides them through the process step by step. I think most older people aren't going to bother with filling out all the forms online anyway, which is why it is very important to have prominant contact info. It was not until the sixth step, after submitting all my info, that I learned of the Celebrations phone number and email address.