The Ones That Got Away

USA Today did an interactive story about fugitives evading arrest by crossing state lines. You can see it here:

This site is visually effective in a lot of ways. The color scheme is simple: orange, grey, white and black. Orange has associations with prisoners, which contributes to the story instead of being arbitrary. The font is sans serif, which also helps it appear clean cut and simple despite large segments of text when you scroll through the story.

Scrolling, however, is just one way to navigate this huge story. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a button for “chapters”.


As you can imagine, this provides the viewer the option of skipping forward to a particular section that interests them or simply understanding where the story is headed. This feature remains on the screen as the viewer scrolls through the story. This is particularly useful because if a reader gets impatient or bored with the story they may decide to skip ahead to a different chapter rather than giving up on the story together. Obviously a lot of time and work went into doing all of this reporting so any feature that keeps people on the page longer is definitely a positive attribute.

The story includes large segments of text, videos, sidebars, graphics and links to further reporting on the subject. USA Today followed up with a Part 2, formatted the same way with multimedia elements but addressing different aspects of the same story. I think it would have been more effective to have included links to Part 2 in part of the scrolling feature that links to chapters. It is an extension of the same story so the navigation to get from Part 1 to Part 2 should be accessible, which means it should be clearly visible at all times.

This breakdown of not only parts 1 and 2 but also chapters in each part helps bring order to a compilation of smaller stories, graphics and multimedia elements that would otherwise feel disjointed at best. They help the reader make sense of the excess of information by dividing it into clearly understood sections. This break up is also useful because it allows the viewer to skip topics that they are not interested in and only access things they care about. It is difficult to keep viewers committed to reading long stories or even watching long videos so allowing them to choose the content they want to digest can help them stay more engaged with the story (and therefore spend more time on the page).

The introduction to this story makes the topic immediately clear. The opening of the story is a full screen photograph of a police officer holding handcuffs with a catchy headline and an informative subhead that makes you intrigued to read more. That’s just good story telling. This story obviously has a lot of public impact so stating a frightening fact about the more than 180,000 fugitives who escaped capture by crossing state lines definitely captures the viewer’s attention. The next thing one sees is the break up of content per section: this information is in one of many sidebars that help break up long chunks of text and make the story more visually interesting. It’s also important to have that early to help readers know what they are getting into as they read the story.

An element I think is a great addition to the story is the graphic that allows you to type in your state or county and find information about how common this issue is in a specific location. This is a compelling way to get viewers to care about the story and an easy way to make a national story appeal to a national audience despite being about state police.


One thought on “The Ones That Got Away

  1. I really liked this site! I definitely typed in my hometown of Dallas, Tx and looked at the statistics that it generated for me, this aspect definitely made the story hit close to home. One of the aspects that I thought was really compelling when first entering the site was the powerful color choice that they used. In addition, how they broke up the page and the navigation style definitely makes this semi-dense content much more digestable.


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