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Why Don’t Print Design Solutions Work Online?

Question: How has the New York Times website design evolved during your time at the paper?

Khoi Vinh: Well, when I came in, in 2006, they were in the middle of putting together a new redesign of the site and I helped them finish that off and get that launched.  And since that time, it's early 2010 now, for almost four years, we've been sort of relentlessly revising bits and pieces of the site, adding new functionality to it, manipulating her here and there to respond to different user needs, different business criteria and so forth.  So, I think the change has been significant though very incrementally paced.

Question: Why does the design of the Times’ online edition differ so radically from the print edition?

Khoi Vinh: Well the very fact that it's a different kind of medium altogether.  It's just like, occasionally you'll see a magazine, or these days, a website like TMZ translated to a television show and by its very nature, it has to be reimagined for the new medium.  It has to be designed or rethought in a way that is appropriate for the new medium.  And that's the case going between print and web, or print and any kind of digital medium. 

I think the thing about the Internet is that it has so many characteristics that can be easily construed to be similar or almost identical to print that it can be misleading.  You can think, well you just treat it the way you treat print.  You're dealing with pages, you're dealing with type, you're dealing with more or less static layout elements.  It turns out that's not really the case.  I think the key difference between the web and print medium is, on the web or any digital medium, you're dealing with this added element of behavior.  Things have a behavior online, whereas in print, there is a single canonical expression for them, but online everything responds to different criteria or has inherent states to it based on that criteria.  So, you have to design that in a different way.  It's a completely different dynamic even though it may look similar.

Question: What are some examples of how user behavior affects your thinking as a Web designer?

Khoi Vinh: Well, if you look at the front page of the printed edition, there is a very specific discrete set of stories that are applied there and you can more or less expect the print reader to absorb the stories that you have on that front page in the same kind of order and in more or less the same kind of fashion. 

On the web, you really have no idea how they're going to access the stories that you've designated the lead stories of the day.  They could come in through "search" they could come in through a blog; they could come in through a news reader.  They may never see the home page as we've designed it.  They may actually bypass it entirely and go directly to the article.  

So all of these things really play into how you think about the overall user experience in the design.  You have to design a story that might appear on the front page of the newspaper for the website.  You don't have to design it in such a way that it can be self contained, that it makes sense if you never hit the front page of it.  You know, our editors actually spend a pretty decent amount of effort retooling, rewriting headlines so that they make sense to somebody who comes in digitally because oftentimes headlines in print are meant to sit next to other headlines and sort of benefit from that context and we don't always have that.  

Our articles also, online, will change based on the platform, the technology that people are using to view them.  So, they may see things differently in one browser, or one operating system and very differently on another browser, or even on a different kind of device.  So, we have to think about the things we design to make sure that they apply appropriately to the very different states that they might be encountered in.

Question: For newspapers, is print design becoming obsolete?

Khoi Vinh: I wouldn't say it's obsolete.  I think you still, more than people give print credit for; people still turn to the print edition as the canonical expression of what The Times said that day.  It's the paper of record, and the record, for now any way, is what is official in print.  So, the work the designers put into crafting a really unique and powerful and I think a very effective presentation every day, I think is really important.  I think if you took away all the designers and automated the process tomorrow, the end result would be really, really dissatisfying and disturbing to a lot of people.  So, I think there's a lot of value that print designers have. 

Now, how long that kind of value that they create will be welcomed in the marketplace, I think that is very difficult to say.  I think the economic pressures are pretty serious.

Recorded on March 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin \r\nAllen


Print editions of newspapers remain "canonical." But anticipating, and accommodating, user behavior is the unique challenge of the Web.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

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Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
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  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.