Based on statistics compiled each month, there’s no denying that a lot of people make use of the Houston Herald’s website.

But even though thousands upon thousands of folks regularly log on and do enough clicking that monthly totals typically reflect more than a quarter-million page views, I know by hearing first-hand that the site offers features and options that are being missed out on. Based on an entirely unscientific educated guess, I think that’s because some users haven’t taken the time to explore how to use them or simply aren’t aware of their existence. But none are difficult to take advantage of; it’s just a matter of knowing how and doing it.

Surely, the home page has a familiar look to each and every member of the throng who visit the Herald website. But this is also where the mystery sets in – some users lack full understanding of all the places they can go from there and exactly how to do the going (again, I know because I’ve heard it said).

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

With that in mind, here are a few basic (but really cool) doors that can be opened from the home page.

Right under the big Houston Herald logo, there’s a horizontally arranged list of other pages that can be accessed, and sub-pages each one leads to.

Mouse over “news,” for example, and a drop-down list shows up that allows a person to check out several other cyber locations. Also by way of the list, you can keep track of who died, who was born and who was married under “records,” find out how local sports teams fared under “sports,” and even post your own stuff under “your stories” and “submit.”

Yep, you can post your own news and photos on the Houston Herald website. You can share your nephew’s success after he hits his first little league home run.

Or make sure your aunt gets her due for winning the blue-ribbon in the savory jelly category at the Goshen County Fair in Wyoming, or just post a photo of yourself in the middle of one of those big crowds at a family reunion in south Georgia.

Considering the fact that the last user-submitted story was posted in March, and that only two photos were posted in April and none in May, there’s probably not a great deal of awareness that this option exists. I feel like a lot more submitting could be happening, and I’d actually like to see it happening.

One reason for that is I believe there’s a misconception that we know about every newsworthy moment or situation in Texas County and our gigantic staff always has someone available to get the story and the pictures. Actually, we’re often at the end of the grapevine and are the last to hear about things, and you can count how many people we have available at a given moment on a hand that’s missing multiple fingers.

Silly analogies not withstanding, a little more submitting would be great on several levels.

Then there’s the “multimedia” option, where you can look at photo galleries and video clips of events and incidents, and even purchase photos. This option has many fans, because some galleries amass “view” totals numbering north of 5,000. But I know even more views are possible, because over the years I’ve directed more than one person to a gallery who didn’t know it was there.

And for folks who have enough spare time that they can squander some of it viewing previous versions of this column, they’re all posted on the “blog” page that can be found under the “news” header. Just think: Hundreds of chances to read mindless hooey penned by a small-time media nincompoop. How cool is that?

What I think is one of the neatest features (and perhaps the best-kept secret on the website, even thought it’s in plain sight) is the “advanced search” window on the home page, located just to the right of the previously mentioned horizontal list (under the current temperature). By plugging in the name of a person, place or thing, stories dating back years will pop up in which they or it was mentioned. It’s really quite amazing; it’s like a time travel portal.

I sometimes hear people say, “I wish I could see the so-and-so story because I missed it,” or “I’d love to send my cousin’s friend’s neighbor in Walla Walla a link to the such-and-such story, because I forgot to do so when it was current.” “Advanced search” could well be the answer.

Anyway, most users of www.houstonherald.com are probably tech-savvy enough to have already known most of what I’ve pointed out here. But like me, there are others who are somewhat digitally-challenged, and this little set of tidbits might just open up a few new windows of opportunity.

And this represents only a percentage of what’s possible – there’s way more to discover. Enjoy.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

 

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