Add value to your blog with Apture


I detest pop-ups on websites, especially the ones that so obtrusively steal your mouse whenever you move it across a web page and unexpectedly pop up something in a window.

Ads are the worst although those pop-ups with either RSS text or a screenshot of another website or blog run a close second (I’m thinking of you, Snap).

Today, though, I’m experimenting with something on this blog that does produce pop-up windows, yet the implementation is so elegantly done that I think it adds significant value to the content here and thus to your visiting experience.

The service is Apture which I discovered being used as a test on the BBC News website.

What Apture does is add a new dimension to a blog or other website that provides you with a window to a richer content experience by unobtrusive linking in a snapshot view, as it were, to reference articles, video, audio, documents, maps or almost any other content elsewhere on the web.

Often, the snapshot view of something presented in a small window is all you need to see when you want to get a quick definition of something, or see some other content, all in a way that doesn’t distract you entirely from what you’re primarily reading or watching and doesn’t take you away from the site you’re currently on.

It’s a practical example of the semantic web in action.

apture-example Notice the little icons in front of a few (not all) of the hyperlinks in this post? If you either click on one of those links, or hover your mouse over one for more than a second, you’ll see what Apture does.

The screenshot here shows an example from another post on this blog where the link shows content from Wikipedia in a pop-up window.

You can try it yourself with links in this post that go to Wikipedia reference sources. Go ahead, give it a try!

What about other content? Well, here’s an example – a link to a PowerPoint presentation I’ve uploaded to Scribd.

Click the link and you’ll see the presentation in a small pop-up window.

And how about audio? Here’s an example: the last episode of the FIR podcast, presented to you in a small player window where you can listen right here and now.

From a blogger’s point of view, using Apture is quite straightforward. I write and publish my post as usual, either using an offline editor like Windows Live Writer or online in my blog’s own editor.

I don’t manually add the Apture links; that’s done automatically when the post is published as the Apture plugin for WordPress automatically sees the links and adds the little icons and other functionality via its API.

In addition to WordPress, Apture has plugins for other popular blog platforms.

Not only that, I can also directly edit Apture content settings on the blog itself, on published posts, via the Apture dashboard. That gives me a lot of control over content and what I want to display with Apture.

And a very useful wiki-like editing features lets you provide multiple blog authors with access to Apture.

Check out Apture for yourself and watch the rather good video tour. I’ve only scratched its surface in this post.

I think this is one of the most useful enhancements for blogs and other websites that money can buy (well, actually, it’s free), from both the publisher’s and the reader’s points of view.

Do you agree? Do you find it useful or obtrusive?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Armin

    The short answer: Both.

    The long answer: Mostly annoying, although I can see its uses.

    I find it annoying because:
    – it opens something without me asking for it
    – it doesn’t close when I move my mouse button away. I have to click it to close
    – it opens something when I’m not expecting/wanting it to. I use the scrollwheel in my mouse a lot, if by pure chance my mouse pointer happens to stop over one of these links something pops up. It will even move the viewing pane, against my will.
    – in case of the soundfile it starts playing something without me asking to play something, it just autostarts.

    Now I can see the uses as well:
    – The Wikipedia “link” saves me from having to find it myself, although why can it not open in a new tab once I click it?
    – The soundfile allows me to listen to something while remaining on the page and reading the related text, but why not let me decide when to start playing?

  2. neville

    I can see your point about opening something without asking, Armin. I don’t see it that way, though. I note the little icon in front of an Apture-enabled link so I kind of know to expect something will happen when I click.

    Agree re mouseover and then auto pop-up. I wasn’t expecting that when I first checked it out. I would definitely prefer not to have that behaviour; instead, I would much prefer nothing happening unless you specifically click a link. Then you get the popup. Otherwise, it’s a bit like those irritating Snap pop-ups.

    Re opening in a new tab, well, to me that’s one of the major plus points about Apture – it doesn’t open up a new tab but only a small pop-up on the same page. And the soundfile – that’s what I would wish and expect: you click the link, get the pop-up and it starts playing straightaway. Saves a click!

    Good points all, thanks for that input.

  3. Dominic

    It’s an impressive tool. I tried it and then deactivated it due to the usability issues already mentioned.

    I would prefer the overlay to appear when users click the icon. If the overlay is to appear on mouseover, then it should disappear if they mouse off the icon.

    As for the links that follow the icon, I want those to continue to go to where I was linking. If it’s a Wikipedia link, I’d like people to be able to go to the full Wikipedia page by clicking on the link.

    I also agree with the automatic audio playing issue.

    Until these issues are addressed, I’m not going to activate Apture. I really would like to, though. It does have a lot of potential to improve the user experience.

  4. neville

    I’ve not experienced any usability issues as described, although I’ve had the plug-in installed here for less than a week. I like it a lot.

    Good points, though, and I agree, Dominic: lots of potential to improve the user experience.

  5. Chris

    I think it is a really neat tool that is easy to use and saves you the hassle of writing unique content yourself.
    Added to my mum's caravan park website to give information about locations and attractions
    Works well, although I don't think you should use it on too many links

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