I asked the 70+ participants in a breakout session I presented last week at the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn Conference how many people thought they use too many words in the elearning they build. Guess how many raised their hands? Nearly all. The session was on visualizations and information graphics (infographics), visuals specifically used to represent, instruct, or to disseminate information in a visual form. Traditionally, visualizations have included charts, maps, or diagrams. But there are many other types of visualizations and infographics in wide use today.
They can be extremely important for learning because they have the power to do what words alone often cannot: reveal what is hidden, compact a lot of information into a small space, make the complex easier to understand, and make the obscure more observable. I showed how visualizations and information graphics can help people get the picture much faster than they can get from words. For example I showed them a website (http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/01/19/a-collection-of-social-network-stats-for-2010/) and asked gave them 3 seconds to find the answer to this question: Not including Skype, which social networking site has the most users? It was very hard to do. Then I showed them the visualization to the left (http://jess3.com/geosocial-universe) and asked the same question. The task was a lot easier. These types of visuals are often more universally understood than words. They have fewer social or language boundaries because visuals do most of the explaining.
Here are some other great examples of visualizations and infographics we could adapt to reduce the wall of words in instruction and increase understanding.
Here are three great resources to learn more:
- Huge Infographics Design Resources: Overview, Principles, Tips and Examples http://www.onextrapixel.com/2010/05/21/huge-infographics-design-resources-overview-principles-tips-and-examples/
- 20 Essential Infographics & Data Visualization Blogs http://www.inspiredm.com/2009/10/10/20-essential-infographics-data-visualization-blogs/
- Malamed, C. (2009). Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand . Rockport Publishers.