Today our digital world is in the throes of a visual revolution. Illustrations, photographs, and artistic graphic elements compete for our attention—in our mail, in the stores we frequent, the roadways we drive, and in our homes and businesses. We are surrounded by digital media – in the web, PowerPoint presentations, and spontaneous, media rich hand-held devices. The key question is, how can we leverage multimedia imagery to effectively communicate our message in this sea of images?
Imagery Aids in Recall and Comprehension
Before written language, ancient peoples etched drawings into the rock walls of caves and cliffs throughout the world. While the meaning of rock art remains a mystery, it is clear that people were moved to communicate visually. In many ways the world has not changed, it is just more complex. Now, both the written word and visual imagery compete for our attention, in an ever ending stream of communication.
Perhaps our ancient ancestors knew something we are only now discovering. Did you know that visual imagery actually aids in recall and comprehension? Researchers have discovered two separate channels that operate in our brains—a verbal system of language and a nonverbal system of images1 In addition, some studies indicate that pictures are more likely to be redundantly stored and encoded, which may make them more important than text in communicating memorable information.2
Research investigating imagery and text has found that visual images placed near text can positively impact recall and learning, whether the images are static or dynamic.3 This may be one of the reasons for the popularity of a well done PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint, as a multimedia application, combines imagery, animation, and bulleted information to convey complex content in a way that assists in viewer comprehension.
Given that young people are a growing target audience, research indicates that many children and teens tend to prefer animation and find dynamic images motivating.4 Moving pictures may also increase reading comprehension.5 This is particularly important given that this demographic is a critical market segment for many businesses. By including effective animation with your website and PowerPoint presentations, you can facilitate greater recognition and understanding of your business messaging.
Ten Second Threshold on Web Pages
According to web usability studies, there is a ten second threshold to capture viewer interest once they have landed on your web page. Within those ten seconds, your viewer’s eye scans the page, starting at the top left corner (in the western world) and progressing to the right. This is why the top left corner is the hot spot for logo placement on both home and interior web pages. It lets your viewer know where they are. During this initial ten second period, it is critical that your web page grabs the reader’s attention and interest. Then they will take the extra time required fully grasp the message you are conveying. The imagery you choose plays a key role in quickly capturing their attention.
Effective Imagery Gives Your Website Personality
Meaningful imagery can also add personality to your identity. It is essential to promoting products and relaying a story. Ancient people may have created their rock art to map out local resources (antelope, deer), to identify a clan household above a doorway, to plot celestial happenings, or to experience the creative power at work in the world.
Just as ancient people evoked geometric shapes and line drawings as a means of conveying immediate information, our digital pages can provide well designed animation which provides instantaneous in-depth messaging. Since your average visitor spends about 27 seconds on a web page, clever animation that effectively communicates or imparts new learning can take advantage of this finding.
Consider a sequence of animated images on a website home page which tells a story. For example, the Flash animation on Creative Wings Studio website provides an overview of process painting workshops at Creative Wings Studio. Another example conveys seasonal change over time on The Growing Place website, illustrating the wide variety of garden plants and creative landscape displays possible at The Growing Place.
Look at the clever example of market messaging revealed with an animated wiper blade for the commercial cleaning company, Enviro Resources Inc. Or, if your business mission includes educating and inspiring viewers, wisdom quotations can be shared through a series of animated quotes. If captivating photography enhances the services you offer, memorable imagery can rotate each time a viewer navigates a page. To view an example, visit musician Bill Buccholtz’s website. Or, consider appealing to the needs of a diverse target audience. Different styles of horseback riding are captured in a series of alternating images on The Riding Store home page.
Perhaps you would like to freshen up your digital media presentation. Thoughtful animation on you website home page can provide a new look. PowerPoint templates can be customized with imagery and effective animation. At Colordance Design, we work together with you to add personality to your multimedia.
Animation Limitations – Flash, Java Script, PowerPoint
There are several limitations with animation. While websites designed in Flash may be beautiful and interesting to view initially, they can take longer to load given the animation and navigation techniques. Viewers get impatient waiting for animation. Flash, in particular is not supported at this time on many mobile devices. Also, the entire use of Flash for a website has significant drawbacks. Unlike a site created with HTML (HyperText Markup Language), Flash is a proprietary format. Search engines often have a difficult time extracting keywords and content useful for search engine ranking. This means your site may not easily be found by the major search engines given appropriate keywords.
Flash’s proprietary nature means that many mobile devices and smartphone operating systems do not support it. Blackberry, iPhone, and iPads are not compatible with Flash. With no Flash support, the growing number of mobile users will be unable to view your site on their handheld device. In addition, any changes to an all Flash website require significant knowledge and expensive software.
Java Script can also be used to animate web pages. However, a viewer must have Java Script enabled in their computer for this to work.
We have all seen “over the top” PowerPoint animation creating a busy and/or labored presentation. These limitations can be mitigated through careful design and layout.
Multimedia Messaging Enhanced with Meaningful Imagery
While our ancient ancestor’s lacked our digital acuity and written word, they understood the power of simple shapes and line drawings. Likely, they were able to communicate a wealth of information in their time, not unlike our modern digital print and media today.
In our contemporary culture we admire well designed static and dynamic imagery. When this is integrated with text it adds personality and interest in either application. Discriminating animation on a website homepage and PowerPoint slides can increase viewer understanding and recall. Eloquent, humorous, or inspiring imagery can accompany the messaging for added impact.
Since “A picture is worth a thousand words,” your media presentations can make use of research findings to deepen your connection with your audience. Perhaps this is why we visit ancient sites. We gaze in wonder at the ancient drawings on the rocks. Our interest is peaked. We want to comprehend their messaging about what life was like then.
- Paivio, A., (1971), Imagery and Verbal Processes. New York, Holt, Reinhart & Winston, Inc.
- Kobayashi, S., (1986), Theoretical Issues Concerning Superiority of Pictures Over Words and Sentences in Memory. Perceptual and Motor Skills. Vol. 63, pp. 783-792.
- Ayersman, J.D., (1996), Review the Research on Hypermedia-Based Learning. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 500-519.
- Houts, P. S., Doak, C. C., Doak, L. G., & Loscalzo, M. J. (2006). The role of pictures in improving health communication: a review of research on attention, comprehension, recall, and adherence. Patient education and counseling, 61(2), 173-90.
- Kim, S., Yoon, M., Whang, S.-M., Tversky, B., & Morrison, J. B. (2007). The effect of animation on comprehension and interest. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(3), 260-270.