Static visual narratives
These narratives rely on visual elements, text, and design to convey a message, present data, or tell a story. The narrative structure is pre-determined and does not allow user-driven exploration or customization. These are visual representations of data that don’t change, like charts, graphs, and infographics.
Some advantages of static visual narratives include:
- Simplicity: Static visuals are often easier to create, understand, and share than their interactive counterparts. For example, a simple bar chart depicting the monthly sales of a product is easy for anyone to understand quickly.
- Versatility: Static visuals can be used across various mediums, such as print, digital, and video. For example, a newspaper may include a simple line graph to show how a city’s population has changed over time.
- Consistency: With static visuals, the audience always sees the same data and presentation, ensuring a consistent message.
Drawbacks of static visual narratives include:
- Limited engagement: Static visuals usually don’t allow for much interaction, meaning the audience can’t dive deeper into or explore the data from different angles.
- Rigidity: Since static visuals don’t change, they can become outdated if new information becomes available.
Interactive visual narratives
These dynamic visuals allow users to interact with the data, such as online dashboards and interactive maps. Interactive elements, such as clickable regions, sliders, or filters, allow manipulation of the data and visualizations. The audience can adjust parameters, filter data subsets, or customize the view to gain different perspectives. These interactive elements enhance narrative control and allow readers to actively engage with the data.
Some advantages of interactive visual narratives include:
- Engagement: Interactive visuals encourage users to engage with the data, discovering stories and insights for themselves. For example, an interactive map of the United States showing COVID-19 cases allows users to zoom in, pan around, and select specific data points for more information.
- Personalization: Interactive visuals can be tailored to different users, as they can filter, sort, and manipulate the data according to their needs. For example, a sales manager can use an interactive dashboard to focus on their team’s performance, while an executive may concentrate on the overall company performance.
- Flexibility: Interactive visuals can be updated quickly and easily, allowing real-time data and ongoing data discovery.
However, there are some downsides to interactive visual narratives as well:
- Complexity: Interactive visuals may be more challenging to create, requiring specialized software or coding knowledge. Similarly, they may take longer for users to understand or navigate, especially for complex data sets.
- Less control: With interactive data storytelling, readers can choose their own path through the narrative, selecting the information and data that is most interesting or relevant to them. This can lead to a more personalized experience but also make it more difficult for the storyteller to control the message.
- Accessibility: Interactive visuals often require an internet connection or specialized software, which may not always be available, especially in low-resource settings.
Both static and interactive visual narratives have their own unique set of advantages and drawbacks. When deciding between them, it’s crucial to consider the purpose of your data visual, your audience’s needs, and how they will engage with the information. A static visual narrative may be best for simple, shareable, and easily digestible information. In contrast, an interactive visual narrative may be better suited for more in-depth data exploration and discovery, provided your audience possesses the technical capabilities to engage with it.