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I've been seeing a trend in the online news and data visualization world of presenting information paired with some sort of data that changes dynamically as you scroll down.

Here is an example from The Gardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/oct/19/homan-square-chicago-police-detainees

And another one from Bloomberg : https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-measles-outbreaks/

My hypothesis is that this model of presenting information will negatively affect scannability of the content as well as be very disruptive to reading. However, I do not have any evidence. If you have evaluated something similar, please share.

  • Anecdotally I didn't even realize the first link was functioning as intended, I thought it was an ad or a popover. It took me a long time to realize it was related content. We are always creating new contexts and expanding the definitions of media-rich experiences, so my personal reaction is only one view, but I'm not convinced this pattern has any value, let alone staying power, and it threw me off so hard that I wouldn't even know how to measure whether it was "working" to validate or refute any broad claims about its efficacy. – Nathan Christie Jul 27 '17 at 2:22
  • Hey Nathan. Sorry for the late response. I appreciate your feedback. It sort of matches my hunch. My hope was that somebody has done eye tracking, or measured information retention or perceived usability, post task. I hear you though, what would constitute success here? – user104854 Aug 1 '17 at 18:40
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Pros:

  • Wow effect
  • As you scroll down along with the visuals you see large-font text that accompanies the visuals, thus you can skim read the story and then go back to read it from the beginning
  • Shows off technical competence of whoever created this article
  • The user can control the flow of the story
  • Visuals help to memorize the material, especial if you are a visual person

Cons:

  • Little Real estate of the screen left for reading the document. This is particularly vivid if you open the link on mobile
  • Extra work to make animations of data visualizations
  • No interactivity between the user and the visualized data
  • The bottom of the page lacks an wow effect or even the fact that this is the end
  • Cannot be printed, or need to redesign the article for printing, as well as the user has not an easy print preview
  • It requires more memory or scrolling might be slow if the system cannot, in general, or temporarily, support processing the graphics fast enough
  • The effect of text fading away, as happens in the second link, makes searching the page much more difficult because search results might be very faded

Recommendations for better Scrollytelling:

  • Design it complementary to a regular static article
  • Give the control to the user if he/she finds it frustrating to close/minimize the visuals
  • Detect a fast scroll movement and do not let the browser to try and load all the transitions at once and fail

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