A Sprinkle of Interactivity
Sep 9, 2013
How a little responsiveness goes a long way
Right now, you’re reading words on a screen. They go from left to right on every line, and the lines proceed from top to bottom. If you follow these words through this act of reading, you’ll get to the end of the blog post.
But you don’t have to read it this way.
You can read from bottom to top, or going right to left every line. You can skip reading certain sentences and words. You can also count every time that I write the word “can” and say that number out loud. Or you can also quit reading, close the page, and go read someone else’s blog (though I wouldn’t recommend it).
You CAN do these things. But why don’t you? Because that’s not how you expect reading to work. Nor does this page provide any reason you should expect differently – there are no rewards, responses, or feedback to reinforce deviating from the normal act of reading. You would never consider this blog post “interactive” because there’s only one, linear way to experience it – by simply reading from beginning to end.
But what if I told you there were secret messages hidden inside certain words on this blog, and that by mousing over them you could reveal cutting and hilarious marketing insights? Now the rules have changed, and you’d pore over each word with your mouse to try and find what I’d hidden. A sprinkle of interactivity deepens your engagement.
This approach works for visual assets as well. Wanting to show off the 3D detail of their game environments, the developers of the iOS game Infinity Blade scattered clickable bags of bonus in-game currency throughout the levels of their game. Many of these bags of gold would only appear as the player watched in-game cutscenes of the sweeping 3D landscapes. The result was that players paid lots of attention to the intricacy of the moving scenes in the hopes of scoring extra gold to spend.
What’s different in these examples is that normally inactive content RESPONDS to the viewer’s actions, taking what appears to be a typical page of text and adding a sprinkle of interactivity to increase engagement. Simply by adding some small interactive elements, the viewer has gone from passive to active, using or exploring the asset instead of just reading or watching it.
Consider these interactive sprinkles alongside the IKEA Home Planner interactive. This interactive tool lets users create 3D kitchen and dining room designs using the IKEA catalog, offering options for piping, cabinets, furniture and more. This makes the act of online shopping into a multifaceted game that engages users by letting them shape their new rooms from top to bottom. And as they experiment, explore, and play with this interactive content, they’re investing more and more emotional attachment to the different IKEA items for sale.
However, an interactive this deep also demands more of the user. Besides needing to download a special plug-in to run this interactive tool, users must familiarize themselves with a rather detailed interface and choose from hundreds of different kitchen options. While this provides a rich, multifaceted experience for the technically-savvy IKEA shopper, this interactive can intimidate users with less fluency in 3D design tools.
When designing interactive experiences for marketing purposes, it’s not always ideal to throw users into the deep end – offering a host of features and options designed for a unique and lengthy experience. There is also value in a slight presentational “tilt” toward interactivity, offering what appears to be a passive viewing and reading experience that pleasantly surprises the user with engagement.
Reading will always have its place as the primary way we digest textual details. But adding a sprinkle of interactivity can find the engagement sweet spot between a full-blown interactive and a typical read-only webpage – drawing users in with gentle, intuitive possibility.