The many different shades of interactivity


Too often companies see interactive media in starkly black and white terms. They equate having a Facebook page, Twitter stream and animated website with automatic interactivity.

But there are more colorful shades at work here. The things listed above can exist in a form absent of interactivity; merely one-way communications vehicles that deliver a steady flow of information with little if any user input. They then become no more than digitized versions of print brochures.

But as we all know, such tools can also lead to robust levels of two-way communication. Sometimes they even facilitate a dialogue between producer and consumer, where the audience not only views but actively shapes the product.

How to tell the difference? The diagram posted above is designed with that in mind. It’s the creation of myself and four fellow classmates for an assignment on audience analysis. The five of us identified some key questions in determining whether a site was static, interactive or dialogic.

The latter of these three categories represents the most robust form of communications, where the user not only has navigational choice but also a creative voice in shaping the content. Their feedback isn’t just posted and heard but acted upon. They share ideas with other users and form communities that come to define the site itself.

The concept of the Digital Dialogue Diagram is simple. Answer each question about your own site and put a dot in the corresponding section on the wheel. At the end you have a path from the center to the edge that visibly represents the kind of interactivity on your site. It’s easy to see how the path would change with different answers, since the first choice always represents “static,” the second “interactive” and the third “dialogic.”

This is meant as an evaluation tool for companies and organizations wanting closer analysis on their site. There are different pros and cons for all three types depending on your communication strategy. What’s important is recognizing the differences and where you fall along the spectrum and its many shades of interactivity.

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