Years ago, I took part in a survey asking college students about their social life and activities on campus. They placed me in a large lecture hall with over 200 other students and promptly handed a personal response device (a “clicker”). Using one of three buttons I could answer a series of true/false questions. Admittedly, using an interactive clicker made the process feel much more fun it should have been, and I probably would have been less willing to take part if I had to write every answer on a sheet of paper and pass it in (akin to the read-only method of media absorption). I associated answers on paper with exams – but clickers gave me an entirely new fascination with simple interactive technology.
Another small but meaningful impact occurred when I answered an embarrassing question. I discovered that I was not alone in my reply. Seeing a bar appear on the screen that showed I wasn’t the only one feeling or behaving in a certain way made me feel a connection to others in the room even if that connection was brief and anonymous. The interactivity of the device made this possible on a wide scale – a scale of 249 of my peers to be exact.
Different interactive technologies share something in common; they base their interface on the grounds of human-computer interaction (HCI). HCI focuses on how people interact with computers differently based on how the computer is designed. For any computer-based technology to be successful, there should be a high level of interactivity that bridges the gap between the content and the end user. In my example above, the interactivity occurred when I answered each question by pressing a button instead of just sitting and listening as if it were one-way communication.
When the agency conducting the study displayed the results on the screen, it confirmed and reinforced that interactivity can prove useful for a variety of users. Not only was our attention held by the visual design, but we, as a group, were collaborating as we answered each question. An enhanced focus on multimedia and artificial intelligence has become the norm, leading to enhanced performance in the workplace as people learn, work, play, create, and collaborate.
In mobile devices, for instance, there is haptic feedback – the small vibrations you feel in your palm when you use the virtual keyboard on a smartphone with a capacitive touchscreen (if you have ever turned up the system volume on a Samsung device, you will know what I am talking about). It seems insignificant on the surface. But as you get accustomed to using a smartphone, haptic feedback becomes familiar to you. If the haptic feedback was suddenly deactivated, you might find your text messages riddled with typos until your muscle memory got used to the lack of vibrations. This shows that even though it seems small and is often overlooked, haptic feedback is actually an essential form of interactivity that most modern smartphones need.
But what adds more usability to interactive technology is that they do not limit it to mobile devices, and there are multiple types of a technology that enables interactivity. Last year, Float collaborated with RISC to develop the xAPI PDF Annotator. This tool lets students proceed through an LMS while storing annotation in the cloud so information could be accessed on multiple platforms and devices. Project research later revealed that while users had access to a certain PDF, they sometimes ignored different chunks of pages within the PDF if it contained information they already knew. As a result, the PDF was cut into small, bite-size chunks that would only give users new information when they need it, enriching the learning experience. This project is an incredible testament to what happens when you let users interact and engage in the form of two-way communication.
Interactive tech has exploded just as quickly as the availability of information you consume and navigate while using the technology itself. Both will continue to grow as time goes on – and this is where most content designers and developers begin to make mistakes.
Time and time again, we create content with the idea that it can only be delivered one way, on a certain platform, for a certain operating system, and even for a specific screen size. We end up making content that works with our current devices, which distracts us from thinking about how the content can be redesigned to be delivered on future devices that have not been invented yet. Only by thinking bigger can we find new, engaging ways to shape original content.
The CHAMPIONS framework can provide more information on how to successfully use interactive technology. Each of the nine letters that makes up the CHAMPIONS acronym represents a collection of digital technologies and how they can improve performance in the workplace. For more information on how to take the next steps, refer to Float’s free whitepaper, available now.
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