Since 2000, the time we spend online has nearly tripled. Americans now spend 23.6 hours per week on the internet, according to the MIT Technology Review — totaling about one-seventh of our lives. Other estimates have us spending nearly 47 hours a week online. Whichever study is most accurate, one thing is certain: we communicate in a fundamentally different way than we did just a few decades ago. And that’s a fact that the best-performing companies are already using to their advantage. How? By doubling down on the production of interactive sites as well as other interactive experiences, infographics, and maps. Why interactivity? Because this type of content boasts an impressive 70% conversion rate.
Source: Demand Metric
In this article, we’ve collected everything that marketers and brand leaders need to know about interactive media design in one place. You’ll learn about the building blocks of every interactive interface so you can choose what’s right for your needs. You’ll also see examples of the best interactive infographics, maps, sites, and more. We hope this post will serve as both guide and inspiration for your next content marketing project.
Why the Best-Performing Marketers Use Interactive Sites, Infographics, Maps, & Experiences
Source: Content Marketing Institute
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of marketers say that interactive content is more effective than static content at grabbing consumers’ attention. That’s an impressive testament to just how powerful this type of content can be.
Interactive content marketing examples have become more popular, in large part, in response to the demand for greater personalization. In fact, 72% of consumers will only engage with your marketing content when the messaging is personalized to them.
Interactive experiences are uniquely suited to personalization. A clickable quiz reacts to specific information that users input about themselves, and delivers a result based on that information. An interactive calculator — such as the home loan calculators you see on sites like Trulia.com — does much the same thing. Meanwhile, interactive annual reports, maps, and landing pages allow you to explore the content that’s most interesting to you — and ignore what’s not.
In the end, no matter what business you’re in, it’s likely that some type of interactive site or other content would be useful for improving your bottom line. It’s just a matter of determining what type of content will best help you achieve your goal and reach your target audience.
11 Types of Interactive Content
The kinds of interactive content you can use to connect with your audience are only limited by your imagination. Every organization is different, which is why every organization needs a unique, custom solution.
Let’s take a look at just some of the types of interactive content that organizations are using today. (You can explore more interactive examples here.) Afterwards, we’ll explore the types of interactivity you can incorporate into your next project. That way, you’ll be fully versed in all the tools at your disposal.
A widget is a piece of interactive content — often relatively small — that can easily be embedded on a variety of sites and web pages. It might contain any variety of content. You can include a quiz, a calculator, or a series of questions for a viewer to answer.
A series of interactive calculator widgets we created for TurboTax serves as a great example of what a widget might look like. These particular designs were aimed at helping users calculate what tax credits they were eligible for. They’re ideal for including in blog posts, articles, FAQs, and other pages related to tax deductions. And because widgets like these can be used in so many places, you can get a lot of mileage out of just a single design — and a better return on your investment.
Interactive Sites with Infographics
When you create a unique landing page or microsite for a particular marketing campaign, you can focus exclusively on messaging and data related to that effort. This targeted approach can ensure higher engagement and success. And, given the high conversion rate for interactive content, making the page interactive will drive even better results. So use interactive sites to share compelling data visualizations, maps, charts, and more that viewers can click on and explore. They’ll stay on the page longer, and it will be easier for them to discover the content that’s most compelling to them.
When you’re launching a new product, service, or initiative, you often build a whole marketing campaign around it. You design materials to educate audiences about that new offering and build excitement around it. And for the campaign as a whole, you might choose to develop a unique visual language that drives the design of all the visual materials you produce. In this case, an interactive infographic or site can incorporate this visual language to channel the look and feel of your campaign. That way, when visitors click on a social-media post or an email that intrigues them, they’ll discover a consistent visual identity on the page those links take them to.
Quizzes, Polls, & Surveys
Entire companies have been built on the power of quizzes. Take BuzzFeed as just one example. At one point, it was estimated that a stunning 96% of visitors who start filling out a BuzzFeed sponsor quiz proceed to finish that quiz. Now that’s a high engagement rate.
Quizzes, surveys, and polls help your audience learn something new about themselves. That’s why they spark so much interest.
But they aren’t just a great way to keep your audience’s attention. They’re also a fantastic tool to help you learn more about that audience. If you can combine questions that are useful both to your audience and your organization, you’ll have an interactive quiz that will prove well worth the investment.
Interactive Map Infographics
When you’ve got mountains of data to share, it’s unlikely that every member of your audience will want to read every data point. That’s where interactive content can be incredibly helpful.
Imagine, for instance, that you’ve got detailed information about energy use in every US state. That’s what nonprofit organization the Solutions Project was working with when they approached us a few years ago. Their initial idea was to produce 1 static infographic for every state. But even then, there would be no easy way to find a particular state quickly. After all, people are probably most interested in the states most relevant to them — where they live, where they used to live, where their friends and family are.
So, instead of an infographics series, we proposed an interactive map where clicking on a state would reveal a complete infographic about that state. The interactive site experience made it far easier for people to make comparisons and find the information they were looking for quickly.
Visual ebooks are a useful type of gated content that can help you learn more about potential leads and offer real value to your audiences. They’re far more engaging than the traditional, text-heavy ebook. That’s because they bring the stories they’re telling to life through data visualizations, illustrations, icons, and/or photography.
Interactive visual ebooks are all the more engaging and capable of drawing visitors to your site. They usually live on their own landing page. They can include animations, embedded videos, and any of the other types of interactivity we’ll outline in the next section of this article. It’s a highly effective way to transform your ebooks into dynamic, multimedia experiences.
Your potential customers expect — and even demand — high-quality visual content. The same holds true of your coworkers. That’s why the text-heavy annual reports of the past just won’t cut it any more. And that’s not just because they’re unengaging. Data visualizations, illustrations, and other visual elements bring the story of your company to life. They make it easier to discover trends and pain points, and to make well-informed decisions about how to move your business forward.
Today, the best annual reports look more like interactive infographics and experiences. They allow people to interact with and manipulate the data so that they can explore the topics and trends that are most interesting to them. They’re equally useful to those who want a 10,000-foot view as to those who want to dig in for a more thorough analysis. No other type of content is so adaptable to a wide range of needs. Nor is any other type of content so useful in helping you make data-backed business decisions.
We’ve already talked about how tools like mortgage calculators can take users’ unique input and offer real value. Calculators are one of the many interactive tools capable of offering personalized results. But they’re a particularly important resource for organizations that want to build trust and a long-term relationship with customers.
People make some pretty important decisions based on online calculators these days. They determine how much they want to contribute to their retirement accounts, or decide what home or car they can afford. If you can offer a tool that’s truly useful, you’ll keep them coming back. What’s more, they’ll come to trust your company as a provider of real value.
More and more companies are finding animated logos to be an essential part of their brand book. This is partly due to the widespread use of motion graphics and the huge growth of video marketing. When your company logo appears on the screen, you want it to be just as dynamic as the video was.
But animated logos can also be used on your company profile on some social media sites. They can even make your interactive site or key landing pages more dynamic.
What’s more, the animated element can do a lot of work in communicating key information about your company. Does the logo dance in a playful way? Or does it communicate the same elegance and gravitas that you hope to bring to every interaction? The possibilities are endless.
“Gamification” has become a huge buzzword in marketing circles in recent years — and for good reason. Augmented reality and interactive games such as Pokémon GO have seen monumental success in driving engagement for brands.
Game interfaces — and even game-inspired experiences — can be powerful tools. But first you need to determine what goal you want to accomplish and who you want to reach. If your target demographic would be amenable to gamified experiences, think about how you can deliver your message through that format. Would they like to search for your products in an interactive map, or see infographic projections on real-life objects through the power of AR? Can you offer rewards or incentives as part of the game? Ask your visual communication partner what approach to gamification might be right for your campaign.
A great game is fun, memorable, and even addictive; wouldn’t it be amazing if your marketing content were too?
Timelines offer another example of how interactivity can help your audience avoid information overload. Most people, upon exploring a particular timeline, will find some items more compelling than others. Interactive elements make it possible to expand interesting items or to quickly sort by time period, category, or other factors.
Check out this interactive timeline for the National Endowment for the Arts as one example. Users can quickly jump to the time period that interests them most. Meanwhile, a simple timeline includes very short summaries of key events. Those who want to learn more about them can click on the relevant year in the timeline to take a deeper dive, see photos, and share key takeaways on social media. In short, everyone gets to customize this interactive site experience to their needs and interests.
Even video and motion graphics can be interactive. Include hotspots, tags, or mouseover elements to encourage people to more actively engage with the videos you share. You can even create video quizzes. These encourage people to answer questions along the way, pausing the video as it goes. This, too, goes a long way toward making the experience feel more personalized to the user.
9 Types of Interactivity
You’ve seen a variety of interactive mediums that brands use to create meaningful audience experiences. But it can still be hard to know all the tools you have at your disposal to build interactive content. After all, today’s interactive designers and developers are capable of creating a huge range of experiences. So what’s out there, and how do you know if it’s right for you?
It would be next to impossible for us to enumerate all the possible interactions your project can include here. But we do think it’s highly useful to have a list of some of the most common and useful types of interactivity. This isn’t just to supply you with useful vocabulary. Instead, our hope is that this list can fuel ideas and open up new possibilities as you and your visual communication partner develop the right interactive infographic, map, site, or experience for your next marketing campaign.
So, without further ado, let’s look at 9 key types of interactivity. We’ve included a brief animated video to illustrate each.
When your mouse hovers over an element on a page, a small box or graphic will sometimes appear. This box is called a “tooltip.” And it isn’t limited to just text. It might include images or even data visualizations, as in this interactive map. The key is, you don’t need to click for a tooltip to appear.
Similar to a tooltip, a hover effect is triggered by — you guessed it — a mouse moving over a particular element of a page. But instead of a box popping up, the element itself will change in some way. Perhaps it’s an illustration that animates. Or maybe you’re able to change or move that element with the help of your mouse. A hover effect can take a variety of forms. But one thing’s for sure. If you’re developing an interactive infographic for your site, hover effects are one of the best features to include.
One of the best-recognized and most fundamental elements of any interactive experience — from infographics to maps to entire sites — is the button. Buttons are used to inspire action on the part of the viewer. For example, they could encourage a visitor to click through to a different page where they can read more about the topic or contact your company. Also, they might be key elements of an interactive quiz or game. There really is no limit to what buttons can do. And that’s why they’re so integral to interactive design.
At some stage along the customer journey, you’re likely to ask them to fill out a form. This could be in the hopes of talking over a potential partnership. Or it might just be so that you can learn more about them, and offer gated content, such as a visual ebook, in return. Whatever the case, think carefully about what your form will include. That’s because you don’t want to overwhelm the user with too many questions to answer. So determine what information is most important for you to know. Remember: every company (and even every campaign) is likely to have different priorities.
Carousels, or slide shows, display a series of photographs, illustrations, or other images. The functionality differs, but they may be scrolled through by clicking on an arrow or sliding them via a mouse or touchpad. Further, sometimes the carousel changes on a timed cadence. Carousels are often used to display a variety of relevant content at the top of a web page. But they can also offer a deeper dive into a particular topic within a page or interface.
Animated illustrations aren’t just triggered by hover effect. Sometimes they’re triggered by scrolling down the page. For example, check out the maps on this interactive infographic to experience how such illustrations might function. As you scroll down, new elements appear and change. The result? You get a story that progresses the longer that you scroll. In this way, animated illustrations are a highly compelling form of visual storytelling. They add visual interest to interactive sites in a way that holds your audience’s attention.
Data visualization, such as a graph, chart, or map, is an integral element of many of the best interactive infographics. That’s because it can help you make an argument, offer up evidence, or identify patterns. And when that data visualization is interactive, it’s all the more useful. Viewers might be able to hover over a graph to see exact numbers. Or they could modify parameters such as date range. Further, they can click buttons and tooltips for more detailed information. And these are just a few of the interactions you may want to include. Overall, just make sure your data visualizations are interactive in a way that’s truly useful to your target audience.
Modals are interactive pop-up windows that appear in front of the main window of your site. You need to interact with them in order to close them. Some examples of these may be lightboxes in which you can view video or images in larger magnification. But these are useful in a variety of settings. For example, they can help carefully guide a user through a particular interface. Or they can offer a deeper dive into a particular topic.
Tabs & Accordions
Tabs and accordions are interactive elements that can improve the user experience. How? By allowing viewers to click to see more information. They open up very much like an instrumental accordion does. The only difference between them is that tabs open horizontally whereas accordions open vertically. These are ideal for interactive sites when you don’t want to overwhelm users with too much information. Instead, you can give them the choice of what to learn more about.
Marketing with Interactive Sites & Experiences
As we’ve seen, there are no limits to what you can achieve with the right interactive experience or site. But how can you get that content in front of the right audiences?
This can seem particularly challenging since many promotional channels haven’t fully adapted to the rising demand for visual content. Sure, Facebook is doing exciting work around bringing 3D–180 video to its platform. But you can’t yet embed a custom-designed widget or quiz directly on Twitter or Facebook.
Still, there are lots of ways to drive interest. A well-designed interactive widget is easy to embed on your own site. That’s why these kinds of assets can be particularly effective as part of a link-building or public-relations campaign. Many sites will be eager to post quality widgets and link back to you.
Want to drive social traffic to your interactive materials? Consider posting a teaser thumbnail or a GIF that highlights some of the functionality. This will help drive people to your landing page, and boost traffic as a result. Because interactive quizzes encourage so much interaction, time on page tends to be longer. As a result, your site analytics and, in the longer term, your SERP rankings, could improve.
All of these strategies require a cohesive, well-designed visual campaign. All assets in your campaign should have a cohesive look and feel. And once you’ve nailed down a compelling visual language, it’ll be all the easier to drive traffic to the interactive infographics, maps, widgets, and other experiences living on your sites.
The future of content is about interactive experiences. Make this type of content an integral part of your next marketing campaign, and you’re sure to see higher engagement, better customer relationships, and an impressive return on your investment.