Friday Roundup: This week in visualization

Eyetracking studies show how users approach Web images

The man The New York Times calls “guru of web page usability”, Jakob Nielsen, posted research (and sick visuals) this week showing that users pay close attention to web photos and images that contain relevant information but ignore stock photos and other purely decorative fluff.

Eyetracking studies can give web journalists a few pointers when thinking about page content. Not surprisingly, they’re similar to what works well in print. In short, “visual bloat” annoys users. When it comes to photos as web content, don’t go generic. If it’s not relevant, don’t use it.

Since they sum up the points well, here are the headers on the post:

  • People Photos = Good (If They’re Real People)
  • Product Details = Good
  • Big Photos = Good (When Requested)
  • Information-Carrying Images = Good

I encourage you to read more about it here. It’s a quick, worthwhile read.

Eyetracking goodness!

And by the way, I found out about the post through a tweet Zach Seward sent out on Monday. He’s the Outreach Editor for The Wall Street Journal. If you want some good links to things like this from a former assistant editor at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab — someone who knows his stuff and is doing great work — he’s definitely my #FollowFriday suggestion for you this week.

– Kevin Loker

Out of Elizabethtown, 68 photo/multimedia stories

If your Friday is moving slowly or your weekend is wide open — or if you just love good, community-minded stories — then check out the stories from the Mountain Workshops.

Held every fall in Kentucky (or, sometimes, Tennessee) since 1976, the Mountain Workshops bring Western Kentucky University photojournalism faculty, industry professionals and students together for three concurrent workshops in still photography, picture editing, and multimedia. This year, the Mountain Workshops took place Oct. 18-23 in Elizabethtown, Ky.

You’ll need some time to sort through all the stories — there are 68 total, with 20 multimedia/video stories and 48 photo slideshows. If you want a (relatively) quick rundown, check out the Featured Presentation: At Home in the Heartland,” which is a 25-minute compilation of seven of the multimedia/video stories.

Also, if you have still more time today or this weekend, take a look at the workshops’ behind-the-scenes blog, which features thoughts, photos, and slideshows from the workshops’ faculty and staff.

– Chris Dunn

Projeqt: A new tool for visualizations

Projeqt is a freshly-launched webapp that allows you to build beautiful, fullscreen, multimedia slideshows with text, video, and photos. Although flashy, the slideshows use no flash.

As Marianne Stefanowicz, Brand Director of Projeqt, put it via in email interview:

It is an artfully created platform for creative storytelling, open to anyone with a creative story to tell — designers, artists, photographers, directors, writers, musicians, etc. It can also be used to create and share presentations. Individuals might use Projeqt as a way to show their creative work, but we are also open to collaborating with publishers and brands as opportunities arise.

Because of the ability to insert videos, hyperlink externally, and import RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook updates, there’s a story use case for using Projeqt in the newsroom. Says Marianne:

We feel there will be many scenarios where people from the publishing industry — whether a magazine, bloggers, feature writers –  that want to tell discreet stories with a distinct narrative, could use Projeqt. In fact, we are currently collaborating with a leading culture magazine on complimentary content for their upcoming issue. Projeqt can enhance a story that may be constrained in its usual environment – by featuring multiple images and films to accompany words, as well as RSS feeds provide real-time updates to the story from blogs, Twitter or Facebook. Plus, in terms of self-publishing, the CMS behind Projeqt is really simple and intuitive making it open to everyone.

Projeqt was developed by a small team from TBWA, an advertising agency. The core team in creating the tool was around 10 people: a creative director, brand director, project manager, technical director, developers, designer and a production artist. The tool was originally created for internal uses, but the team quickly realized there were user cases for many industries.

The site went live on Oct. 18 and is currently in beta. You can currently sign up for a beta account; the first wave of beta users will receive their account invites in mid-November.

– Lauren M. Rabaino

Stanford paper identifies genres of narrative visualization

Continuing today’s visual theme, an academic paper by Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer of Stanford University identifying genres of narrative visualization was published last month.

Some of the online case studies mentioned include The New York Times’ Budget Forecasts, Compared With Reality,’s Human Development Trends and Minnesota Public Radio’s Minnesota Employment Explorer.

The paper then categorizes narrative visuals into seven genres: magazine style, annotated chart, partitioned poster, flow chart, comic strip, slide show and film/video/animation.

Also discussed are the differences between author- and reader-driven stories.

“A purely author-driven approach has a strict linear path through the visualization, relies heavily on messaging, and includes no interactivity,” the paper says. “A purely reader-driven approach has no prescribed ordering of images, no messaging, and a high degree of interactivity.”

While many journalists take a practical (rather than academic) approach to their work, it’s interesting to read academic research in this field. The best part: Unlike many academic papers, this one is rather short and easy to read — perfect for the eyes of a busy journalist.

Ethan Klapper