Creating Visual Interest With Repetitive Content
Posted by: Tea Ho
When designing, I'm often working with lots of content - headlines, body text, images, even videos. My first priority is to design how information is conveyed to the user in a clear and ordered way. Focusing on usability and function makes working with lots of content feel like playing a game of tetris; there is a place where each piece fits where it just makes sense.
However, for my last two projects, I've had to design sites with sparse, but repetitive content. How do I create visual interested with repetitive content without overwhelming or boring the user, at the same time filling the space without making it look like I created a site for geriatric users?
Case study: Daily Poll
Daily Poll was a site I had to design that sent a text message to subscribed users every day. The text message contained a yes or no question, which users could then answer by replying 1 or 2. The app then added the user's answer to its database. We then chart the answers on the website for users to see.
During my research phase, I looked at lots of different graphs and charts to see how others had quantified information. Some of the coolest infographics used multiple kinds of charts together-pie graphs, scatterplots, line graphs. Other graphs were created using materials that were thematically related to the information they were charting (for instance a chart about agriculture that was created using vegetables).
I was dealing with the same kind of data every time (yes or no answers), and couldn't account for what the subject of the question was since the admins just submitted whatever questions they wanted. I wondered how I could display the same information over and over again without it being repetitive and boring for the user.
Another challenge I faced was in displaying older questions. One suggestion was to display each question in a grid with its corresponding chart. My instinct told me not to do that because users would then view literally hundreds of the same kind of chart over and over, possibly being overwhelmed by how much data they needed to take in. I worried the repetitive charts would all blur together.
I decided to show two different graphs. The first one highlighted the latest question and its answers.
For the second graph, rather than showing all of the archived questions at once, users could navigate through older questions. Clicking on a single question would bring up its corresponding chart.
This allowed users to both scan question text for what interested them and giving them the space needed to take in data.
To visually fill the space, I played with scale. The two graphs both work with percentages. They also deal with exactly the same kind of data. However, they're visually quite different.