And so to the last in our series of posts examining the various ways in which users can interact online. In case you missed them, you might want to look first at the introductory post for this series, Interaction in online media and the posts covering the three other forms of interaction – selecting, supplying and organising.
The fourth category – exploring – is somewhat different, in that it is much more user-centered. The purpose of the interaction is not to gather information that the program can process, but rather to provide the user with an opportunity to search within a space or body of content. The following examples should make this clear:
- Scrolling a document or menu, using scroll bars, a mouse wheel or a touch gesture.
- Navigating within an audio-visual resource, such as an animation, video or audio file. This could include rewinding, fast forwarding or viewing in slow motion, typically accomplished with a transport bar.
- Zooming or panning a large image such as a map or, on a mobile device, the contents of a document.
- Stepping back and forwards through a slide show.
- Rotating a 3D image, such as a model of a piece of equipment.
- Moving an avatar in a 3D world using keys or game controllers.
All of these interactions put the user very firmly in control – they determine what they see and how. And if we put all this in an adult learning context, you can soon see how exploring is going to be more engaging and more immersive than any number of multiple-choice questions and navigation buttons.