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A picture is worth…

Alex Christie

9 April 2008

Everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you follow this concept to it’s next logical step you might also conclude that pictures are remembered better than words as well.

Indeed, research shows that when comparing just text to just pictures, recall is much better. This rule is called the Picture Superiority effect.

The effect is strongest when the information is not complex and time is limited. This makes a strong case for the potential powerful affect on the web where people are consuming a vast amount of information in as little time as possible.

Consider using images to improve the recognition and recall of important information. Well designed illustrations or diagrams can convey pages of information much more clearly and will be remembered better. One caveat that I would like to include is the use of animation or Flash. As the premise of the research is based on people being able to quickly scan a page, anything that is animated is outside this scope as they require one to stop and wait through the animation. It is not to say that the animation could not be helpful in conveying additional information that would be useful, this should just be on offer in addition to the static easily scannable version.

Of course, it is important to also always remain conscious of accessibility issues and provide alternative non-image options for those who need it.

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