Please, can someone tell me what interactivity is?

5 minutes
Written by: Natalia De la Peña Frade

I typed ‘What does interactivity mean?’ into Google and was reminded of my first dictionary when I was little, in which the definition of ‘cabbage’ was ‘collard’, and the definition of ‘collard’ was ‘cabbage’.

Interactivity: the quality of interactive. 

Interactive: happens through interaction. 

A bit like a dead-end street, isn’t it?

If you want to clear up any doubts you may have about the meaning of this word, this is the right place. At Genially, we use it a lot. That’s why we know exactly what interactivity is, and how it works. Did you know that it’s one of the star qualities of our tool? Let’s take a look at what it is and what it’s for, in the simplest terms.

What is interactivity?

Interactivity refers to the communication between people and digital devices or content. It is the ability of a computer, program, or other content to respond to the actions of the person that’s using it. In a nutshell, it is what allows you to navigate a website, use social media, or play your favorite video game. 

Thanks to interactivity, bidirectional communication between people and machines is possible. It’s very different from watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper, where your only option is to consume or not consume the content you receive.

When you click on an interactive element, something happens: maybe another website appears, a new window opens, or a download is initiated. When you interact with these elements, what happens depends on your actions.

Images, icons, graphics, links, videos, and audios are some examples of interactive media, and combine with animated elements to capture your attention. They are programmed to respond to your actions, surprising you and making things more fun. It’s much more stimulating and fun to interact than to read paragraphs and paragraphs of text or sit down and simply listen. When you interact with content, you step out of the role of spectator and adopt the role of participant.

What’s more, you’re in charge. You’re the one who controls what content to consume and how you consume it, as well as when you want more information. That’s why people like it!

Want to see it in action? Look how easy it is to climb these steps.

Everything is more exciting if you participate

Think about the steps in the example and imagine seeing those 10 tips written in a text. Would you have read them? Maybe you would, if you’re interested in healthy life habits. But even if that’s something you never give a moment’s thought to, I bet you couldn’t resist clicking on that animated button, am I right?

That’s normal. We are visual and curious beings by nature.

These human characteristics make interactivity super useful for promoting communication and learning. That’s why it has so many applications, from education to videogames, as well as marketing and other commercial activities. It’s also the basis on which social media operate, which play a big role in our lives nowadays.

Another example:

A moving element on a screen, such as the button you’ve just seen, catches your attention. It’s enough just to know that it’s clickable and you suddenly have the urge to click and see what happens. If you know that there’s something behind the button, your natural curiosity prompts you to interact to find out what it is that’s not in view.

When you need to communicate information, the results will be very different if you use interactivity. Think about how it works for you: it’s not the same if someone tells you something as if you investigate it for yourself.

Now think about the practical applications of this. For example, if you hand out a sheet of mathematical formulas to a group of young students, it’s highly likely that they won’t pay it any attention. If you tell them they are on a mission to find the secret formulas and you hide them behind interactive buttons, getting that information turns into something fun and engaging, doesn’t it? Interactivity wins the day!

What levels of interactivity are there?

There are varying theories about the levels of interactivity, which define 3, 4, and even 5 different levels. To make it easy (we don’t want to lose you to Instagram now we’ve come this far!), we’ll deal with 3 levels or grades of interactivity, low, medium, and high.

  • Low or passive level is what a website or program operates on. The content is linear, but you can navigate between pages, select options, and carry out other simple actions. 
  • Medium or limited level: this level includes the qualities of the passive level and adds a few more, such as the possibility to interact with other elements, such as interactive graphics, videos, audios, draggable elements, among others. The theories which define 4 levels of interactivity also speak about a moderate level which is very similar to this one but with the added ability to personalize content. 
  • Simulation level requires more sophisticated design and provides an immersive experience. On top of the interactive elements of the previous levels we have more multimedia content, simulations based on virtual reality, and gamification, for example. This is the most engaging type of interactivity. 

Enough theory… it’s time to practice!

Feel like playing around with interactivity?  That way you can put the theory into practice. People who know about these things say that practicing is the best way to learn. In this example you’ll see the 3 levels of interactivity:

Now that you know what interactivity is, do you have any ideas as to how to use it to achieve your own objectives? With Genially, making your own interactive content is really easy: no need for programming skills. Professionals from all sectors and of all profiles use Genially to engage their audience and improve their communication. Do you want to try it too?  

Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read
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