Interactive articles are an effective medium of communication in education, journalism, and scientific publishing, yet are created using complex general-purpose programming tools. We present Idyll Studio, a structured editor for authoring and publishing interactive and data-driven articles. We extend the Idyll framework to support reflective documents, which can inspect and modify their underlying program at runtime, and show how this functionality can be used to reify the constituent parts of a reactive document model—components, text, state, and styles—in an expressive, interoperable, and easy-to-learn graphical interface.
In a study with 18 diverse participants, all could perform basic editing and composition, use datasets and variables, and specify relationships between components. Most could choreograph interactive visualizations and dynamic text, although some struggled with advanced uses requiring unstructured code editing. Our findings suggest Idyll Studio lowers the threshold for non-experts to create interactive articles and allows experts to rapidly specify a wide range of article designs.
In this work, for the the first time, we connect the dots between interactive articles such as those featured in this journal and publications like The New York Times and the techniques, theories, and empirical evaluations put forth by academic researchers across the fields of education, human-computer interaction, information visualization, and digital journalism. We show how digital designers are operationalizing these ideas to create interactive articles that help boost learning and engagement for their readers compared to static alternatives.
The Parametric Press is a new interactive digital magazine that aims to break down complex topics with visualization and interactive graphics. Built on open source research software, the platform acts as a bridge between theory and practice—a case study through which to improve interactive publishing tools and test visualization techniques in the wild—while empowering authors to tell data-driven stories and create explorable explanations.
The web has matured as a publishing platform: news outlets regularly publish rich, interactive stories while technical writers use animation and interaction to communicate complex ideas. This style of interactive media has the potential to engage a large audience and more clearly explain concepts, but is expensive and time consuming to produce. Drawing on industry experience and interviews with domain experts, we contribute design tools to make it easier to author and publish interactive articles.
Journalists, educators, and technical writers are increasingly publishing interactive content on the web. However, popular analytics tools provide only coarse information about how readers interact with individual pages, and laboratory studies often fail to capture the variability of a real-world audience. We contribute extensions to the Idyll markup language to automate the detailed instrumentation of interactive articles and corresponding visual analysis tools for inspecting reader behavior at both micro- and macro-levels.
We present three case studies of interactive articles that were instrumented, posted online, and promoted via social media to reach broad audiences, and share data from over 50,000 reader sessions. We demonstrate the use of our tools to characterize article-specific interaction patterns, compare behavior across desktop and mobile devices, and reveal reading patterns common across articles. Our contributed findings, tools, and corpus of behavioral data can help advance and inform more comprehensive studies of narrative visualization.