2.1 Information Styles

There are many different ways that information can be styled and presented.

 

Text

Graphic

Video

Text is a written (or typed) format of information. It can be used to provide a summary of key information. Narrative and facts (such as customer statements) are better displayed as text. The format of text can be changed to suit its purposes, such as including bullet points or lists. Different character sets exist for different languages, such as Western (e.g. 'Computer Science' in English), Cyrillic (e.g. 'Информатика' in Russian) or Arabic (e.g. 'علوم الكمبيوتر').

Graphics are a visual form of information. Examples include logos, photographs and diagrams. Graphics can be used as a visual demonstration without text, e.g. IKEA instruction manuals sent with products to different countries (graphics are multilingual). Graphics can convey an instant message and use associations - e.g. red is associated with anger, whereas blue is calmer. Organisations will carefully consider colour before choosing a logo.

Videos are audio / visual formats of information. A narrated video of instructions on how to troubleshoot software would be easier to follow than just pictures. Video can be broadcast live such as for music concerts, news programmes or video game streams. Video is used in advertising to promote a product in a short space of time. Advertisers spend millions of dollars every year to air a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl.

T

 

Animated graphic

Audio

Numerical

Animated graphics are a visual form of information. One file type is .gif (graphics interchange format) that allows web-based applications to display images with multiple frames. Other types of animated graphic can be used as a demonstration or instruction. For example, revision websites might have an animated graphic of the heart, showing the individual steps, that the user can pause and step through in their own time.

Audio is an information type using sound waves. A common form of audio is music, such as the millions of tracks stored on libraries such as Spotify or websites like YouTube. Blind users can listen to audio files and use voice recognition software to input commands verbally. Non-music examples include spoken instructions and podcasts. Some people may prefer listening to instructions about how to create a program rather than read them.

Numerical information is represented by numbers. This can include a wide array of different information including statistics, financial data, dates, ages and distances. These types of data are best presented in a numerical format so that they can be understood and managed more easily - 234,567 is simpler to work with than "two hundred and thirty-four thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven". Numerical data can be exported into spreadsheets and presented as graphs.

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Tactile images

Subtitles

Boolean

Tactile images are a form of physical information that can be interpreted by touch. For example, NASA has converted some photos from the Hubble Space Telescope into physical, tactile objects that blind people can experience by touching. Geographers can create 3D physical objects of environments such as valleys or volcanoes. This allows researchers and land surveyors to have a better understanding of a geographic area.

Subtitles are a textual form of information that can be shown along with visual data such as a video. Subtitles are written to transcribe audio, such as speech, into words. A common use of subtitles includes translated speech for television programmes or movies originally in another language. Deaf viewers can access audio information by reading the subtitles. Subtitles can also be used in noisy environments.

Boolean is a data type that can only have one of two specified values. These values are most commonly 'True' and 'False' or sometimes 'yes' and 'no'. Boolean can be represented in different ways, such as text displaying "True" or a checkbox that can be ticked. The question "Would you like to become a VIP member" can only have two Boolean values - "Yes" or "No". In a data capture form, this could be represented by a checkbox for the user to select or leave.

*screams*

 

Tables & Spreadsheets

Charts & Graphs

Braille Text

Tables and spreadsheets can store both numerical and textual data ready for analysis. Examples include simple database tables and financial spreadsheets of a company's profits this year. Microsoft Access is an example of database software that uses tables and Microsoft Excel is an example of spreadsheet software.

Charts and graphs can be used to present numerical data in a format that is easier to visualise and understand. They can be labelled to show different data values, and they make it easier for viewers to identify trends and make comparisons between data. Large quantities of data, like census results, are easier to visualise in a graph than reading vast tables of numbers.

Braille is an example of a tactile image that can be physically touched. Braille characters represent letters or numbers that can be 'read' by touch - used primarily by those with visual impairments. Devices like braille terminals convert characters on a screen into braille, line-by-line so that blind people can understand the information.

Maintaining integrity and data security

When using spreadsheets (or databases) records can be locked ('record locking') so that only one person can make edits at any one time. Edits will be saved before unlocking the file.

 

This will stop data being incorrectly overwritten and will ensure that the data in the spreadsheet is up-to-date, accurate and fit for purpose.

For example, a customer database in a bank will be record locked, so two transactions are not interfering with each other, e.g. if £500 is automatically withdrawn for rent and £50 for an online purchase being made at the same time. If the record isn't locked, one of the transactions may be overwritten and only £500 or £50 withdrawn instead of £550.

Question Corner

Information Styles:

 Google is launching a new advertising campaign for its Pixel 4 phone. Explain how Google can make use of each information style to promote their phone to potential customers. They may use different methods of outreach, such as online, on television and in pop-up shops in shopping centres. 

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