2.1 - Information Styles
2016 - Unit 2
There are many different ways that information can be styled and presented, both on-screen and physically.
There are many more benefits and limitations to using each information style but some key ideas have been described below.
Text is a written (or typed) format of information.
✓ Text provides detailed summaries and explanations.
✓ The format of text can be changed to suit its purpose (e.g. include bullet points or different colours).
✓ Text can be written in different languages so that all literate people can understand.
X Large amounts of text can be difficult and time-consuming to read. It is generally less engaging than most other methods.
X Text may include spelling errors or be factually incorrect.
Graphics are a visual form of information. Examples include logos, photographs and diagrams.
✓ Graphics are multilingual - they can be understood by anybody regardless of their spoken language. Companies like IKEA will use the same graphics globally.
✓ Graphics can present an idea or message immediately and can use associations (e.g. the colour red is associated with temperature or anger).
✓ Graphics are a more engaging method of presenting information than text.
X Images may take longer to load over a data-restricted network, for example, images in an email may not be automatically downloaded.
Videos are visual formats of information, often with audio.
✓ More engaging and easier to follow than reading large amounts of text.
✓ Videos can be used to convey a message in a short space of time, e.g. television adverts.
✓ Audio can be added to videos such as music for engagement or narration to explain a process.
X Videos usually take up a relatively large amount of storage space, longer videos may take time to upload / download / transfer along a network.
X Videos take a long time to create including filming, editing and narration.
Animated graphics are images with multiple frames, such as an animation of the heart showing individual steps that a user can pause and step through in their own time.
✓ Can be used to show a process and is easier to understand than reading text.
✓ Can be understood by all ages and language speakers.
X Creating an animated graphic takes time to create, especially educational resources with multiple frames and annotation.
Numerical information is represented by numbers. This can include a wide array of different information including statistics, financial data, dates, ages and distances.
✓ Statistical data is easier to understand and manage in a numerical format than standard text - 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 to visualise the data.
X Long numbers can be entered by humans incorrectly and lead to incorrect results.
X Formatted data like telephone numbers cannot be stored as numerical because numerical does not allow spaces and does not allow the number to start with 0.
Audio is an information type using sound waves. A common form of audio is music, such as the millions of tracks stored in music libraries like Spotify and YouTube. Non-music examples include spoken instructions and podcasts.
✓ Users can listen to information when they are otherwise busy and could not read, such as when walking or driving.
✓ Visually impaired users who are unable to read can still hear audio and interact with voice recognition software.
✓ Some users prefer listening to instructions rather than reading text.
X Audio may not be suitable in some environments e.g. noisy areas.
X Words may be misheard and misunderstandings made, possibly due to pronunciations or accents.
Tactile images are a form of physical information that can be interpreted by touch. Specialist software is used to create raised lines on paper that 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.
✓ Users can better understand a physical environment or prospective design if it is physically built.
✓ Visually-impaired users can feel the object instead of being able to see it.
✓ The tactile image can be used as a prototype for a target audience to feel and comment on.
X It is difficult to share a tactile image without physically moving it, unlike digital or paper information styles.
X Creating a tactile image requires specialist equipment like a 3D printer.
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.
✓ Hearing-impaired users can access audio information formats such as video by reading the subtitles.
✓ Subtitles can be used in noisy environments or when sound cannot be played.
✓ Subtitles can be used for translated speech, such as in promotional videos or television programmes.
X Auto-generated subtitles are often incorrect.
X Subtitles written by a human take a long time to type up and sync in time with the audio.
Tables & Spreadsheets
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.
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.
Spreadsheets can be linked to other documents such as forms to directly import data from. This data can be ordered into different groups and conditional formatting can be used to automatically organise and style the data.
Graphs and charts can be created using values stored in a spreadsheet to easily visualise the data. Modelling can be used to see the effect of variable changes (e.g. will raising the price of one product affect overall profit?).
Database tables use queries (advanced searches) to find and display data based on given criteria (such as all males under 35). Mail merge can be used to automatically send emails to the customers highlighted in the query.
A report can be generated from the query results to display the information in a structured format. This can be used to make decisions and analyse data.
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'.
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 through touch. A braille printer is used to output braille dots onto paper.
✓ Allows visually impaired users to interact with a computer system using a braille terminal.
✓ A braille printer can print documents written using braille to be given to blind people to 'read'.
X Braille terminals can only display a limited amount of information at a time.
X Braille is not used by many people except visually impaired people so few resources are written using braille.
Charts & Graphs
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 huge tables of numbers.
✓ Charts present numerical data in a format that is easier to visualise and understand.
✓ Charts and graphs can summarise information into one image data that would take paragraphs to explain in text.
✓ Displaying information in a graph allows users to easily identify trends and make comparisons between data.
X Charts can be misleading or can display incorrect information if the numerical data is wrong.
2.1 - Information Styles:
1. Describe the following information styles:
a. Tactile Images 
b. Braille 
c. Boolean 
2. Describe two advantages and two disadvantages for each of the following information styles:
a. Text 
b. Graphics 
c. Video 
d. Animated Graphics 
e. Numerical 
f. Audio 
g. Tactile Images 
h. Subtitles 
i. Braille 
j. Charts & Graphs 
3a. Spreadsheets and database tables can be record locked. Explain what record locking is and why it is used. 
3b. Describe different ways that spreadsheets can be used. 
3c. Describe different ways that databases can be used.