Best practices for ThingLink, Part I

Who doesn’t love ThingLink? It’s easy, inexpensive and lets you create interactive graphics. Or at least graphics with interactive spots. They work great on mobile devices and can be created right from your phone (or your desktop).

But with such great power comes great responsibility. I’ve seen some bad, bad ThingLinks. It’s easy to get enthralled with the power of an interactive layer on top of a graphic. It’s easy to forget the point of the graphic and even easier to forget the reader.

I recently taught a class on ThingLink’s best practices. The next few blog posts will have those lessons  (and it’s all based on understanding of graphic design and reader desires; there’s no hard data from ThingLink in here).


Lesson 1: The interactive layer has to add something. Interactivity for its own sake is something that consumers get tired of. If it doesn’t add something to the base image, don’t do it.

Here’s an example of freeway closures from Southern California Public Radio:


The base is a screen capture of a Google map. The interactive layer doesn’t add all that much. Click on a dot and you’ll get “Date to be closed: TBA” and then a dense text writeup quoting from a press release.  The best we can say about the interactive layer is that it gives the reader something to play with and it keeps the text out of the way.

Here’s another lousy one from TimeOut London:


The interactive layer here adds nothing. No contact information, no multimedia, nothing that might serve the consumer. It’s interactivity for the sake of interactivity. Blah.

Here’s a better one from the Washington Post. It’s inconsistent in the experience it gives, but it provides explanations that add some value. It also provides some links so that the user can do something with the information — like order the product.

Update: Part II of this series is here.