I had started to have my doubts. The success of online video suggested that people still wanted a linear ‘broadcast’ experience online. Now, research published on the Online Journalism Review (“Navigating slide shows: What do people choose when every choice is possible?“) finds that people using online slideshows overwhelmingly choose the linear ‘next’ navigation over non-linear alternatives, and asks: “Is the linear orientation to looking through material so hard-wired into our media usage that it is, and will continue to be, the preferred way to take in media?”
“Even when it was visual information – as this was – and did not logically need to follow a narrative thread – people preferred to move through in the order it was presented. What does this observation tell us about innovation in digital storytelling and our audience’s tolerance for new design paradigms.”
With some basic information absent, it’s difficult to answer that question. How old were the subjects? How web-savvy?
There’s another point: the linear options were more visible than the non-linear ones. How would they respond to other designs? Isn’t the ‘slideshow’ medium itself linear, compared to, say, a video gallery?
That aside, this is much-needed research in an area we could do with exploring further.