Knowledge on the Web Takes a Visual Turn

Posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011 by

The following is a guest post I wrote on behalf of All My Faves for Synapses, an insightful blog by the lovely Dan Fonseca.

In recent years, as the World Wide Web became mankind’s main communication channel, there has been an interesting shift in the predominance of textual content. More specifically, textual content in mainstream media has been increasingly gravitating towards a more visualized direction. This is not to say textual content or words are a dying breed. Rather, the visual evolution of content -in the form of animated videos, interactive maps and infographics- is emerging primarily in circumstances where complicated knowledge or data need to be understood in a fast and clear manner.

Below I will present several examples of recent visual content forms on the Web, showing how graphic based information achieves immediate understanding and internalization of ideas and processes. These exclude common practical iconizations used for daily routine efficiencies (signs, conventional maps, etc).

1. Visualizing Bloodtests

This example is a knock-out in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. Created by the talented team over at Information is Beautiful, Visualizing Bloodtests is the ultimate data-into-info example, and there’s no wonder why this visualization scored the 1st place in Wired Mag’s re-envisioning medical data design competition.
The original piece of content is a standard bloodtest data document. Doctors can make out what it means, but what about the patient whose blood was tested? It’s virtually impossible to comprehend what’s going on there, and this concerns someones’ life!

Now see the magic of infographics (thanks to Information is Beautiful), turning the incomprehensible document above into an easy to digest content:

2. GapMinder World’s Health & Wealth of Nations Interactive Graph

This interactive graph was created by GapMinder so as to “unveil the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics.” The Health & Wealth of Nations shows the changes in humanity’s lifespan and lifetime earnings over time, starting in 1800. It’s an amazing visualization that takes dry numbers of data and turns them into an engaging presentation that laypersons like you and me can understand easily. By the way, GapMinder’s software Trendalyzer  is so amazing that Google acquired it in 2007.
Click the screen shot below to go to the interactive graph’s page and hit Play.

3. Web Search –

What does the phrase ‘Web search’ make you think of? Probably Google, right? There’s no doubt the search giant is excellent at what it does, and its efficient search algorithms had enabled the company to enter an already inundated Web search market back in 2000 and take it by storm. However, at the end of the day Google’s search service, however sophisticated it may be, is based on word indexes. You must type in key words to find what you are looking for, and then you must read each result entry to identify its relevancy to your search. The byproduct of this process is what has come to be known as search fatigue. Another byproduct is spam and malware hot spots, disguised as credible search results. has identified the shortcomings of standard Web search and offers an innovative alternative: icon-based gateway to Web navigation and site discovery. The homepage lists all the most popular and practical categories relevant to most users, and each category displays the top 10 websites of that field in the form of the site or company’s logo. Based on the same premise of the infogrpahic, delivers quick access to information and services provided by familiar sources and brands, immediately recognizable by their logos.

In addition to the homepage you will also find AllMyFaves’ designated pages for Blogs, Business, Education, Entertainment, Games, Kids, Shopping and Travel. AllMyFaves’ recent tool, the Mini Faves, is a personalization tool inviting users to create their very own visual homepage that includes all of their bookmarks and favorites. Here’s my personal Mini Faves page as an example.

If you would like to create your own Mini Faves page and have all your bookmarks and favorites in one easy page, join AllMyFaves now.

To wrap things up, I think you will agree; visual information is taking a strong hold over the Web and for a good reason. In an era when information flows to and fro at incredible speed, we are bombarded with RSS feeds, news articles, emails and many other content forms on a daily basis. Thanks to visual aids such as infographics, interactive graphs and many other forms of content with a visual approach, making sense of the world just got a whole lot easier.

*Recommended links and sources: Cool Infographics,, Infographics Mini page,
“Conventional Data is Boring. Make Way for the Infographic,” AllMyFaves Blog. Jan 20, 2011.

Discover More