Contiguity Defined

Contiguity refers to how text, words, graphics and even animation are presented together. Research has shown that individuals who learned from multimedia outperformed others when the design: (1) combined words with pictures rather than words alone; (2) placed words close to corresponding pictures; (3) used narration with corresponding animation and; (4) avoided extraneous words, pictures, and sound effects. The last condition is perhaps the most difficult to avoid in an online environment that combines an overwhelming amount of multimedia content, link choices, and multiple ads.

The goal for contiguity requires multimedia journalists and designers to consider the roles that photos, graphics and animation play with the hypertext to tell one story. For example, a colorful graphic that illustrates multiple steps in a process (i.e. stem cell formation) still needs to communicate the significance of the order and the meaning of each step. Merely connecting the steps with arrows may not suffice in communicating to non-experts. After a graphic or animation is produced (often by designers not journalists) contiguity with a story’s text can be overlooked when a management system assembles all of the elements of a single story.

Moreno & Mayer (1999)
Yaros & Cook (2010, 2009)

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