A (pretty) major study of the online world

TNS Digital Life research

In the UK 43% of people are "highly engaged" when it comes to digital activities

From infographics to statistics websites, data design works best when it’s both useful and appealing to the eye.

That the Digital Life study, released last month by research firm TNS, would rate strongly in usefulness is expected. It is after all billed as “the largest ever online research” and involved almost 50,000 interviews across 46 countries.

But what really caught my eye was the interactive website that lets you sample the study. As well as informative, the site manages to be both pretty and fun – not the most obvious attributes for a market research project.

Visualisations and infographics have a strong pull at the moment. Blame our Twitter-induced flickering attention spans perhaps, but there’s no doubt pictures like the Conversation Prism that make it easier to digest information are appealing.

So it’s no surprise that the visual nature of the Digital Life website was a deliberate element of its marketing, encouraging Twitter click-throughs as well as mainstream media mentions.

But once you’ve finished playing with the website there’s plenty of insights to digest.

The headlines include the way mature markets are being left behind online as emerging markets become more active, and how people’s desire for social networking on the go is driving the increase in mobile web use.

But there’s more granular level detail too – which countries lead online shopping on a PC (Vietnam and South Korea) and which are ahead when it comes to social networking and connecting via a mobile (Hong Kong and South Africa), for instance.

The site also allows you to make some interesting comparisons around population (actual and internet), digital lifestyles, importance of different digital activities, the use of PC and mobile technologies and more.

Many permutations are possible, I plumped for seeing how the UK measured up against France.

Digital Life - UK Vs France

The study puts the UK ahead in terms of internet penetration (83% to 69%), but the two countries have the same percentage of people who ranked social networking as their most important online activity (24%).

Other interesting combinations that spring to mind are India and China (the two preeminent countries in the so-called BRIC bloc of emerging markets), Japan and South Korea, the USA and Canada or a developed versus developing country.

You can investigate the Digital Life project in more detail and use the interactive website at discoverdigitallife.com.

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