Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 1 -
Multimedia Design Process Introduction For the purposes of these guidelines, the multimedia design process has been broken down into the following principal phases: planning, design, production and validation. A schematic representation of the process is shown below as figure 1.
This section provides information on each of these phases, breaking them down into a number of sub-tasks. Tasks are listed sequentially, in the order they would often be tackled in the actual development process. Depending on project requirements, however, the exact nature of tasks and the order in which they are carried out will vary between projects and according to team
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 2 -
preferences. For instance, not all projects will require support materials or packaging, or a destination-site study, and end-user models may be carried over between projects, as long as the assumptions built into the model are explicit and may be reviewed and revised as a result of user-feedback generated in the course of product testing and validation. Equally, delays usually require creative project management decisions to bring tasks into parallel which might ideally be best completed in series. Table of Contents Planning a Working Environment Putting together a development team Planning Sufficient care and time should be given to ensuring that aims and objectives are clarified, that the material and human resource requirements of the project have been identified, that roles and responsibilities are clear, that the best procedures to realize project aims and objectives have been discussed and agreed and that difficulties are anticipated and allowed for. Good planning is essential to the successful outcome of any project. Starting projects & Exploratory meetings Costs Feasibility Studies Test of Concept Models Written Agreements Documentation Design Once the team is in place and the strategy for tacking the project has been planned, designing the look and feel of the interactive program and writing the content can take place. Brainstorming Flowcharts Modeling the End-user Report on Destination Site Product Specification Storyboarding Human-computer Interface Design Content definition: writing scripts and captions Asset research, copyright clearance and acquisition Inputting text File management Designing Support Materials and Packaging
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 3 -
Production Prototyping Graphics Programming Support Materials and Packaging Integration Mastering Validation Validation (or testing) is a painstaking procedure but an essential part of the total quality assurance process. It is the study of the effectiveness of design prototypes, acknowledging any weaknesses encountered. The purpose of validation is to check to see if the program meets its specified objectives. Realizing the objectives of the validation process requires clear testing procedures to be devised. In-house debugging is the testing of a program's functionality: do all the buttons and effects operate as intended without causing the system to crash? It will also cover performance testing under different hardware and operating system configurations. Trialing refers to testing the program's end-user objectives in a simulated or real end-user environment -- field testing. The process of testing, trialing and revision is cyclical. Program revision sends the team back to the debugging process and on to field testing again. One of the big problems in the process is that exhaustive testing is usually impossible, given the limited time and resources available for the project's lifetime and the pressures to demonstrate working models to clients prematurely. Quality and Task Completion Checking In-house debugging Content Testing Trialing Revising
Post Development Support and Maintenance Built into any project should be an overhead to cover the post-development support and maintenance of deliverables. One should not underestimate the amount of time that can be consumed handling technical support queries on a product for which there is no longer a budget.
Putting Together a Suitable Team What are the qualities required by a good production team? They are of particular interest to employers in drafting job advertisements and to producers in putting together teams. The following material is the result of preliminary research into job advertisements in each design area, published materials, and from contacts with multimedia employers and designers, either in face-to-face interviews or by means of letter, Internet E-mail, bulletin board and discussion forums.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 4 -
Joining the Team Most employers, of course, want to employ someone who can step into the job and be productive immediately, rather than have to undergo an expensive sixmonths training program. They tend to look for candidates who already have professional multimedia skills, exhibiting a sound understanding of technology and design issues and have flexibility in working with different software packages. Usually the possession of strong interpersonal social skills, the ability to write fluently and legibly, the ability to relate to clients, a creative and enthusiastic approach and the possession of project management skills will have employers anxious to take on a person. They look for artists who can draw and design, new from Art school, and are not put off by endlessly retouching in image-processing packages such as Photoshop, who also have experience in 3Dmodelling and animation. They look for programmers who work in C, visual basic, and a variety of authoring packages such as Director. And at all times they will expect the ability to demonstrate the possession of professed skills. However, they do not look for all of these skills in one individual, it would be futile. If they DID find one with all of these skills, they would have to be willing to pay this person very well and keep the competition from hiring him or her out from under the company. Development-team structure Clear roles and responsibilities for team members will result in a good team structure and effective team working. Roles may overlap but responsibilities should not. Here is a list of those generally involved in putting together a multimedia title. Further in this document, there will be detailed explanations of roles and skills profiles.
Team Positions / Titles
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 5 -
It is, perhaps, more appropriate to consider these as roles rather than as individuals since the same individual, depending on their expertise and availability, might appropriately carry out several roles. For instance, in an extreme case (not so extreme, perhaps, in the early days of multimedia development), a single individual might be responsible for putting together a title: writing the program structure and content, designing interface screens and iconography, gathering, creating and integrating assets, programming, and even producing the design disc labels and support materials. A more usual team-size is five to seven people: 1.
The interactive / designer-director
The instructional designer / copywriter
The project manager
The graphic artist director / layout designer / animator / 3D modeler
Photographer / Video Expert
Audio / Sound recordings person
The programmer and network manager
In general, the smaller the team the more efficient the unit, since everyone has an intimate understanding of the project's objectives and can react more flexibly to the unanticipated need for changes later in the projects life. Also, team communications are much less of a problem in smaller teams. With bigger productions, the size of the team may need to be increased and this can make project planning and management more problematic. With the class size we have, some of these issues may come up and being problematic can occur if we do not anticipate ahead of time. It is my opinion that a class of twelve students from Lee University can work together and make astounding accomplishments. This is how it is done in the real world where you will ultimately be working. We can make this work !!! Attitude, Ideology and Communication From its mix of personnel, policies and environment, every organization represents a unique working culture which will affect the design process. Designer's personal skills and qualities significantly affect team-working and may be explored by an examination of individual team-member profiles above. Additional factors influencing development-team dynamics include team members' attitudes and professional ideology. As far as attitude goes, excitement and enthusiasm are valuable commodities and can be encouraged through praise and appreciation. Praise where it's due costs very little. Being
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 6 -
overly critical and cynical towards other's work can lead to a dulling of the critical faculty by blocking one's openness to alternative ideas, reducing the will to experiment. Studying the worth and the limitations of other people's work is an obvious source of inspiration. History is not necessarily progressive and the past contains many avenues which, due to limitations of resources or technical possibilities, have not been fully explored. The team should be always looking for ideas that are fresh, fun and effective. Having found such ideas, studying and copying the methods of their realization can lead to the development of new ones. In the end, it is also important to hang on to the idea that there is no guideline that cannot be contradicted to produce good design. Contradiction itself can be used to good effect. Challenging a user's expectations gets attention; it can, however, be overused. Good communications between team members and with the outside development community, if only to keep abreast of developments, are also important for success. This applies to communications in drawing up initial project plans, in keeping good documentation and in problem solving. Acknowledging and talking through problems can be helpful in lifting mindblocks, even with team members who do not specialize in the particular area you do. Sometimes a suggestion from a completely different direction can be just what is needed in reengaging one's creative thought processes. The more development team members understand the various languages of design, the more effective and efficient will be the team.
Project Manager The executive producer / project manager spends the largest part of their time networking with individuals and organizations outside the development house, attracting contracts and future funding partners and operating at a strategic level to ensure the team is profitably employed and competitively well positioned. Frequently, the executive producer is in a favorable position to identify market opportunities and talk to potential clients. In the development process, the role of the executive producer is to liaise with the client at executive level, agreeing a contract and ensuring that, within their own organization, the development team works to meet their contractual obligations and provide value for money. The executive producer also acts to facilitate the producer in matters of executive authorization (signing for the purchase or hire of additional resources required by the project). Having delegated authority to the producer and project manager, and approved the project plan, the role of the executive producer then becomes minimal. Determining points of detail with the client is usually left to the producer or production assistant. The role of the Project Manager It is in the nature of projects that no two are ever identical and managing them
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 7 -
means making decisions on the basis of very uncertain information. The more experienced the project team, the more reliable will be projections as to the capabilities of the team and how quickly specified objectives can be met. Essentially, however, every project means breaking new ground and predictions are never 100% reliable. The role of the project manager is to minimise the risks involved in the development process by careful planning and monitoring. This involves building time, cost and resource safety margins into estimates and devising alternative emergency strategies. While project management is an inexact science, the role of the project manager is nevertheless capable of definition. In general, it is the responsibility of the project manager to: clarify project objectives in terms of the constraints on the project: time, costs and deliverables; identify the tasks that have to be done; determine the operational parameters such as organizational structure team members operational procedures for contracting, reporting and financing production values (the standards and/or performance levels the project is working toward)
In the planning stage, the project manager, after discussion with all team members, draws up a plan which includes:
tasks to be completed time scales and schedules resources required scheduled discussions during project estimated cost of each task
Sufficient safety margin has to be built into the plan to allow for such things as rise in costs, rise in salaries, holidays, illness, unforeseen technical problems, and additional expenses over the lifetime of the project. In the production / designing stage, the project manager
monitors the plans implementation reviews progress in relation to the plan revises the plan
As a team leader, it is the project manager's role to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each team member. In doing so, the project manager should
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 8 -
first listen to the ideas of team members as to where they can best contribute according to their talent and experience. Resolving conflicts will involve ensuring that all team members feel that their points have been listened to and weighed, and that the final decision is fair. A good team leader must also be able to delegate authority where appropriate and not over-direct. It is the role of the project manager to ensure good team communications through regular individual and group meetings, and the circulation of memos and other documentation. Keeping the team informed about the project's progress and regularly consulting and involving all members in decision-making will ensure that everyone retains a feeling of ownership in, and commitment to, the project. It is advisable that each team member keep a log of procedures, task progress and checks completed. It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that procedures are adhered to and revised if necessary, and to draw up or collate new procedures when required, to be given to all team members. Tracking progress in this way will benefit not just the project in hand but future projects by generate a bank of data of use in making more reliable predictions as to the cost, time and resources required by similar projects in the future. The project manager should be advised immediately about any problems that look as though they could have resource availability, deadline or productquality implications. Timetabling can be critical. The timings of tasks should be negotiated with those involved to enable realistic targets for the team and individual members to be set. A timetable for the completion of tasks and team meetings can then be drawn up and given to all team members by the project manager. Project management software comes in handy, such as Microsoft Project. Such software can be invaluable in identifying conflicts in the allocations of resources both within a project and between projects and in trying out alternative solutions in seeking a solution. See the network chart of the development process shown as Figure 1 on the first page of this document. It is the role of the project manager to support team members, motivating the team, praising individual and team contributions, and pushing for the tools and other resources required to realize the project's aim within reason. Because project management is a very practical skill, learned best by actually managing, experience is vital. Inexperienced project managers need to work with experienced managers as mentors. This is often the relationship between the producer and the project manager, where the producer has more experience of projects and acts as a mentor to the less experienced project
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 9 -
manager. Often, however, the roles of producer and project manager are played by the same person. Personal Skills and Qualities of the Project manager The project manager must be a good team leader and team player, participative, non-threatening, open-minded, a good listener, fair minded, able to see things from competing points of view, a problem solver with the ability to steer not simply a middle course but a winning course in terms of the project's objectives and see decisions through. The CD-I Production Handbook describes the CD-I producer (or project manager) as "a jack of all trades -- someone whose knowledge has to encompass a variety of areas, from sound-recording to software engineering, and from animation to video techniques, with project management and publicrelations skills thrown in for good measure.
Planning a Working Environment An early task in the setting up of a multimedia studio is the planning of the working environment. Here multimedia visualization tools prove particularly effective in arriving at optimum ergonomic solutions to fit available space and work patterns.
Where dimensions were known, elements were constructed with an accuracy of a fraction of an inch. This allowed the best use of studio space available to be considered and helped identify how much shelving was necessary and where it should go. Where additional storage space was required for discs and tapes, this was addressed by introducing mobile units beneath desks. Furniture, equipment and viewing position could be easily repositioned within the room, allowing alternative arrangements to be tried out. And virtual figures were introduced to study the design ergonomics, to ensure that the mostoften-used items were most accessible and permit greatest freedom of movement and comfort.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 10 -
The project also had quite a bit of added value. For example, still images from the model were used to enhance a paper to the centre's management committee, requesting funding for the studio. Undoubtedly, good visuals were persuasive in communicating the nature and need for the proposed facility. ď‚ˇ And the model itself has been used in a number of client presentations, to illustrate practically the concept of virtual walkthroughs, as well as to introduce newcomers to the working environment. ď‚ˇ Finally, once created the elements of the model can be, and have been, recycled for other purposes, in constructing other environments. ď‚ˇ
Starting the Project Projects usually arise as a result of perceiving a need, or identifying a problem which can be considered interesting enough to be worth solving. Starting usually involves coming up with an idea and discussing it with all those involved in a series of exploratory meetings. Note that the way a project is started can have an important influence of the types of questions asked and who asks them in the course of exploring the feasibility of an idea. At the very beginning of the project, it is the project manager who is involved mainly with the client, if there is one. Not every project has a commissioning client; some projects arise from ideas within the design team itself and are funded internally. In the case of projects which arise without a commissioning client, the matter of funding needs to be settled very quickly. If the idea is sufficiently interesting, the project manager may decide the project should be funded entirely internally. Alternatively, the decision might be to invest sufficient time and resources to develop the concept to a prototype form which can then be used to secure funding from outside for its commercial exploitation.
Exploratory Meetings Starting a project usually involves coming up with an idea and discussing it with all those involved in a series of exploratory meetings. In these meeting, it may be the producer who is involved mainly with the client, taking account of a wide range of client considerations in order to construct a profile of the client. At these meetings it will be important to establish the aims and objectives of the proposed project. Doing so involves identifying and clarifying what the problem or need is: carrying out a "user needs analysis", always bearing in mind that the commissioning client is not necessarily the end-user of the product. Such an analysis involves doing market research, modeling the enduser (asking questions about their age, skills, background experiences and
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 11 -
knowledge, etc.) and the user environment (where is the resource to be used: home, classroom, workplace, public space? What is the expected contact time with the resource?); then asking whether or not the proposed resource / project is feasible or not.
Cost, resource and time constraints An often-quoted estimate of the ratio of development time to run-time for computer-based training materials is 100:1, i.e., 100 person hours are required to develop a 1 hour of computer-based training user experience. This could vary between as much as 217:1 and, for long-term projects producing over 75 hours user time, 50:1. If the title requires development on a new platform sufficient time should be left for the programmer to become familiar within the new equipment and for sorting out hardware and software teething problems. Costs should allow, also, for adequate support, for development tool software updates and for distribution licenses that may be required to bundle tool libraries or utilities developed out of house. Budgets for the development of commercial interactive software titles are typically: Leading edge, prestige, high content: $100,000+ Middle range with high production values: $50,000 - $75,000 Cheaper titles: $25,000 â€“ 50,000 Canale and Wills (above) quote 1 hour of CBT costs between $2500 and $5000 depending on complexity. A project at this time, of 10 hours of interactive multimedia commercial training, would be within a budget of $50,000. Estimate for three current titles in the order of $7500 to $12500 per run-time hour for a 4-6 hour title. Economies come from developing a series of titles. Once you have developed an engine it can be incredibly quick to create the next title in the series. The second title may take 6 weeks, the third 2-3 weeks. Finally, it may take no time at all if what one is distributing is the tools to allow authors to build titles for themselves. Costs may be broken down in a number of ways: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
Labor costs/Salaries Design workshops Production Copyright and license fees Post-production Software Hardware (specific to the project)
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 12 -
8. Piloting 9. Support documentation 10. Mastering & replication Note that project management costs may be as much as 15% total project costs. (R. Canale and S. Wills, "Producing professional interactive multimedia: project management issues", British Journal of Educational Technology, vol.26, no.2, 1995, pp.84-93)
Guidelines The following points related to cost are worth considering:
The project manager should be notified immediately anything that may affect project costs, scheduling or production values becomes apparent. It takes time to get things done right. It takes a lot of time to make things simple. Product quality will relate to project budget. Generally, the client gets what they paid for. Generally, small design and production teams are more efficient than larger ones. Bigger and better hardware and software will not necessarily result in quality productions. There is no substitute for talented and professional design work. The right tools in the hands of the right designer; everyone has their own way of working. Given the limitations of cost, resources and time, it is seldom the case that end-products completely fulfill the aspirations of the design team. Usually the end-product represents a compromise or series of compromises.
Feasibility At some point in planning, the question of feasibility has to be answered. Having established earlier, through market research or otherwise, that the project is worth doing, the question then is can it be done. Will it be possible to realize the declared aims and objectives of the project within the agreed critical constraints of time, budget/resources and production values? After team consultation, a feasibility report may be drawn up by the project manager detailing exactly what needs to be done to realize the project objectives. As a result of this report and further discussion, either the project aims and objectives may end up being modified or adjustments may be made
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 13 -
to the project's critical constraints or the project is decided not to be feasible and is dropped.
The Test-of-concept Model The test-of-concept model could be totally paper-based -- a sketch treatment, indicating program structure and the sort of features (interactive and otherwise) to be included. I favor building interactive sketch models (prototypes if you will) and, for this, I find Macromedia Flash an ideal program. With Flash (or other similar authoring programs), interactive models can be quickly constructed in a form that is easily adjusted and gives more concrete expression to the way those involved in the initial design process are thinking. In this way, decisions about what works are easier to make. Working in this way can also make later phases like content-writing a lot easier
Written Agreements / Contracts Written agreements, or contracts, between client and developer are important in making clear the obligations of each party. The written agreement limits the consequences of settling any disagreement at a later stage which could affect the project in terms of time lost, cost and loss of good will. If the client is commissioning an original piece of work, then the written agreement should deal with what the client will supply in terms of assets, resources the product specification the ownership of the product the development time is the contractor assigning any rights? or retaining copyright? the contract price which may be fixed or in staged payments depending on satisfactory progress or supply of materials (so that, if as the result of a feasibility study the client decides not to proceed with the project, the developer may be paid for work done to that point) future maintenance and support whether commissioning company gets the object code (or machine code) and/or source code (unusual since more a problem since can be used to edit/re-write software) license for existing software
If the client is licensing an existing work, then the written agreement (or license) should deal with
duration whether restricted to a particular place or equipment
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 14 -
fee exclusive or non-exclusive (same rights grantable to others) assignable (to company which purchases the business)
Covering how the work will be used: to shop and play in public, to broadcast, to transmit across a network Turner Kenneth Brown, Solicitors (1994) recommend a period of acceptance testing for the client to test the product's performance (approximately 30 days is usual). Failure to test promptly or using the software for anything other than testing could be taken as a client's acceptance by implication. The contract should also specify the consequences if the software does not work as it should.
Documentation Documenting development procedures is an important technique in quality assurance. The process of documentation can be time-consuming and is often regarded as unexciting but the potential advantages are significant: Documents supply everyone with a common point of reference, enabling the design team (which includes the client) to say, 'Yes, that is what I meant', or 'No, we've a problem here'. Problems may be spotted which may have proven more costly to correct at a later stage.
The types of document which are typically produced in the course of product development are: Draft Outline Agreement / contract Project management: critical constraints & planning charts Flowchart of project process Storyboard Product specifications Testing procedures Documentation is only of use if it is in a form which is readable and accessible by those to whom it is addressed. It is important for the development team to have a clear understanding of the content of these documents and this is facilitated by good channels for communication within the team and for the circulation of documents. For specifics on each item on the above list, refer to Appendix A, titled “documentation.” Often document production is an after-the-event affair, produced to conceal a more craft-oriented or tacit approach to design behind a methodological veneer. The extent to which project documentation actually serves its purpose requires much further research.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 15 -
Brainstorming A brainstorming session will bring together as a working group all those who may have a creative input in shaping the content and design structure for the program. Possible models and approaches to program design will be discussed and eventually one approach will be favored for further design work. The group needs to discuss the audience for the program and their needs, as a step towards modeling the end-user. From the final report of the working group, a model will be flowcharted, revised and a storyboard for production will then be produced.
Modeling the End-user Modeling the End-User means creating a profile of the target audience for the resource being developed. Unless the resource maintains the user's interest and involvement in meeting user needs, it cannot succeed. And being able to demonstrate that user needs are met provides essential performance indicators, critical to the evaluation process. Incorporating in a project plan methodological procedures to measure these performance indicators is also valuable in securing project funding by minimizing the risk of failure (and many projects do fail! -- Mention, or link to piece based on, the paper Julius gave me about the software crisis.) Successful design results from a sensitive approach to one's subject: trying to see things from the point of view of the end-user, taking into consideration their needs, expectations and motivations, and communicating in language appropriate to the target user(s). The problem is a complex one, made more difficult by the fact that different people learn best in different ways. If the designer proceeds with the aim of trying to make life simpler and easier for the end-user, even though that means extra design work, the result should be greater user motivation and more effective learning and use of the interactive system. There is an important need, then to accurately model or profile of the end-user, refining the model as the design process proceeds and feedback is obtained through the process of testing and evaluation. Questions to be answered about the target audience which help in building a model of the user (or user profile) include the following. Age: what is the average age or age-range of anticipated users? Background: Is information available about the backgrounds of the user which might help in answering further questions? Interests: what are the interests of potential users. Skills: what are the background skills and level of knowledge of users regarding the proposed content of the resource?
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 16 -
Media sophistication: what are the background skills and level of knowledge of users regarding the proposed medium -- multimedia and the use of computers? Special Needs: Does the user have any special needs which may affect the presentation of information, and any input-output resulting from user interactions? Site: Where is the resource to be used: home, classroom, workplace, public space? Contact Time: What is the expected contact time with the resource? Learning context: Is there to be only one type of end-user or will there be several? How will the system be used: by one user or by several users simultaneously? Is the resource to be used as a presentation device by a teacher/trainer, as an aid to group discussion, in single-user standalone mode, or across a network? Diagnostics: is diagnostic feedback about user performance desirable? Password protection: Are interactions by the user to be stored and monitored? Confidentiality: If interactions are to stored, is it likely that materials will be of a confidential variety and will this come under the provisions of the Data Protection Act? Distribution medium: will the materials be stored and accessed in standalone fashion or across a network? Support Materials: Is the resource to be used alongside other learning materials and, if it is, is its role supplementary or central to the learning experience? Will the needs of each user-type change over time, either as a result of interacting with the system or independently of the system?
Answers to these questions may be arrived at in a number of ways: In discussion with the commissioning client, if there is one. By interview with, or questionnaire to, end-users. By a survey of relevant professional/academic research literature. By interview with, or questionnaire to, relevant professionals (teachers or trainers, say) By interview with, or questionnaire to, advisers from professional bodies (councils or other agencies) By interview with, or questionnaire to, other interactive/instructional designers in the field.
Note the limitations involved in such strategies, however. Questionnaire design is an art (or science) that requires careful study. The same is true of phone and personal interview techniques. The process of asking questions may direct or lead whoever is being questioned in selective directions. As a result, important contributions that were not planned for by the interviewer may be missed. Also deliberate distortion and falsification of results is not unusual in the
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 17 -
professional and academic communities. The reasons behind such distortions are varied and complex, resulting from career politics and commercial sensitivities. Often such distortions are impossible to detect, because developers and evaluators either are the same organization or are closely related. Understandably, the subject is a controversial one. (See also Evaluation project evaluation.)
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 18 -
Report on Destination Site In designing any interactive system, consideration should be given to the physical environment within which the system is to be used. At the most fundamental level, any health and safety legal requirements must be recognized and observed. Here are some recommendations as to the sorts of questions to address.
Where will the system be used: within the home, at work, in a public gallery or arena, or in a dedicated learning environment such as a classroom? Will it be a fixed or portable system? Will the user be standing, or sitting or lying down? Will it be used by one or several users simultaneously? Will it be observed by one or several users simultaneously? Is ambient lighting a problem in the sense that screen reflections may prove distracting and uncomfortable? Can ambient lighting be adjusted by the user? Ambient lighting problems, such as reflections on the monitor, may be overcome by appropriate positioning of a monitor which conforms to today's health and safety standards, -- that is, one which is flicker-free, can swivel and tilt, has a low-reflectance screen, and, incidentally, which conforms to low UV-radiation emission standards. Is ambient sound a problem in the sense that may distracts or annoy the user? Can ambient sound be adjusted by the user? In certain environments, user headphones may be required. Can the user would be free to control ambient sound and lighting conditions. In a classroom setting, however, ambient sound could be a problem. Noise produced outside the program may interfere with the user's enjoyment of it; equally, the sounds produced by the program itself may interfere with non-users in the same room. Will the space be sufficiently ventilated to prevent the equipment from overheating and to ensure the comfort of the user? Will the system require maintenance on a regular basis or for faultfinding? Does this type of access require special design features to be incorporated? For instance, in a touch-screen system, a keyboard may still need to be accessible by the system maintainer who needs to be able to see the computer screen while using the keyboard. Are there design features in the environment which might be picked up on in the system design so that one might complement or harmonize with the other, or just to avoid clashes? This might involve the content of local information panels as much as local color schemes.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 19 -
Further recommendations to enhance the user's comfort and ensure their safety are as follows:
Monitors should be flicker-free, swivel and tilt, low-reflectance and conform to low UV-radiation emission standards. Cables should be securely connected, undamaged, and not left trailing. There should be no risk of liquids being spilt near the equipment The work chair should be comfortable and stable, with a back which is adjustable in height and tilt. Sufficient space and legroom should be left around a workstation to permit a seated user to change position and vary their movements. Keyboards should have the ability to be tilted. There should be sufficient space to allow the user to support their hands and arms when using the mouse. Rest periods should be scheduled every couple of hours. To reduce eye-strain, the user should focus off-screen on a distance object several times an hour. The screen should be at a comfortable height and angle. The mouse should be at a height which allows the user to maintain an approximately horizontal forearm position. Computer equipment can cause dry heat. Ventilation and humidity should be controlled to prevent discomfort and sore eyes which may result.
Product Specification Document Early in the project, before the origination of assets has begun, a product specification needs to be drawn up by the interactive designer which flowcharts and itemizes every screen image, every instance of screen text and every consequence of user events. Part of any specification must be a filenaming convention which should be agreed between the interactive designer and the programmers. The product specification should contain a specification for graphics to serve as a check list for the artistic director, the file transfer manager, and programming. The specification for sound should serve as a checklist for the sound engineer, the file transfer manager and programming. Included in the product specification document should be notes on file formats, parameters (such as dimensions, duration, and resolution) and projected file sizes (in kilobytes, say). The product specification document should be designed to cross-reference with other documents produced, such as flowcharts and storyboards.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 20 -
It may contain the following:
Software Brief The product specification document should contain the software design brief which results from meetings between the interactive designer and the programmer. It will be based on information supplied by the interactive designer about file lists, file names, formats and sizes, screen text, voice-over scripts, audio-visual sequence scripts, titles, captions. It is useful also to illustrate the brief with flowcharts to explain program functionality and user interactions. Hardware Brief The product specification document should contain the hardware design brief which results from meetings between the interactive designer and the programmer. It will be based on... Industrial Design Brief The product specification document should contain any industrial design brief which results from meetings between the interactive designer and the programmer. It will be based on...
Guidelines A good product specification will result in better product design, clear task goals, and a greater likelihood of working to schedule and within budget. Poor product specification can result in team 'drift', with goals being hard to set, and problems emerging late in the production process affecting all stages, causing delays and extra expense.
Multimedia Interface Design Links to explore which have direct relevance to this subject are:
Hardware playback platform Screen layout The use of color The use of sound Input device
There are numerous factors affecting interface design, quite apart from the client and end-user requirements that need to be identified in the initial planning stages of a project. Design for TV display differs from design for
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 21 -
computer screens; design for computer screen varies according to the capabilities of the playback platform; and design for each platform is affected by the development software available and by experience of that software. These considerations require that graphics are tested on the target display monitor often at all stages of development to spot problems. They also require that application performance is also tested often at all stages of development under conditions appropriate to the playback system, not just the development system. This is an area where design tools can be critical in reducing the numbers of problems facing interactive and screen designers. Multimedia authoring tools offer some very flexible means to experiment with interface design. This is critical in an area where the possibilities afforded by the combination of media in an end-user-interactive environment are many and complex. Authoring tools liberate the designer by reducing the time (and cost) to get ideas onto the screen, and in a form that is easily manipulated. The following are examples of interfaces for mostly educational programs, designed using such tools.
Planet Planner Solar Voyage Mars Mania Railway Builder Changing Routes Consumer Issues Timescapes (CD-i)
These examples are presented not so much to recommend the designs (although it would be nice if you liked them) but to serve as a vehicle for further reflections on design. Having played around with screen layouts comprising objects such as graphics, text, and buttons or other screen hot-spots, being able to output object coordinates is a particularly useful feature of some authoring packages. Unfortunately, this usually requires some scripting (in languages such as Hypertalk for Hypercard or Lingo for Macromedia Director). The data can makes programmers' jobs that little bit easier, where the authoring tool has been used for initial visualization and storyboarding in advance of lower-level programming. Tidy later ... Adding intelligence advice, options or branches are selected on the basis of what is known to the user their preferred mode of use level of interest/ability what they have done so far.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 22 -
Hardware Playback Platform At the time of designing any multimedia project, the two primary platforms that it will be played on should be taken into consideration. A hybrid CD will run on multiple platforms with ease. These two platforms are of course, none other than, Windows and Macintosh. For all practical purposes, this should be done on any given project unless it can be set to run on either because of a common interface, such as HTML. Otherwise, a hybrid software application is needed. Screen Layout Good design will take common practice as its point of departure. There's a lot to be said for a fresh perspective but even the freshest perspective comes with acquired cultural and personal semi logical and behavioral assumptions. Here are some recommendations.
Screen layouts should strike a structured balance between information, interest and accessibility. Aim for consistency between screens and section. Changes which attract the attention of the eye should be employed for a clear purpose otherwise the user will be distracted in posing the question "why?". Group related elements to convenience the user by limiting eye and mouse movements to only the most efficient. Don't clutter the screen with too much information. Dense is distracting! Don't overdo the number of font styles. As a rule of thumb, limit them to three per screen. Don't assume everyone understands your icons. Words, also, have a place in labeling buttons. Screen presentation is very influential. Avoid demonstrating work with poor screen graphics. Not everyone has the same ability to envisage how the parts will ultimately relate and appear. The bare bones may just repel! Navigating a program should be intuitive. Consider offering an index or plan of the program that can be conveniently accessed at any time. Depending on the delivery platform, a 'quit' option isn't always necessary. Make buttons responsive to selection. Depending on the playback system, buttons can take a nervously long time to respond to a click. If you program them to auto-highlight or change the cursor to a busy icon, say, then the user is reassured. Offer users a way of backing out of significant or time-consuming pathways such as quitting or printing. Consider whether it is better for hot-spots to activate on mouseDowns or on mouseUps.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 23 -
Consider whether to offer keyboard shortcuts to cursor-activated menu or screen commands. If the program automatically reconfigures the playback system in any way on startup, then it is only polite that, when the program is quitting, it restores the system to its original configuration. When programming, anticipate that users may double-click buttons. This may affect how buttons underlie one another as one moves from screen to screen, if this causes a problem which cannot be solved in programming.
The Use of Color
Color may be used to increase the inherent attractiveness of an activity. This is especially important with younger users. Children respond best to saturated primaries red, yellow, green and blue. Avoid saturated colors when designing for TV display. Saturated colors produce a 'bleed' effect on TV screens, as opposed to computer monitors. Hartley (1993), p.101, talks about the need to select color combinations carefully and to test user color-combination preferences. She describes "chromosteropsis", a phenomenon which results from putting "cool" and "hot" colors together, e.g. bright orange next to bright blue. Such colors come into focus for the eye at different distances and the viewer may make head movements back and forth or rapidly blink in an attempt to refocus on different screen areas. The phenomenon can cause the viewer to feel uncomfortable and experience dizziness and nausea. Too many colors on a screen can cause reading difficulty. (Hartley (1993), p.101) Color may also be used for the more effective communication of screen information, --for map-based information and for route-identification and selection, -- by highlighting what is important. Hartley (1993) recommends squinting at a display from a distance of 1.5 to 2m. Colors which stand out (or have visual conspicuity) indicate dominant objects. Too many dominant objects can bring about confusion. To reduce flicker at screen edges (the eye is sensitive in this peripheral region) use muted or mid- to dark-gray colors there. Color blindness results in the confusion of reddish hues with greenish hues and yellowish reds with yellowish greens. Opposing red with cyan and yellow with purple reduces misinterpretation. To avoid flicker, avoid bright colors at screen edges. If possible, check the effect of the actual ambient conditions on the screen color appearance. Check the image resolution of the target display and design accordingly. 24bit images will adopt a posterized (flattened) look when shown on an 8bit or less display.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 24 -
The Use of Sound Sound can be used to convey information where appropriate. That might mean using sound directly to communicate voice information or using music or sound effects to support and enhance information communicated by other means. We need a more developed language for the discussion of sound issues, however, because, without it, the provision of sound will continue to occupy a much lower status in planning the visual elements in a design. Sound quality issues deserve as much attention as the quality of the graphics, in view of the fact that user's usually take CD-quality audio for granted in their home listening habits. Often programs are let down by poor sound quality. Of course, the trade-off in sound quality is file size: the higher the playback sound quality, the greater the file size, and the less of it that can be stored on a limited-capacity storage medium such as a CD-ROM, and, of course, choosing mono rather than stereo sound halves file sizes. In general, a CD-ROM can store up to 72mins of CD-DA (audio-CD) quality sound, that is, stereo sound sampled at 44kHz and 16bit (1 min stereo sound = approx. 9MB; 1min mono = 5MB). Vinyl LP quality sound is about 22kHz at 16bit (1 min mono sound = approx. 2.5MB). FM radio quality is about 22kHz and 8bit (1 min mono sound = approx. 1.2MB). 11kHz at 8bit is just adequate for speech but can distort sybilants ("S"sounds), causing the speaker to sound as though they lisp (1 min sound = approx. 0.6MB).
Lower sampling rates are generally not useful for multimedia purposes. Note that in the production of sound tracks on a computer, it is important not to rely on the computer's in-built speaker for feedback during the editing process. Background noise/hiss may be undetectable through the in-built speaker which otherwise is apparent when the sound is amplified or played on better-quality, dedicated sound equipment. Rather, quality should be monitored using the best-quality sound reproduction facilities available and at least by means of quality headphones or amplified speaker. Programs can also be let down by voice talent. It is nearly always better to hire professional voice talent for voiceovers than to casually trawl for volunteers. If a particular celebrity is required then they are at liberty to charge what the market can bear, but in general the rates charged by voice-talent actors are not very high. Voices should be selected bearing in mind possible likes and dislikes of the potential user audience and this should be considered in the user-needs analysis in the design stages of the project.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 25 -
Recorded human voice is generally preferable to computer-synthetic voice, unless the circumstances dictate otherwise. This is bound to remain the case until synthetic voice programs are able to pick up on the rule-bending nuances of speech which are so important to meaning and communication. If possible, check the effect of the actual ambient conditions on sound from the system. It is important to control sound levels judiciously, allowing playback sound levels to be altered according to ambient conditions. It is not just the user and passer-by who is affected by sound from an interactive display. Repetitive sound from interactive systems in public places can cause annoyance to staff working nearby. This has resulted in systems being sabotaged by staff. Whether volume changes should be left to a supervisor or whether the user can freely adjust the sound should be considered. Whether to allow access to sound controls through screen software or by direct access to a hardware sound control should also be considered. Input Devices By "input device" is meant the physical method through which the user interacts with the computer. There are a variety of input devices. Here are some of the more common:
QWERTY keyboard Mouse Roller-trackball Infrared pointer Voice recognition Touch-screen
Solutions are also available for users with special needs. Authoring Tools Authoring tools enable a designer to create multimedia programs, by linking together assets (digital sound, video, graphic, text, and photo files) into a structured and sequenced whole. Typically, they allow the user to select between iconic and menu options, dragging and dropping elemental objects to define the position of screen hot-spots and assets and the relationships between them in interactive or animated sequences. The big advantage of authoring tools is that it is possible to learn how to use them and achieve desirable results relatively quickly, and without any knowledge of computer languages like Pascal or C. Since the advent of Hypercard on the Mac, the first, widely-available authoring tool, a range of authoring packages have been developed for almost every computer platform. Here is a list of the best known.
Multimedia Design & Production Instructor: C. Michael Sturgeon Page - 26 -
Supercard Authorware 7
Toolbox Authorware 7
Director MX IconAuthor
Macromedia Flash 8 AutoPlay
IBM StoryBoard Live Macromedia Flash 8 AutoPlay
For a more comprehensive listing look in Appendix B. Hartley, R. (1993), "Guidelines for Multimedia Usage", Proceedings of the 11th Annual Conference of SIGDOC '93, pp.100,101 Turner Kenneth Brown, Solicitors (1994), "The Long Arm of the Law", Business & Technology Magazine, pp.25-26 R. Canale and S. Wills, "Producing professional interactive multimedia: project management issues, British Journal of Educational Technology, vol.26, no.2, 1995, pp.84-93