Unified Concepts of Interactivity through a Toolbox

6 11 2009

How would you conceptualize interactivity as it relates to theory and audiences? That is a question that may seem difficult to answer. Granted, it should be. There is no definitive right answer.

Presented with this challenge of conceptualizing interactivity, I worked alongside several of my peers to devise a means of knowledge conveyance regarding the overarching topic. After some initial brainstorming, we realized that visualizing information was a necessity. However, how could be show the relationships that are woven together that make interactive media work? We literally and figuratively grabbed a toolbox to complete the task.

A toolbox represents many components that parallel the most important ones pertaining to interactive media. A prosumer approach further guided our efforts in that a prosumer is characterized by a producer and audience combined. Hence, making something while absorbing influences from others. A toolbox relates to all of these relationships. Below are some examples:

Choice – user chooses tool to use

Control – user decides on content that is paired with the decided upon tool

Feedback – depending on tool chosen and how it is applied, the response will vary, varied outcome results from these factors

Design and Function – every tool specified for a use or types of uses and must maintain purpose

Trust and Value – needs to be a discernible outcome from a tools use, clear sign that task was accomplished by relying upon chosen tool

Connectivity – each tool plays a role towards the greater function of the toolbox, remove one and everything else can be affected

Time – some tools allow more efficient task completion than others, just as some websites make task completion easier than others

Usability – tool should be structured for wide appeal and application towards chosen task otherwise user will not rely upon it for subsequent uses

Optimization – since some tools apply more easier to specified uses than others, key is for user to realize this and make appropriate decision ahead of time to optimize their experience

Why Factor – many reasons contribute to user decisions but each one contributes to a degree towards why one approach was chosen over another

Learning Curve – learning is ongoing which is why using simpler tools first allows more intricate tools to be used later

I found it really interesting to view a standard toolbox and all its accoutrements in this manner. The similarities of such a non-digital medium with the workings of an electronic medium like the Internet is striking. That is just the point. As humans we have had quite a few of these concepts already working in our daily lives, yet, many people do not realize just how applicable they are in the age of interactive media. Hopefully this little explanation of our group’s efforts help to showcase the connection between a good old toolbox and the interactive media of here and now and beyond.

Web design should be effective, right?

21 10 2009

Websites, there are a plenty these days! It seems every time you log online, that’s for those who DO go offline, there is a plethora of new websites covering a myriad of topics. Although there may be numerous websites focusing on similar content, it can come down to the design of one website positioning it to benefit from higher traffic rates than the others. Design plays an important role in the user experience. As Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Magazine did a good job showcasing valuable points regarding what design pointers would best be noted. In many ways, the design alone dictates the user experience. Therefore, it is fitting to list several important principles of website design that can assist the creative minds out there how to best craft a site that has the greatest impact for it’s users. By no means is this an exhaustive list but the tips should still provide value:

> Users DO NOT like thinking! Uncertainty is a no no.
Users need clear paths to embark upon when in a website. Whenever clear paths are not present, doubts surface in the users mind as to where to go or what minimal options are at their disposal.

> Time is money. Think of patience in the same way.

Bogging down users with requirements or forms to fill out or long texts to wade through before entering a site is not going to make them thrilled about their user experience. They are busy people too; keep this at the forefront of the design scheme.

> Focus user attention

Human eyes wander to where they notice the greatest visual impact; they do not follow a strict predetermined path. Design elements so that attention is paid to the most important aspects on a website.

> Do not underestimate the power of writing
Online content is crafted differently that that in traditional print media. Avoid using big words that cloud the underlying purpose or intent. Keep thing simple and direct. This way, there is greater likelihood online users — who traditionally scan online content anyway — will get the point your webpage is demonstrating.

> White space is your friend in the design world

White space greatly assists users in digesting information. Their eyes automatically scan a page to determine if the content can be processed into segments. If it can, the user is likely to engage and check out the material. Use white space to help in this process!

> Test in order to complete

In order for a webpage or website to be ready for users and maximize its usability, it should be tested. There will be kinks in the works. There will be things that require improvement. Testing is valuable because it can and does expose these blips, allowing for correction. Also, testing provides useful insight from the perspective of an intended user. Designers may see things one particular way; the intended users may see things another way. Testing is a great tool to iron out these differences to see which approach works best with the intended goal.

Web design is much more encompassing than the topics I have listed here. These are just some of the basics. If you want to explore a more detailed examination of these design tips, check out Smashing Magazine.