Monthly Archives: December 2007

Microsoft Presenter Mouse and MacOSX


The Microsoft presenter mouse is a nice tool for notebook computer users, as it has both advanced desktop mouse functions and flips over to function as a wireless presenter mouse. Works as advertised for Windows users, but is now also supported on Mac OS X 10.4.11. You need to download Intellipoint 6.22 for Mac; it's functions can then be customized in system preferences.

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Theory and Practice of Social Design

Joshua Porter - Bokardo.com design

Humans are social beings. One of the largest driving forces behind consumer choices is consumer product reviews.

"In the online world businesses have the opportunity to develop very deep relationships with customers, both through accepting preferences of customers and then observing their purchase behavior over time, so that you can get that individualized knowledge of the customer and use that individualized knowledge of the customer to accelerate their discovery process." Jeff Bezos - Amazon.

This quote is very interesting in terms of ITG, though we aren't a business I see that the model above is something we do relatively well. Can you see our site providing that Amazon functionality: "Faculty who like assessments also like clickers!" Seriously, we build deep relationships with our clients, observing behavior and anticipating research and teaching needs. ITG Rocks.

The idea of social design continues to grow, the social web keeps the group in direct contact with people who make it successful. Here's an idea for our website, why not allow faculty to blog about their experiences on our site...don't know how we would entice them to do so but maybe we could come up with some incentive, linden dollars? Or perhaps student worker time? This content will amplify client opinions and provide us with data we can use to a) get funding for more projects and b) market our group. One thing is clear from the current uses of social web sites, there has to be a value to the user other than just giving it away. I think that is why blogging works so well in courses, the value here seems to be a sense of community, a place where students can measure themselves against one another and the nod toward self-actualization in a public arena. My story means nothing unless I tell it to you.
By moving away from supporting standard services such as Classes, ITG took the right step toward providing our clients with opportunities to meet the goals of scholarship. Maslow's hierarchy of needs (which looks like a pyramid, btw) has at its base physiological needs and safety, once these needs are met we move upward toward love, esteem and self-actualization. By getting out of the tier one support base we can now help our clients address pedagogy issues.

Tips about creating a social web experience.

1. There are two questions that should be asked, a) What activity are we trying to support in our design? b) What are the motivatings for people to participate?

2. The environment of the interface (what the software or the web design lets the user do) affects the outcome.

3. Enabling identity (vs. anonymity) creates a more trustworthy community. Social web space needs an editor and people have more at stake when their identity is associated with their opinions.

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More Wow

Dan Cederholm http://www.simplebits.com/
Bulletproof web design

Good design is about knowing which details to focus on. Cederholms top four areas are color/texture, typography, favicons (! - emphasis is mine) and microformats (something I had never heard of before, why?).

1. Color has emotional attachments. Good resources for picking colors include colorjack color generator 2
drawn and even flickr images (two tone images). Color tips include sticking with one link color gives weight to the page, using textures to draw out certain elements, pick a small color palette and stick with it.

2. Typography -- the use of the style to create a design. He made in interesting point about typography being more than just the "right font" but rather it being about the choice of the layout of the letters, the spacing, the use of two different types of fonts (say one for the heading and another for the content) to convey the design. Good design harmonizes typeset in graphics - use the same type in other parts on the page.
Resources for typography include: The book Elements of typographic style on webtypography.net, veer, myfonts.com newsletter.

3. favicons
http://favikon.com/
You know, I'm still not sure why these are so important, it's a continuation of the branding, so maybe that's the whole idea here, brand brand brand...not sure how this could be applied to higher ed, though Bill Kelly requested a favicon for one of his course sites and it is kinda cool.

4. microformats - accidental api -- okay who knew about this one but didn't tell me? The talk on social mashups touched on these gems as well.
semantic markup -classes added to elements that calls out data in a certain way, then they can be used by applications and are easily css'd

Microformats take the guesswork out of marking up ceratin types of content. See more information on All in the Head
and at Microformats.org

Integrity tests which will bulletproof a web design by insuring flexibility - embracing flexibility keep things from breaking

1. turn images off - does it stay readable? You can style the alt tex or add css background color if the text disappears after images are removed.
2. turn css off -- is your site readable still see best buy vs. new york magazine
3. bump up text size -- using an em based layout means that layout is relative, the end user should be able to still see the design even when increasing font sizes.

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Selling Design

Jeffrey Zeldman http://www.zeldman.com/
publisher of A List Apart and called the father of modern web design

My take on the talk: The opening speaker for the conference talks about what it means to be a web designer, how we should approach the client and our responsibility to demystify the world wide web. It's all about the relationship with the client. A good designer needs to know what goal the client is trying to accomplish. Often the goal is hidden, a good designer will listen closely and learn to translate non-web speak into good design. It is important that the designer build trust by helping the "non-webby" client get up to speed with what is possible in web design. Wire frames can help build trust (see wikipedia wire frame entry). It's important to show the client an example of what is possible, how you are going to accomplish the goal, help the client to understand what you do. Maintain a calm and methodical approach to the design. Use wire frames to get to know your client and understand the goal of the site. Meetings include review of previous conversations regarding deliverables, it's important to review the steps needed to accomplish the goal. Sell ideas not pixels. For example, does the design need to have impact (emphasizing the content in a way that moves readers to react) or is it a news channel, where the goal is to relay information in a non-reactive way, or perhaps the design should emphasize the humanity of the client.

What does this mean to ITG: It's interesting to be at a conference that is geared toward the corporate world vs. higher ed land. Zeldman's point is well taken when a design company can pick and choose its clients. That said good design is needed in higher ed just as much as in the "real world". In our project based model that we've been working on it is becoming clear that we must address the goal of the faculty, whether it be to increase efficiency in research or help the learner to understand a concept before we jump in with the technology. This talk reinforced my commitment to making a clear project plan for each project I undertake.

Idea: the top banner on itg.yale.edu should change periodically (perhaps each new term or each season) to reflect a new technology or project that we've been working on, with a link to relevant pages within the site.

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Intuitive Design

Jared Spool founding principal of User Interface Engineering (http://www.uie.com/)

Design is not intuitive, people are intuitive, good design means that a user will intuit how to use the site right away and will not perceive that training is necessary. Intuition is intuitive based on the users knowledge and experience. Design is evolutionary -- first the technology is built, then features are added, then designers focus on reducing complexity. Here Spool gives us the history of word processing ending with the feature rich MS Word. There is a funny slide where he turns on ALL the possible toolbars one can run in Word. So many features that you must have a dancing paper clip explain them to you.

The flow of information to users is often interrupted by questions about other issues taking the focus off what the user was intending to do.  i.e. the microsoft help database question, minimize database, maximize search capabilities and customize (i may never come back from here). The user has to stop what he is doing and figure out how to configure the help database.

Spool goes on to talk about the spectrum of knowledge. Points on the spectrum include current knowledge (what the user already knows, his personal experience) and target knowledge (what the user needs to know). Design happens in the gap between these two points.

His most persuasive argument is made when he compares several models of help. The most useful help (yahoo) has moved the help to the screen on the applicaiton as inline texts to explain likely choices. No need to leave the page where the user is trying to figure things out. Another model is the auto-configure (wizards). Wizards are good as long as they work. Wizards remove the need to bring the user up to target knowledge no matter where their current knowledge is...wizards require alot of development investment. We've talked about this before when developing help pages for our clients. Context sensitive help is most useful to the end client. A sort of "need to know basis" rather than lengthy tech talk pages. In terms of our clients I see three types being most useful, pdf printouts, web pages with the pdf information and links to further training materials as well as a clear line of communication with real people (us), and web training movies like the ones Anthony created.

Design is intuitive when current and target knowldge are at the same point or the gap is small and users don't notice training.

Other types of knowledge include tool knowledge (i.e. user name and password login information) and domain knowledge (how a site delivers information).

Use field studies to asses users current knowledge. Then onto usability studies to understand the target knowledge gap. Use persona capture current knowledge of the users (see http://www.userdriven.org/blog/2007/8/19/personas-are-not-people.html and create a composite end user. Patterns are methods to communicate knowledge about users and solutions to entire team -- i have no idea what that means.

Careful design can reduce/eliminate clutter - words of wisdom, words of wisdom.

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Ken Burns Nightmare

We just had a long, arduous fix-it session here at FSC dealing with the clip-capture station. The problem was as follows:

When attempting to import a jpeg into iMovie from iPhoto so as to use it in a project, iMovie usually adds an effect called "Ken Burns effect," this effect, named after documentary filmmaker Ken Burns creates a nifty "zoom" to the still photo that makes for a more interesting visual experience, as opposed to simply having a still image appear on-screen (Burns is known for using this effect in his documentaries, hence the name). However, iMovie will often ask the user to view the trash, and the user, assuming the trash needs to be emptied, will empty the trash. The issue is that a bug in iMovie will put the source image from all your jpegs in that trash, so when you empty it, instead of having wonderful, Ken Burns inspired stills in your film, you get a black square of nothingness. Many websites have advocated various fixes that usually involve massive amounts of time (restarting, deleting all jpegs, reimporting, and reforming your timeline, etc.) however, I think we may have come upon one that works better.

First and foremost, don't empty the iMovie trash.

If you accidently do so after all my warnings, save the project onto the local disk (assuming you are saving the project on an external hard drive. If you already have it on a local disk, you are on your own here.), this will take a bit of time. Also, if you happen to have images on that local disk that you are using and having trouble with, also import them onto the local disk. Now, close iMovie and re-open the project from the local disk. Try the still import again, and this time all should work out. If this problem arises while you have the movie saved on a local disk, try the opposite, although I have no confirmation that this will work.

Toast Titanium

Down at FSC we have a program called Toast Titanium. I was not previously aware of this until adrian mentioned it to me yesterday. The program makes really easy copies of discs from CD to DVD and I think even Blu-ray. We've been using it for a project we are doing for Mary Klein that involves copying some DVD's as straight dubs. Rather than performing the lengthy and often difficult process of importing 9 DVDs to the computer through the rack, putting them into iDVD, exporting disc images and finally burning them, Toast allows us to just put a DVD in the drive, temporarily copies the material on the disc to the hard drive, and then burns it to a blank DVD. Toast saved us about 15 hours of work here at FSC. So if you need a straight copy of a particular disc, Toast is the way to go. The program has a slough of other features as well, I just have not gotten around to working with them all. Plus, the videos were of dissections and who wants to watch 9 hours of that if you don't have to?