DiDA

Multimedia design

A multimedia product should meet the needs and interests of its users. Therefore before you begin to design your product, you should consider the audience and the product's purpose.

Audience and purpose

Good multimedia [multimedia: the use of several types of media outputs from a computer in order to give the user a richer and more interesting experience ] design is about considering who will use the product, why they want to use it, and how they will use it. An effective multimedia product should match the needs and interests of its users, so remember to consider the target audience before you even start your design.

A multimedia product may have several different audiences. It is important to tailor the look, feel and tone of your product to the different types of people who will use it. You must also consider the purpose of your product - whether it is meant to educate, inform or sell.

Design

Before designing a multimedia product, ask the following questions.

  • what are the aims of the product?
  • where will the product be used?
  • what information does it promote?
  • what content should be included in the product?
  • who is it addressing?
  • how should users to interact with the product?
  • which computer platform will be used?

The overall design of the product will affect the outcome of these goals. The end-user experience of a product is vital to its success. A good user experience will not guarantee success, but a bad user experience is a quick route to failure.

Target platform and medium

Think about the platform [platform: A platform refers to the architecture of a particular piece of technology (and sometimes software). The most common technology platform is the computer, but more recent platforms include mobile phones, PDAs and game consoles. ] the product will be delivered through to develop a suitable design. Different target platforms have different design needs. A product on a touch-screen terminal would need large buttons for the user to press.

Structure

A multimedia product may be sequential (or linear), meaning the end user will have to follow a structured format, like reading a book.

A sequential structure diagram

A sequential structure diagram

Alternatively, it may have hierarchical structure. Websites often use this structure.

A hierarchical structure diagram

A hierarchical structure diagram

A network structure is an environment that enables the end user to freely move from one location to another without following a specific route.

A network structure diagram

A network structure diagram

Content and components

Text

  • Select a font size that can be read easily, even by viewers with less than perfect vision.
  • Use static text, because moving text can be difficult to read, especially for slow readers.
  • Align text to the left, because having a consistent starting point makes it easier to read.
  • Use lower or mixed case letters, as people generally read upper case text 10 per cent more slowly than other text.
  • Take care when selecting a background colour - use one that is plain, or has a subtle pattern. A complex background makes text hard to read.

Images

  • Images refer to static pictures that have been captured or recorded on a digital camera, video tape or other physical media device.
  • Graphics are images that have been computer-rendered to represent real objects.
  • Well-designed images and graphics can convey a tremendous amount of information in a compact way that is both memorable and appealing.
  • Every image you include should be relevant and useful. Do not include pointless images.
  • Always check that you have saved your image in the correct format - photographs are usually saved as a .JPG and graphics as a .GIF.

Animation

  • Animation involves displaying moving images and is achieved by presenting images at a rate that is fast enough to give the illusion of motion.
  • Use animation to add realism to artificial images.
  • Animation can help keep the user interested, explain a complicated concept and help the user remember information.
  • Some animations can detract from the multimedia product. For example, animated gifs on websites often distract users and they can't be turned off.

Sound

  • Sound, or audio, refers to recorded music, voices or other sound that is played back.
  • When used effectively, audio increases information retention.
  • Sound is a useful method of communicating with the user. A voice can tell the user what to do next, or a feedback sound can be used to indicate to the user when they have input a response.

Video

  • Video involves capturing and recording moving images.
  • Video files are often very large. Be aware of this when presenting material in video format.

Navigating a multimedia product

As a multimedia designer, decide how users will navigate your product. Navigation is the means that allows users to move around a multimedia product. The most important thing about navigation is to keep it clear and simple.

The end-user should be able to quickly identify where the links are located and where they will take them. A hierarchical concept (such as a sitemap) can be useful, helping users to navigate to areas of interest.

Listed below are three main methods of navigation. You could use one or more of them for your multimedia product.

Links and buttons

  • Make links and buttons clearly identifiable.
  • Use relevant images when you can. For example, if the button allows the user to buy something, then a shopping cart would be a good image to use.
  • Label buttons with text when you can.
  • Use simple language for links and buttons.
    Using icons for navigation

    Using icons for navigation

Breadcrumb trail

  • A breadcrumb trail is a horizontal line of text link headings. These show the user what pages they have travelled through to get to their current page.
  • Users can travel back to previous pages by clicking on a hyperlink.
  • Use sensible text names for your breadcrumb trail - eg Home; Attractions; For kids
  • Breadcrumb trails will enhance the usability of your website by preventing the user from getting lost.
    A breadcrumb trail on the Bitesize website

    A breadcrumb trail on the Bitesize website

Sitemap

  • A sitemap provides the end-user with an overview of the contents of the multimedia product - it's similar to the index section of a book.
  • The sitemap should be organised in the same way as the multimedia product, with sub-pages listed alphabetically for ease of use.
  • Alternatively, an A-Z might be more useful.
  • Sitemaps are often a last resort for lost users, so it's important to place a prominent link to your sitemap on your homepage or menu.

Guided tours

To make your multimedia product more user-friendly you could create a guided tour. A guided tour is video demo of your website designed to highlight its structure and navigation.

You can create your own navigational guided tours using screen recording software such as CamStudio. Screen recording software records screen and audio activity from your computer and creates a video file. Watch the example below on how you can navigate the GCSE Bitesize website.

Interactivity and usability

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is studying how humans interact with computers. It focuses on designing and building user-friendly computer systems.

Feedback

Providing the users with feedback is important as it will let them know if they are using it correctly. This can be done in the form of text, sound or animation eg an error message or sound. Sometimes a form will not allow you to continue until you have filled in a relevant box, eg your date of birth.

Usability

Usability focuses on designing a multimedia product that is effective, efficient and satisfies the user's needs.

For example, if you are designing a multimedia website whose purpose is to sell something, you would measure usability by watching how quickly a user can locate and buy that item. It's good practice to put your product through usability tests, as they often reveal problems that are overlooked by designers.

Design techniques

Before you build your multimedia product, you should create some detailed designs.

Flowchart

A flowchart shows the path of a multimedia product.

flowchart through a quiz

This flowchart shows the paths through a quiz

Structure chart

A structure diagram shows the overall structure of a multimedia product.

This structure diagram shows the pages and links of a company's website

This structure diagram shows the pages and links of a company's website

Storyboard

A storyboard shows the layout and content of a multimedia product. This example is for filming short video, and includes details on action, dialogue and camera movements.

hand drawn stroyboard

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