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There is a large number of commercially produced interactive multimedia products available and this number is increasing, as technology is becoming more popular and affordable. These multimedia products can be designed for a variety of purposes from providing entertainment to giving information such as an interactive shop finder in a shopping centre.
What makes a good and bad interactive multimedia product?
I carried out some research to see what makes a good interactive multimedia product and my findings are presented below.
A good interactive multimedia product should engage the user and make the product memorable. A website that takes advantage of multimedia and interaction is more memorable than a one that does not. Given this, interactive multimedia elements can be used as a marketing technique. For example the multimedia aspects on the Aston Martin homepage will make it memorable, where the user has to click on the start button to access the page, just like how one would start an Aston.
I am now going to describe below, what I think makes a good multimedia product, by using some criteria which I found on the internet, which is referenced in my bibliography. I will talk about content design, instructional design, screen design, integration of media, ease of use, interaction, innovation and educational value.
The content design indicates whether the products content is presented in an understandable form which is useful and accurate. I feel that before any product is designed, some objectives should be set so that the designer knows what they need to work towards.
A good multimedia product is one that is well planned and which reflects the stated objectives. The presentation of the content should also be clear by using Standard English for text etc and should be logically organised. More significantly, the content should be suitable for a multimedia presentation.
The instructional design determines whether the content is designed to be instructionally effective for its target audience. Therefore during the planning stages of a product, the target audience should be taken into great consideration to ensure that the product reflects this. Also, the individual needs of the learner should be taken into account. The different learner characteristics should be taken into consideration when producing a multimedia product.
The screen design relates to the visual layout and presentation of the programme. To ensure a successful product, screens should be visually and aesthetically appealing, as well as being well organised and consistent to ensure that the product is easy to follow. Factors such as the amount of information on each screen should be considered, too much will make the screen look untidy, too little would look plain.
The integration of media refers to how well the project combines different media to produce an effective product. Quality audio, video, graphics and animation should be used effectively to enhance the presentation of the project. Above all, multimedia should be used appropriately for the content. Finally, the use of media should be balanced, for example the product should not favour one form of media.
It is important that the product is easy to use by the target audience. Navigation options should be clear and easy to follow. Also a navigation pathway will help the user know their location in the programme at all times. The user should have control over the navigation at all times, otherwise, they may lose their location in the navigation pathway.
A good interactive product is one which allows the user to be actively involved throughout the project. One of the most important aspects that an interactive product should possess is that it should engage the audience past ‘page turning’. Furthermore, the project should increase the users’ interaction with the subject matter. Also describe how to access guidance, information and advice about handling information
The project should reflect an innovative use of multimedia to make the product appealing, by enhancing the objectives of the product by multimedia technology. The product should also promote enthusiasm for learning to ensure its effectiveness. Overall, the project should bring about a change in the process of teaching or learning for the user.
A good multimedia product will meet its educational objectives. Aspects such as problem solving will give the product more educational merit. In addition, the project activities can stimulate the students learning.
From the above research, I decided to create some criteria in order to evaluate my two chosen interactive multimedia products. This is attached as appendix 1. I will then look at two different interactive multimedia products and use the criteria to analyse them. I have decided to look at Kudos, a careers programme and BSM Theory Interactive CD.
Product 1 – Kudos
Kudos is a careers matching programme, created by Loughborough University. It contains information on more than 1700 careers. It asks the user questions about their likes and dislikes, and the level of job that they are interested in. It will then match the user to careers suggesting ones that may be suitable based on their answers. The user is then able to get more information on these careers.
Kudos is a career matching programme aimed at 13-20 year olds. Therefore it is intended for students in year 9 and onwards and is used for career and personal/social education. Institutions that are likely to use Kudos include schools and colleges, connexions services, pupil referral units and young offender’s institutions.
The publisher of Kudos is CASCAid and the statement below can be found on their website:
“CASCAiD is the leading producer of careers guidance software for young people and adults throughout the UK. Owned by Loughborough University we specialise in high quality software and support materials for careers education and guidance. Our products are designed to help individuals of all ages and abilities with their important career decisions and support professionals working in careers guidance, education and counselling.”
Given this statement, I intend to evaluate this product to see if it meets the aims found in this statement. One way I am going to do this is by using the criteria I created to analyse this programme. This is attached as appendix 2. I then expanded on the criteria below, identifying good and bad points.
I feel that this product satisfies the need it was set out to achieve and therefore has an impact on its audience, which is to inform. The many career profiles which are included will widen the individual’s career horizons and raise questions and issues for further discussion. This product also enhances the work of career advisors. Most significantly it enables students to look at themselves in relation to the world of work.
The product is vibrant and colourful and clear fonts have been used as the purpose of this product is to inform.
The interactive element of the programme allows students to access highlighted careers that they hadn’t initially thought of and tells them everything they need to know about each job title.
The display of the content is well organised and consistent. For example, all pages display the logo. Colour is used effectively to differentiate between the different sections of the programme, for example a user would start off on the ‘my kudos’ section where they can access the ‘career list’ which will finally take them to ‘career details’. This makes the product very aesthetically pleasing which encourages the user to remember the information displayed. Furthermore, there is a good balance between various screen elements.
Video tours, pictures, speech and sound options and text are all used effectively to present the 1700 careers the programme offers. A careers officer or librarian would find it difficult to supply and manage the vast amount of data that this software holds to individual users. What I find beneficial is the incorporation of other skills such as numeracy. Users can compare salaries, working hours and qualification levels. Younger pupils are not likely to know whether the salaries quoted are high or low, and can only judge them by comparing them. This will encourage students to consider different lifestyles depending on the amount of income and can be linked to other aspects of personal development.
All of the multimedia elements of this commercial product have been produced for the actual product. Therefore the quality of audio, video, graphics and text is high and there is a good balance of media. Colours are well chosen for the graphics and text in this product, white text is presented on a colourful background which is both attractive and makes the text stand out. The layout of the screens is also effective. Career profiles are broken down into manageable chunks, thus making the screen less hectic and more attractive. Younger students are likely to come across unfamiliar careers. However the use of media and pictures will help them understand what the career involves.
The layout of the content is also suitable with students with special educational needs. The page design is easy to read because of its boldness. The questions are succinct and simple. There is also an information button, should a user need help or clarification. Students with a visual impairment would need somebody to key in their responses to the questions. For those students with limited academic achievements, could have their options pre-selected, preventing unsuitable options from being displayed.
One thing which I found advantageous when using Kudos was its simplicity to use and its common sense approach. The user only needs to be able to use a mouse to move a pointer around the screen and click on buttons on the screen. The user only needs to use the keyboard to enter their name. However, a problem is that pupils may need guidance to get the most out of it, as pupils are likely to come up with a very long list of suitable jobs. This can be narrowed down by answering further questions. This makes the programme accessible to most people; however, a more experienced user may feel patronised as a result of this.
According an online review of Kudos students found the programme very easy to use. The questions are broken down into manageable batches which prevent them from losing interest.
The password protected management system is advantageous as it allows the software to be customised and lets a tutor manage student data. This also allows students to track progress and the ability to carry on from a previous Kudos session.
Without the use of interactivity, it would be very difficult for this product to meet its objectives of matching users with appropriate careers. Another factor which is beneficial is that the product engages its audience beyond ‘page turning’ as the user has the ability to control where they visit next with the interactive element of the software.
The navigation of the product is also easy to use. It is under user control and actively involved at all times, for example, the user can leave the questions at any time and jump straight to viewing all careers. The navigation options are easily defined by use of colour and graphics. The different sections are arranged as tabs, and one advantage of this is that the user can re-visit a previous section at any time.
The only problem I noticed with this product is that is aimed at a wide audience (13-20 year olds). There is a big difference in 13 and 20 year olds. For example a 20 year old is more likely to have a greater reading age than that of a 13 year old. Therefore it is questionable whether the content is suitable for this wide audience. In addition the layout and graphics may be perceived as been aimed at the younger end of the target audience. These two factors could mean that fewer older users actually use this product because of feeling patronised.
According to the publisher’s website, the software comes with guidance and advice. An interactive training module is available, in addition to tutor led training sessions which covers general career guidance issues and management of the software. Worksheets for students are also available, which let them identify their likes and dislikes before using the software.
In conclusion, this product has effectively met its objective; to provide students with career information to match their likes, because the content is highly relevant, the presentation of the content is clear and the content is suitable for an interactive multimedia presentation. In addition, the content is logically organised as students can look at careers by their preference or there is the ability to look at all careers, which can be listed in many ways including alphabetically, so that a career is easy to locate or by level of skill, so that students can look at career information to match their skill preference.
Summary of Good and Bad Points
* Helps users decide on their future
* Has made good use of house style
* Easy to navigate
* Instructions provided
* Suitable for target audience
* May not be suitable for an older audience
* May de difficult for users with visual impairments
Product 2 – BSM Theory Interactive
This package includes comprehensive coverage of both parts of the Driving Theory Test. Therefore the aim of the software is to help people who are learning to drive to pass their theory test.
Since the introduction of the new part of the theory test – the hazard perception test in November 2002 to try and make new drivers aware of dangerous situations whilst on the road. This is done by showing candidates a number of video clips as though they are looking out of a car windscreen, they have to click the mouse when they see a potential hazard and click the mouse again if the hazard develops. The use of multimedia has played a significant role in this part of the examination. It would be almost impossible to be tested using pictures as the video means that candidates have a set time to think about the potential hazards, just as they would if driving on the road.
Multimedia publishers began to make interactive software for candidates to buy, so that they could practice their hazard perception tests at home using their computers. There are many different products on the market, but I have decided to look at BSM’s Theory Interactive.
As well as the hazard perception test, the CD also allows users to practice for their multiple choice questions which are displayed on screen and the user has to click on the relevant answer. This is also beneficial because nowadays driving theory tests are all undertaken using computers in a test centre, because of speed and the less likeliness of human error. Therefore, this will also make candidates aware of how they are going to be tested.
A further advantage of this software is that it can be used in conjunction with other products by BSM such as books.
Many people learn to drive when they turn seventeen; therefore this programme is mainly targeted at people of that age. However anyone can learn to drive, over the age of seventeen and many people choose to pass their theory test at sixteen, before learning to drive. The software does not restrict these users, as the software can be for anyone. However the cover of the software installation CD shows a picture of a young lady, as most people learn to drive at a young age.
A consequence of choosing to aim the product at younger learner drivers may put off older learners from purchasing this software and may therefore purchase software from a competitor. However, an older learner driver may be attracted to this product because it has been made by BSM, the longest established motoring school in Britain, and would therefore be reliable.
I am now going to evaluate this product by discussing the points on the criteria which I created. I have also filled in the criteria sheet which I created and this is attached as appendix 3.
The content of the product reflects the publisher’s objectives, which is to prepare learner drivers for their theory test, by incorporating both elements of the theory test. The presentation of the content is clear, it is also set out in a way similar to that of the actual real test. The content is suitable to include in a multimedia presentation as video is used as well as voice-overs, images and text. Also the content is logically organised, as the user has the option to either answer random multiple choice questions as in the real test, or focus on a specific set of questions such as motor way rules, if the user feels they need to improve on this area.
The purpose of the product is clearly presented as car related graphics have been incorporated into the product. The cover of the installation CD also clearly presents the purpose of the product. The content is also appropriate for the target audience (learner drivers) as the multiple choice questions are presented very similar to those in the real DSA theory test. This is beneficial as users will know what to expect before hand.
Different learner characteristics have been taken into consideration with regards to the design of this product. Firstly, the user has the option to change the language to Welsh for those users who only speak Welsh. Questions are displayed on the screen with the option of having a voice over for those with reading difficulties for example. However, it should be taken into consideration that those people with a visual impairment, realistically will not be able to learn to drive and therefore would have no reason to take a theory test. Therefore there is very little to help such people.
The display of the content within this product is very well organised and consistent. When answering multiple choice questions, only the question the user is currently working on is displayed. This allows the user to focus on the question without getting distracted. The screens, make use of the BSM house style, with use of the white logo and the various colours (orange, blue and grey). This product has been made for specific requirements, therefore BSM could not just include what they wanted unlike Kudos, otherwise the product would be useless as it would not help people pass their theory test. Because of this there is a limit to what the various screen elements include. Of course, text is used for the multiple choice questions. Also media has been effectively included for the questions that require images or diagrams.
Video is also included for the hazard perception element of the test. All of the media elements enhance the presentation of the product. There is no use of animation in this presentation, as there was not a need for it. Also animation may appear tawdry on a product of a professional nature. Additionally, the quality of the multimedia is good, however one criticism is that watching a video taken at night and asked to spot potential hazards is not like doing this in real darkness. When using the product I found this a little difficult as I feel it is not as clear as a real viewing. However, dark video clips are used in the real test, therefore it is not within the control of BSM, of what is included in the product.
The navigation of the product is easy to use and sensible. There is an option to have multiple users which therefore stores user progress as well as scores etc. The user has the option to go back to the main menu and from there can access any part of the product, unlike some products where the user has to work their way through stages, and cannot access the next stage unless the former has been complete. The navigation is under user control all of the time, as instructions can be skipped for example.
The welcome/menu screen is broken down into five separate elements and the menu options have been incorporated into a road sign, which reflects the nature of the product. This makes it easy for the user to locate and select the section they need.
The navigation options are always displayed on the left navigation bar. Also when the user is doing multiple choice questions, the user has the option to go back to previous questions which they missed out earlier, giving the user full control, just like in the real test.
The user is actively involved throughout the product especially when answering multiple choice questions or responding to the risk assessment video. Although the product is interactive, it does not respond directly with the user, for example if the user got a multiple choice question wrong, they wouldn’t be told straight away, but would be told at the end of the test, this again reflects the procedures of the real test.
The product promotes student enthusiasm for learning as it engages users beyond ‘page turning’ or reading through a book. There is no strict order for following the product. If the user is weak in one area of the theory test they can jump straight to it, this also demonstrates full user control.
The progress report is another strength of this product. It provides the user with a breakdown of the sections which they have completed, and indicates whether they have passed or failed these sections. From this screen the user can access the sections which they need to improve on.
To conclude, I feel that this product has successfully met its objectives in preparing users for their driving theory test. It has also made preparing and revising for the theory test a more enjoyable experience. I used this product myself when preparing for my own driving theory test and I passed successfully. Therefore, I feel that this product is highly beneficial to learner drivers. However, some people may not prefer learning via multimedia. For those people, this product may not be right for them.
Summary of Good and Bad Points
* Prepares users for their driving theory test
* Has made good use of house style
* Easy to navigate
* Provided instructions
* Suitable for target audience
* May not be suitable for an older audience
* May de difficult for users with visual impairments
* Need to be able to use computer
Comparison of products
The two multimedia products share many similarities. Firstly, both products are highly suitable for their target audience. However this does not mean to say that an older audience may want to use the product. Not all learner drivers are seventeen and someone who is thinking of taking a career change may want some information. Therefore I feel that these users may feel a little intimidated when using these products.
Both products have made good use of navigation. It is easy to navigate around both of the products and the user can return to the main menu easily at any time during a session with these products. Both products also have the ability to keep track of progress, as Kudos remembers the users answers to the questions and BSM Theory Interactive remembers the users test scores.
The two products which I have looked at have been designed for two different purposes. BSM Theory Interactive has been produced for training purpose and Kudos has been produced for providing information. This demonstrates how multimedia can be used for many different purposes. A bad multimedia product would not have clearly identified its purpose.
How the products will influence my final design
The purpose of the product which I am going to create will be to inform and promote. Therefore it needs to be attractive and vibrant. I intent to use striking colours like in Kudos to make this product stand out to its target audience.
The age of the audience of the product which I am going to create is prospective year 12 students. This age is within the ages of the targeted audience for the two products which I have evaluated. Things that have influenced me from these products include well laid out screens, and good use of colour.
A simple navigation system will also be a necessity to make it easier for the user. The audience of this product are going to have at least some knowledge of ICT, most will have a wide range of knowledge. Therefore the product does not have to be designed for somebody that has never used a computer before.
These products also made me think about instructions, some of which will need to be included in the product as well as providing a more detailed user guide.
My product does not need to have a user system, as the objective of this project is to promote A Level ICT. It will not for example, need to remember user scores etc.
What has also influenced me are the user guides, which I will also have to create. The BSM product had a computer based user guide, which means that no paper has to be used. However, if the user has never used a computer before, they may be faced with difficulties. However, there are only basic instructions about installing the product on the case which contains the CD-ROM. Kudos has a paper based user guide however this may be complex for many, as this programme has been designed for large institutions such as schools and libraries which will have expert technicians to install the software.
Taking this into account, I plan to produce a simple paper based user guide which can be presented within the case of the product, providing a basic guide on how to use the product, as there will be no installation required as the product will just run off the CD.
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