Archive for Uncategorized

Revised Project Propsal

Aim of project: To produce a DVD in order to promote the work of a local singer / songwriter.

Project Medium: Hybrid DVD.

Client Background: Katie Morris is a currently unsigned singer / songwriter / musician that is passionate about all aspects of music and has a particular for soul music. She is currently unsigned, without an agent and looking to break in to the music industry. With a number of demo tracks already recorded Katie’s aim is to produce a demo DVD showcasing her work. This will be sent out record labels and talent agencies that Katie has an interest in working with. The DVD will also be sent out to her fans on request through her myspace music page in order to solidify her fan base.

The audience / end-user 

  • Record Labels A&R employees: These are the people that are responsible for talent scouting and bringing new artist to labels. As professionals within the music industry they will have high expectations and will need to be wowed in order to consider and artist. There seems now also be the expectation for artist to have already been involved in some level of self promotion before being signed.

 

  • Existing Fans: People we are already in some way interested in Katie’s music. By having a professional looking product such as an interactive DVD it will help to set Katie apart from other on line musicians and reinforce her image as a serious artist with a future. It could help to promote Katie via word of mouth and the video files provided on the DVD are designed to be easily shared in order increase her fan base.

 My personal guiding brief for the project 

To produce a DVD that showcases multimedia content across a variety of platforms, whilst incorporating a design that is reflective of my clients unique style. 

Product Overview

The promotional DVD that I will create for my client will be a hybrid video/data disk.

The DVD will be a content rich multimedia experience that will provide easy access to a variety of material showcasing my client. This will consist of a portion of the DVD containing music videos, photographs and contact information for the artist. This will be created with DVD authoring software such as Ulead DVD Workshop or Adobe Encore. My aim is to make the Disk fully DVD-Video compliant so that it can be played on a standalone unit without a computer. I will be responsible for creating some of the content for the disk and designing the menus, some of artwork will be produced by my and some of it will be sourced from my client. The design will feature animated menu background and different sections for individual type of content. For example there would be a link from the main menu to sub-menus including: Photographs, Music Videos, Biog and contact.

 

DVD Main Menu

 

I will also create a secondary data portion of the DVD that will contain video content that been optimised for transfer to, and playback on, a variety of mobile devices. This will include, iPhone, PSP, and standard 3GP mobile phone versions of a music video. These will be transcoded into the appropriate codec, resolution etc. for the specific device. I will convert the master files using a video conversion program called SuperEncoder. I will then also supply instructions on typically how you would transfer this to your mobile device.

 

 Being an enhanced DVD will allow the end-user to access additional content and features. This content will include musics videos, audio song samples, photographs, lyrics etc. My intention is to create a flash based menu system that will incorporate these features in a user friendly and creative fashion. I want to try and create an executable interactive flash animation that will act as unifying front-end to the content available on the disk when used on a computer.

Development

At all stages of my products development and production I will focus on three main criteria:

  • Variety of Features: Video playable in a DVD player, video formatted for mobile devices, photographs, lyrics and other artist info etc. Can be used either in a standalone DVD player or a computer.

 

  • Usability: Being able to access the content quickly and simply. I will look at how many click/interactions are necessary. This will be especially important in the case of the industry professionals, whom are likely to only allocate a relatively short amount of time to assess each potential artist. I will provide readme files and instruction documentation on the disk. If inserted into a DVD player the first play message will inform users that the disk can also be used in a computer and a similar message will be presented on the flash menu.

 

  • Design: For both the fan and music industry professional market design is key. It will be necessary to catch the eye of the viewer and entice them to pay attention and access the content. It is also my aim to incorporate the ideas of my client as the DVD is essentially an extension of their creative image. I will keep in close contact with my client so she can sign-off on the various stages of the project.

 

 

 

 

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An Introduction to…

PHP!

PHP, (originally standing for Personal Home Page Tools), stands for PHP: Hypertext Pre-processor.

It is a computer scripting language, originally designed for producing web pages. Having evolved to include a command line interface capability, it can be used in standalone graphic applications (a type of user interface). Created by Rasmus Lerdof in 1995, it was released under the PHP License, where the Free Software Foundation considered it as a free and acceptable piece of software. The Free Software Foundation is a non-profit corporation, supporting the free software movement in prompting the universal freedom to distribute and modify computer software without restriction.

PHP is a widely used general purpose scripting language, especially suited for web development and can also be embedded into HTML, (the predominant language I have constructed my previous WebPages with in the past).

It generally runs on a server, using a PHP input code with an output consisting of viable web pages that may be viewable worldwide. It can be deployed on most web servers and on almost every operating system and platform, free of charge.

Being fairly new to the concept of PHP, I was interested in understanding how it may well be beneficial for use with the design of my website on music news and culture. As I have a fairly precise knowledge on the use of HTML, I wondered if it may be possible to embed PHP into a regular HTML document.

After some reading around on the Internet, I discovered a very helpful source that explains how to do so:

http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/php/2001/05/03/php_foundations.html

Considering my website will be constructed through the use of HTML and the incorporation of RSS feeds, it may well be ideal in using PHP to help enhance the final outcome and design of my site.

Below is an example of PHP embedment in HTML:

An introductory example

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
"http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">
<html>
<head>
<title>Example</title>
</head>
<body>

<?php
echo "Hi, I'm a PHP script!";
?>

</body>
</html>

(Taken from: http://php.net/manual/en/introduction.php)

I discovered how PHP is mainly focused on server-side scripting, enabling the possibility to collect form data, generate dynamic page content, or send and receive cookies. But PHP can do much more.

There are three main areas where PHP scripts are used.

  • Server-side scripting. This is the most traditional and main target field for PHP. The PHP parser (CGI or server module), a web server and a web browser allow this to work.
  • Command line scripting. It is possible to make a PHP script to run it without any server or browser. You only need the PHP parser to use it this way.
  • Writing desktop applications, (although not recommended as I am not too familiar with PHP as yet.

Hope this brief introduction to PHP has been informative! I shall complete further research at home, thus ensuring I gain a more coherent understanding on PHP, deciding whether it will be useful in using in conjuction with HTML and the design of my website.

Ruby on Rails

After some consideration, I have decided I am likely to go with Ruby on Rails for my assignment. Although this will require learning a new programming language I am confident that the tutorials out there on the web will guide me through building a product with RoR. I recently asked an industry professional who I know only as Bojimha for a brief description of what Ruby on Rails actually IS from his point of view:

Ruby is the programming language and Rails is the framework designed for deploying web apps (it has a lot of web functionality pre-programmed).

The Ruby language is a lot more user friendly as the syntax is easier to understand, like most good languages it is Object Oriented too which minimizes repetition etc. The Rails framework was created by a guy who built a web app then realised all the functionality could be used as a base for him and others to build upon and just add in their own customizations / unique stuff etc. So, in that sense it is widely viewed as enabling people to deploy web apps quickly.

RoR by no means is seen as the best thing out there by many (as many are more accustomed to older techniques and languages, ie set in their ways) in fact it probably has the lowest market share of all the web app languages, however this is steadily growing. You will find that there is almost a 50/50 split opinion on it, you find people either love it or dismiss it. I’m sure you will here the dreaded “it doesn’t scale very well” statement more times then you wish, and this in my opinion is false it all depends on how it is implemented. Big sites like Digg (i think), Twitter, Odeo and A List Apart all use RoR so that tells you itself it is quite well thought of by a lot of people.

Bojimha

There are a number of seemingly good sources out there that give a good breakdown of what is entailed in building a site or a web app using RoR. I found a very good introduction to RoR on alistapart.com (which apparently uses Ruby on Rails itself).

I was also recommended this book as a good starting point for putting all of this into context – specifically with a view to social networking.

Practical Rails Social Networking Sites (Experts Voice)

Practical Rails Social Networking Sites (Expert's Voice)

Project Report – Azeem Ahmad

My project will be live and online from tomorrow (11/01) at http://www.fleetbuzz.com (it will be at the bottom) – I chose this website as I did my work experience there, and I am on personal terms with the admins there, so they kindly agreed to host my project for me at short notice.

My final project is not what I originally intended as I had planned to host it myself on my own website, but other circumstances have led to having me change my project and its location in order to meet the deadline on time. I have still managed to amalgamate the four websites RSS codes into one through manipulation of them, one by one. The unique source code that I made is still available however, and will be part of this project.

User Testing, and Accessibility

I managed to get the product tested by the administrator of the website, who found the concept good, and said that it was easy to use. He did say however, that once he was re-directed to the ‘holding’ website, HitRSS, that it became a bit difficult to use. I overcame this by making the link to the news websites more prominent on the RSS Blog, therefore making it easier for the user(s) to access the news they were originally after.

Ideally, as mentioned earlier,I would have liked for the product to be hosted on my own website. I do feel however, that it is easy to access on the FleetBuzz website, as it is placed with all of the other external links. If I had more time to do this project, or to do it again, I would invest more time in advertising and promotion of my product, in an attempt to compete with its bigger competitors.

Skills and Development

When I started this project, I had a very basic knowledge of RSS. I knew what RSS did, but I never understood how it worked. During the course of this project I now feel that I have an excellent knowledge of RSS and its capabilities, and how RSS itself works. I am now able to de-construct an RSS reader, explain what part of the reader has what function. I also understand RSS as a language, and I have demonstrated during this project that I have achieved skills which will make me more employable in the new media industry, but also as an online journalist too. I have skills which enable me to become an online journalist, or to work in the new media industry.

Ideas for development

This project could easily be developed into something much more bigger given more time. It could easily be developed into a website of its own, even created using Flash or JavaScript language, making it more contemporary.

It could also offer users the chance to subscribe to the site, and offer their own websites and links for RSS amalgamation.

The site could also become ‘wiki’ style, giving users the chance to log on and edit parts of the website themselves, making each user a personalised home page. Each of these technologies embrace the web 2.o ethos, and have scope for potential future development.

Experiences and skills that make me employable

I set myself a challenge which I knew would test my abilities in Flash in order to make me more employable. The game I produced has done just this as I have improved on previous skills and also gained more, I have also enhanced on my creativity skills.  

I have taken a lot of consideration into the design of this game to make it look professional and appealing to children. I produced all of my images in Photoshop and then imported them into Flash, some are royalty free clip art images from the internet and some designed from scratch. I have added specific designs which show my flair and that my creativeness has improved such as lunchboxes, a border, rainbow and an interesting style in text. See the link below for an example of the design: 

http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee91/kylie_g27/mainscreencopy.jpg  

I have achieved to improve on the main technical objectives I proposed to do. In this game I have successfully been able to understand how to assign random x and y co-ordinates to movie clips, to further this I have understood how to do this in one function which relates to all the separate movie clips when they are each called upon. A function saves me writing up the same code for each separate movie clip. As well as this I have applied a number of hit tests to the game and a scoring system. The above elements took me a long time to grasp hold of but I feel I have had a great experience through understanding more into ActionScript. I have logged the processes that I went through to complete this game; this is only available in a word format.

I aimed to add many more elements to this game in the time given but as time went on I realised this was not possible. These aims can be seen in this Gantt chart: 

http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee91/kylie_g27/GanttChart.jpg  

I then set myself objectives that could be achieved. I have learnt from this mistake that I need to plan correctly, set reasonable aims and manage my time appropriately.

Testing, Usability and Accessiblity

It is now only a few days away from the deadline and I am still overcoming problems in producing my game, therefore I do not yet have a full working prototype. For that reason I have been unable to test this game to the target audience as it would be inappropriate to do so.

If I was to have a full working prototype, I would test the game to 10 children and ask them a series of questions. As I could not do this, I asked these to myself and looked at the game from a child’s perspective as I have been throughout. The questions would be as follows:

·        Did you find it easy to understand what you were meant to do in this game and was it easy play?

The game is informative through its instructions and easy to play as I have made it clear what the child should press on by making rollovers by either enlarging something or changing the colour. I only included key press options to start with but after thinking about this I thought it would be useful for me to add buttons, I did this to provide more options for the child.

·        Were you happy with the selection of lunchboxes you could choose from?

Out of the three lunchboxes I designed, I think at least one would appeal to a child as I created one stereotypically for girls, one for boys and one that I felt could appeal to both.

 ·        Was this game fun to play and did you like the design?

There are elements I would have liked to add if I had the time which I will explain later.

·        Did you understand what this game was trying to educate to you?

I think this is quite clear, however if I had more time I would have improved on this which I will again explain later.

I included aspects to make this game available to those children who have a disability, they are:

·        Keyboard access

·        Adding accessibility tags to the images and movie clips.

·        Designing the game carefully by being colour wise and including the text Maiandra GD which is not difficult to read.

Further Project Development

Now that my litter game is complete I can reflect on what I think would improve my project further.  

As mentioned in a previous blog I think my game would benefit from having more levels or extended levels. This would probably be more entertaining and challenging for students and would encourage them to play the game more than once to see how far they can get and to beat their previous score.

Although I added a countdown feature to my game I noticed that the seconds count down very quickly. I would have liked to have figured out how to slow this counter down so that the time is more realistic.

I could have also included more interactive features to engage users further such as an ‘enter your name’ option before the game starts. If I had had more time I would have also liked to have included the score board which I set out to do in my proposal. This would have also contributed to the overall game’s interactivity. It would also be beneficial for me to further my skills by learning a program such as PHP as this would also be appealing to future potential employers.

Overall I was pleased with the design of my game. I aimed for it to be more professional looking than my last project. I think I achieved this, however the overall appearance and style is very simple. This is because I drew everything myself in Flash. Perhaps if I had used copyright free images or photographs from else where the overall finish would have been better.  To make my game even more user friendly and accessible I could have used sound for when each button is clicked on.

Accessibility

When creating my game I have considered accessibility issues throughout. For example I have: 

  • Used keyboard control alternatives (e.g. Play = “P”, Next = “N”).
  • Considered the colour blind. This was achieved using etre’s Colour Blindness Simulator (found at:  http://www.etre.com/tools/colourblindsimulator/). I took a screen shot of each of my Flash pages and saved them as JPEGS. I then used the simulator to test how these images appear to users with a variety of colour blindness conditions (protanopia, dueteranopia and tritanopia).
  • Used clear large text (Pump Demi Bold LET and Ariel Black).
  • Used the Flash accessibility feature on all movie clips, buttons etc.

Usability Testing

I have now reached the final stages of the production process. After the projects completion I tested my product on the target audience, which is students, this could refer to a number of ages, however I have decided to focus on teenagers. I selected 5 members of this user category and asked them to perform the following tasks: 

1)     Locate the litter fact’s page.

2)     Locate the game’s instructions page.

3)     Play the game.

4)     Find out how well you did in terms of your overall score.

5)     After playing the game return to the main menu. 

In addition to the above tasks they were also asked to comment on their experience in terms of how easy it was to locate things and navigate through the product as well as their thoughts about the overall design and layout. It was also important for me to recognise if the participants came across any mistakes in terms of the way in which the product has been technically constructed. In addition I wanted to know whether my product was suitable for their age range, if they enjoyed the experience, if it would make them think about littering issues and whether they would recommend a friend to use my product.  

Usability testing is beneficial as it allows me to make any final improvements. The following are some of the alterations I made as a result of my testing: 

  • I originally only had a ‘next’ button on the litter facts section meaning that users had to go to the last page of this section to go back to the main menu. This seemed to have a negative impact on navigation. Therefore I have now added a ‘back’ button on each page as well as a ‘main menu’ button at the end (http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc17/michelle_field/litter%20game/litterfactscopy.jpg).
  • Some of the buttons contained a different colour text to others which seemed to confuse people with what was buttons and what was not. I have now made all the buttons the same colour and style and altered the rollover effect to make it even clearer for users.
  • It also seemed that there was not enough time (count down) for participants to finish the game. The time has now been extended.

 Overall people thought the colour scheme and design worked well and was suitable for their age group. But after a couple of goes they believe they would get bored. As I will later discuss, if I had more time I would have added more levels, which would have become harder as you progress through them. 

Testing On a Pocket PC: Accessibility

I have made my prototype accessible by:

§         Making sure I have used the accessibility control panel in Flash.

§         I have attempted to make buttons clear and easy to use.

§         I haven’t been able to make the buttons have a different key press as all users will most probably be using their interactive pen to click.

§         I know that flash cannot be read my screen readers and so have made sure that I have labeled every buttons and frame.

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