At first glance it seems reasonable to postulate that designers should strive to create experiences in which delight is optimized and difficulty is minimized. Reviews of multimedia software suggest that,in fact, different groups of instructional multimedi a designers have tried either to optimize delight or to minimize difficulty. Unfortunately, neither approach results in optimal experience for most learning.
Conte Software; a division of Josten's Learning Coporation
Apple Computer; Apple Developer University
At a fundamental level, the components that designers manipulate in creating experience are function and form. Function and form are not the same thing, although they are highly interdependent.Functions are capabilities of the system and
the learner within the system.
Forms are the maifestations of functions in all possible states.
A given function may be represented by any number of different forms ...
... and functions may be selected to support different overall types of experiences with multimedia. Schweir and Misanchuk propose classifying experiences accordingly to the characteristics of the interaction available to learners:
|Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software|
Fairfield Language Technologies
|Dialogue Builder; Contextual Language Production Software,
Interface Prototype, Elizabeth Boling '95
Lotus Development Corporation
As the preceeding examples illustrate, type of interactivity is not determined by the production value (or relative level of sophistication in design treatment) of the product. The type of interactivity is the result of design decisions, whether they are made consciously or unconsciously.
The "quality of design" here is used to mean the degree to which decisions about the design --
"Quality of design" is not being used to mean --
-- although any of these items might be factors in enhancing delight or reducing difficulty, and any of them might be manipulated to increase positive difficulty or reduce egregious delight!
The matrix illustrates the distinction between design quality and production value as components of multimedia software. In the upper left quadrant (high design quality/low production value) we might place, for the sake of example, the early Your Tour of the Macintosh (Apple Computer, Inc.; 1987). Compared to the color depth, text treatments, and animation possibilities of today, the production quality of that product was fairly low. However, its design quality was high -- the learner was given ade quate and understandable controls for navigating the tour; when the learner practiced new skills (like clicking), the program delighted him with animation; and the program was entirely consistent in the type of interactivity provided for the learner.
In contrast, consider a program like How Computers Work (Warner new media;1993), which would appear in the lower right quadrant of the matrix. The production value of this program is fairly high - sophisticated graphic treatment, custom-designed ic on sets, and sound and video of decent quality throughout the program. The design quality of the program is fairly low; examples of the low design quality include icon sets too large to learn comfortably, mix of advanced and elementary content without suf ficient warning to the learner, and whole segments in which learner control is minimal at best.
During the AAIM presentation an audience member suggested that there might be third continuum representing LEARNING added to this matrix. In such an extended matrix we could describe software exhibiting low design quality and low production value and low learning, or software exhibiting low design quality and low production value and high learning. Such a matrix would be valuable for further distinguishing components of programs ... we might expect to find very few examples in which high learning occurs with software exhibiting low quality design and low production value, but it is useful to understand that the possibility of there being such an example does exist.
The three "lessons" listed here are a sample of the issues that have arisen for us as designers in using dozens and dozens of commercial software titles in entertainment and edu-tainment. They are offered as examples ways in which we believe designers are enhancing users' experiences with their programs ... we don't believe designers of instructional/educational software should always use the same strategies, or use them in the same way other designers use them, but we do suggest that enhancing user exper ience is valuable and necessary. Instructional designers of multimedia should be aware of and consider using the available options for enhancing learners' experiences with their programs.
We are well aware that every program takes an editorial point of view, and equally well aware that we typically expend a lot of effort on avoiding the externalization of that point of view. While this may make very good sense in writing a textbook for adoption in Texas and California, as designers we must recognize that the practice of neutralizing a program's voice cuts us off from an important tool for enhancing our learners' experiences.
As with any technique, use of media within the interface can be taken to unhappy extremes or slapped onto otherwise lackluster content without appreciable improvement in the user's experience of a program. One of the key elements that we believe distingui shes successful efforts is integration of media at equal levels of development / production value in the content and the interface of a product. The Broderbund Living Books are replete with high-quality, delight-producing animations; it's no surprise to f ind them extending into the interface and it might be a disappointment not to find them there. The mini-people in Passage to Vietnam are not simply little "interface trolls" that lurk around to tell you how to run the program; they are part of a whole approach to telling the story of how the disk was made and how the photographs on the disk were taken and edited and how to use the various parts of the program.
Boling, E., Johnson, L., & Kirkley, S. (1994). A quick and dirty dozen: guidelines for using icons. HyperNEXUS, 4(2), 5-7.
Cotton, B. and Oliver, R. (1993). Understanding hypermedia: From multimedia to virtual reality. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
Horton, W. (1994). The icon book: Visual symbols for computer systems and documentation. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Mullet, K. and Sano, D. (1995). Designing visual interfaces. Mountain View, CA: Sun Microsystems.
Norman, D. (1990).The design of everyday things. Doubleday: New York. Schweir, R. and Misanchuk, E. (1993). Interactive multimedia instruction. . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology.