Applessons

Okay so thus far, I have researched many areas in order to create my app and I have done just that.  I have created an application, so what’s next?  Academically as Masters Students, we have to produce an exhibition of our work, you can find out more about that process here.

The next stage for my app professionally is to promote and distribute my application.  The distribution process is currently on hold due to a recent hacking of Apple’s development centre but I have been able to work on the promotion.

It is my intention to build a brand of educational applications under the name ‘applessons’.  The Vikings app will hopefully be the first of many educational apps that I will release.  The ‘applessons’ name is an idea I had whilst brainstorming names that either related to the term app (which is a shortening of the word application) or educational terms, as the overriding purpose of my application will be to educate people.  I feel that by branding my range of applications with this name, it will hopefully be obvious to people what applessons is and does.  A joint branding for all my apps will hopefully be beneficial in the future, as I hope that users of one app may decide to choose further apps based upon a hopefully engaging, informative experience from other apps within the range.

I have designed a logo for ‘applessons’ which you can see below:

applessons-logo

I have also built a website to promote my app.  In his article “20 WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR APP FOR FREE” Bobby Gill say’s “Create a web site for your app!” Jonathan Saragossi also believes this is a good idea “Again, another major element that I’ve seen many developers overlook. Build a home for your app, a place where you can freely describe why it’s so great without the limitations of the app market description page.”  To see the website that I have created, click here.

My website also features links to various aspects of social media, which I intend to use as promotional tools in order to spread the word and build my brand.  Gill (2013) mentions a number of social media brands in his article, for example “Facebook – It goes without saying: create a Facebook page!”  Social media will be an important tool in the branding and publication of my website.

On my website I will also be promoting a bespoke design service for others who may be looking for an app designer to produce apps for all types of new media, see here.

Gill, B. (2013) Ways to Promote Your App For Free! [online] Available at: http://www.ideatoappster.com/20-ways-to-promote-your-app-for-free/, [accessed 6th July 2013]

Saragossi, J. (2013) 9 Insider Tips for Promoting Your App [online] Available at: http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2013/07/20/9-insider-tips-for-promoting-your-app/, [accessed 6th July 2013]

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Dasein Website

In order to publicise our MA Exhibition, I have volunteered to create a website as this fits with my skill-set. 
Using a slightly tweaked version of the logo we agreed upon in a previous post, I have created a site that is currently still a work in progress but depending on when you read this post it may actually be finished. The site includes portrait photography by Chris McDonnell and hopefully will soon feature content provided by all of the MA students involved. See the site via the link below:
http://daseinexhibition.com/

User Testing Blog

User Testing is a vitally important part of the creation of any usable digital creation. Throughout the development of my application, I have been conducting informal user testing with the younger members of my family and their friends and I have recently conducted formal user testing at Holy Name R.C Primary School.

The user testing at the school was an extremely productive undertaking but before I start evaluating and explaining my findings, I want to take a little look at the value and processes of user testing.

User testing helps test the usability of a designed artefact, the Nielsen Norman Group define usability as:

Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use”. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

Usability is defined by 5 quality components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they re-establish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?”
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

Nielson (2012) http://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-101-introduction-to-usability/

It is often hard to know when and how many usability tests are needed within the design process, usability expert Steve Krug says “Timing is everything

Most companies can only afford to pay for one round of usability testing, which they’ll do near the end of the development cycle, when the thing’s almost finished,” Krug continues.  “Unfortunately, that’s the worst possible time to do a test. Yes, you’re going to find problems but you’re not going to be able to do anything about them any more. Some of them are going to be deep-seated problems. If you start testing at the very beginning of your design, though, you can pretty quickly uncover those problems.”

Krug (2011) http://m.netmagazine.com/interviews/steve-krug-diy-usability-testing

According to the Nielsen Norman Group “The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.” Nielson (2000) http://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/

This is good news for me, as it means that my smaller informal tests that I had previously conducted were a step in the right direction of this little and often approach and it means that my more formal school based testing, can be conducted with a smaller impact to the everyday business of the school.

User testing with children has its own challenges; Tom Stewart offers advice for usability testing with children in his article ‘Tips for Usability Testing with Children’.  Stewart starts by explaining that clinical user testing labs can be counterproductive to the task when dealing with children, a friendly, familiar environment can often yield better results.  A familiar face can also be helpful, as described by Stewart:

When testing with younger children it is important to have a parent or familiar adult around to provide reassurance. The adult may or may not participate directly in the session depending on what we are trying to achieve and what sort of feedback we need.” Stewart (2010) http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5543-tips-for-usability-testing-with-children

Jamie Sands is a Usability Consultant at User Vision, he also agrees that the comfort of the user is very important:

Usability testing is most effective when the respondents being tested are comfortable and therefore happy to think and discuss what they are interacting with. If children are not at ease, they are unlikely to respond in a natural manner and less likely to give their attention to the tasks at hand.” Sands (2010) http://www.uservision.co.uk/resources/articles/2010/usability-testing-young-audiences/

The pressure of a “test” can be scary for all people especially children, so you should also try and make the research less daunting:

The experiment should be welcoming and not intimidating. All usability testing can potentially feel like a test that the user can pass or fail.  To avoid this, the moderator needs to be comforting and reassuring to the respondent to ensure they do not feel as if they themselves are being tested.” Sands (2010) http://www.uservision.co.uk/resources/articles/2010/usability-testing-young-audiences/

When assigning tasks during testing, it is also import to consider their appropriateness in relation to the child’s ability.  Stewart (2010) says “Make sure the length of the session and the difficulty of task is appropriate to the children’s age and development.”   Children are also more prone to boredom and distraction which can also be a problem during user testing with children, Stewart explains:

The facilitator has to keep a close watch for boredom, fatigue or children becoming too engrossed in one task and have a range of options ready to move the session on to more productive areas.

We always try to aim for sessions which are fun and tasks which are engaging with lots of different activities, games and breaks for snacks and drinks.” Stewart (2010) http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5543-tips-for-usability-testing-with-children

In order to get an accurate result from user testing, it is important to understand that children communicate differently to adults, and understanding this can make the interpretation of the experiment easier, as explained by Stewart:

It is important to recognise that children communicate in different ways, many of them non-verbal. Facilitators need to be flexible and use appropriate communication techniques.  Very young children (under 6) are often not able to express themselves verbally, so behavioural observations can be as important as verbal feedback (e.g. smiling, fidgeting, sighing, groaning).” Stewart (2010) http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5543-tips-for-usability-testing-with-children

Sands also discusses interpreting responses during user testing:

Children are often less vocal, or less able to verbalise their opinions about issues they experience. An uncomfortable child may be too shy or uneasy in giving responses if they feel they are being tested and are concerned that they may say the wrong thing. Whereas adults will express their feelings vocally, children are more likely to offer clues non-verbally, by fidgeting, smiling and their body language etc. The experimenter should be aware of these cues and note these in conjunction with potential problems experienced with the site. Look for the child’s lack of engagement with the site. Yawning and fidgeting can be clear signs that the site is no longer capturing the child’s attention.” Sands (2010) http://www.uservision.co.uk/resources/articles/2010/usability-testing-young-audiences/

I structured my tests in a way that I hope will allow me to get the greatest amount of information from the testing experience.

IMG_0034 IMG_0033

I arranged for a school governor, who regularly visits the school to help with reading to accompany me, as I believed this would help the children to feel more at ease.  I firstly introduce myself and explain that this is not a test for them but it’s a test for me, so there is no need for them to be nervous.  The next step is to let the children have free roam of the application, while I make notes based my observations of their choices, usage and general behaviour.  I then ask the children to complete a small amount of tests, followed by 4 questions about the experience.

Recording user testing is important, in order to review and document the events as they happen, for evaluation at a later date.  This recording can be done in a number of ways, including video recordings, audio dictation and written accounting based upon observation.  Due to the age of the testers and the setting in which the testing is taking place, the most appropriate method of documentation and the one I have employed is written accounting based upon observation.  Video and audio recording of young children raises too many problems, that could jeopardise my opportunity to conduct testing.

The results

I was originally planning to produce some form of visual reference to demonstrate how the testing went, i.e. a chart but in some ways the testing went too well.

The users also completed the tasks I set them successfully, showing a good understanding of how to navigate within the application and how to operate all of the interactive features that they encountered.  This could be interpreted as evidence that the design is effective and that no changes are needed but I feel another round of user testing, time permitting may be needed in order to reinforce these initial findings.

The most interesting results in my opinion, came from my observation during the free roaming time at the start of the test.  During this stage I noticed that the children were drawn towards the highlighted interactive elements within the app and they sometimes missed elements that had been left un-highlighted.  This was exactly the reason why I left some interactive content without highlights, so that I could establish whether the highlighting technique was effective; see the difference between the two below:

Without Glow

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 17.06.24

With Glow

IMG_0032

I did noticed that the hit recognition area on a couple of buttons needed increasing and the text on one of the buttons needed changing.  I also realised that I needed to add arrows to the Viking house interior.

As a result of my testing, I have changed the elements indicated above which will hopefully improve the usability of my application.

All users tested said they liked the application and expressed a desire to use applications like this within their normal classroom lessons and indications to back up these statements were given during the testing by the children, in comments such as “cool” and “that’s class

All of the children indicated that their favourite elements of the application were the interactives and in particular the students enjoyed seeing themselves wearing a Viking helmet.  This was what I was hoping for but I do hope that the interactives do not divert attention from the other elements, as my application needs to work on all levels.  I did however notice that all students read the text and some gave answers based on illustration and animations, which is a good indication that all elements are communicating information.

Prior to the user testing my main concern was that the user’s would struggle with the amount and level of the text within the application but to my delight all of the users tested managed very well with the text, although the head teacher did point out that the younger age users may struggle with the amount of text.

The school’s Headteacher raised the question of audio within the application; previously I have been encouraged by some people within my education establishment to include background noises to some of the scenes within my application.  This was something I have resisted, as I believe it would not be appropriate if the application was been used within an education setting such as a classroom; can you imagine 30 children using the application at the same time but all at different parts of the app, each with differing sounds blurring out, mixing to make an unorganised hum of pure noise?

This would be counterproductive to the learning environment and process, and although the volume could be simply turned down, the time it would take to ensure each student had turned the sound off could be better used by actually teaching or exploring with the application.  The head teacher agreed that sounds of that nature would not be appropriate for an application of this type but she did suggest that maybe some audible Viking words within the Viking Language section would be a good addition to the application, this was a good re-enforcement to previously stated intentions to add such a feature within the Viking language section of my application.

Overall my testing has been a great success; my application appears to be easy to use, whilst communicating information to and entertaining the user.  I would like to leave this post with a quote from one of the children tested: “that’s class”.

Bibliography

DuVerneay, J. (2013) When to Test: Incorporating User Testing into Product Design,

[online] Available at: http://www.usertesting.com/blog/2013/03/04/when-to-test-incorporating-usability-testing-into-product-design/, [accessed 29th May 2013]

Krug, S. (2011) DIY Usability Testing, [online] Available at:

http://m.netmagazine.com/interviews/steve-krug-diy-usability-testing, [accessed 30th May 2013]

 Nielsen Norman Group, no publication date, Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox Articles, [online] Available at: http://www.nngroup.com/topic/user-testing/, [accessed 31st May 2013]

Nielson, J. (2000) Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users, [online] Available at: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/, [accessed 31st May 2013]

Nielson, J. (2012) Usability 101: Introduction to Usability, [online] Available at: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-101-introduction-to-usability/, [accessed 31st May 2013]

Sands, J. (2010) Usability Testing with Young Audiences, [online] Available at: http://www.uservision.co.uk/resources/articles/2010/usability-testing-young-audiences/, [accessed 29th May 2013]

Stewart, T. (2010) Tips for Usability Testing with Children, [online] Available at:

http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5543-tips-for-usability-testing-with-children, [accessed 30th May 2013]

Presenting our work effectively for exhibition and dissemination.

As part of our examination process, we have the task of organising and presenting our work effectively for exhibition and dissemination, in an appropriate sophisticated form.  We are doing this in the form of an end of year exhibition.

During informal discussions about our exhibition, I suggested that we needed an unusual word that people would not automatically know and the example I used was the name of my fellow Masters’ student Gareth Sleightholme’s blog:

http://apopheniainc.wordpress.com/

Apoheinia is “the perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things.”

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=39714

Gareth then proclaimed that his current favourite unusual word was “Dasein”; this is a German word that means “being there”.

Philosopher Martin Heidegger is heavily linked with the concept of “Dasein”, which he appropriates for his reconceived notion of human existence in the world.

In existentialism “Dasein” is being “in a concrete and historically determinate situation that limits or conditions choice.  Humans are therefore called Dasein (“there being”) because they are defined by the fact that they exist, or are in the world and inhabit it.” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/152062/Dasein

The notion of having a place in the world is something that fits quite well with the situation we find ourselves in as MA students.  We are choosing to conduct our enquiries in a diverse range of disciplines, in order to realise our potential and establish reasons for our choices in our lives and in our practices.  Our exhibition is a chance for us to stand by those choices and state publicly our right to be there, wherever that may be personally and professionally.  This is the reason that as a group we decided to brand our exhibition under the title of “Dasein” and for the viewing public to fully understand our individual exhibits, there is a requirement of attendance or being there.

As a result of this decision, I produced 3 possible logos which can be seen below:

dasein_logo_01

Each of us had the opportunity to produce a logo and eventually a group decision was made to combine one of my attempts with an attempt by Gareth Sleightholme, the final result can be seen below:

DASEIN-LOGO-GUIDE

Bibliography

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=39714

http://apopheniainc.wordpress.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasein

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/152062/Dasein

1st Life Drawing Class 09/10/2012

Today I had my first life drawing class and I think it went okay considering I am an awful artist, we started by just experimenting making marks on the paper in order to get used to the new medium and materials, see below:

When the model arrived we started with short 5 minute poses, I found it quite difficult you can see the results below:

We then worked on a longer poses and with some much needed help from my tutor I managed to produce the image below:

It is rather obvious that the quality of my drawing is pretty low, but by the end of the lesson there had been a great improvement, I am not sure that I could have done it or that I could do again without the level of guidance I received but as I was reminded you’re not going to become a master of something after 1 lesson so hopefully as the weeks progress I can improve further.

Illuminated Letters

During my last meeting with our external examiner, he suggested that I look at illuminated manuscripts as a source of inspiration and I nodded in agreement saying “yes of course I will”, when honestly I had no idea what he was talking about but like the diligent student I am, I started researching illuminated manuscripts and I can see why they were suggested to me, I visited some of the sources below:

The british library

http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/welcome.htm

http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/TourIntroGen.asp

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/illmanus/

The encyclopedia britttanica

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/283009/illuminated-manuscript

But by far my favourite no nonsense easy to understand resource is the one below:

http://hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.ca/kmason/images/Illuminations1.pdf

Basically illuminated manuscripts are very old manuscripts with artistic embellishments and illustrations that where popular in the middle ages

My research led me to create a mood board, see below:

The style of illuminated manuscripts has a strong resemblance to the theme that I am employing in my application and I believe this is why the external examiner suggested them as a potential inspirational resource.

As I have been working on my application, I have not been happy with the titles featured at the top of my application and I have decided to use illuminated letters as part of my new titles. Illuminated letters were usually the first letter of a page or paragraph within an illuminated manuscript. They where always enlarged and coloured often featuring a lot of gold, the rest of the text remained a singular colour which was often back. Different images were used as embellishments to decorate the letters including animals, plants, and mythological creatures. These images were modified to fit into or around the letter, or in some cases took on the shape of the letter itself. As a source of inspiration I created a mood board, see below:

I have created 3 illuminated letters as currently that is all I require, as most of my title start with the same letters, see below:

My designs feature the colour gold prominently, as this is a common feature within illuminated letters, they also feature elements from my themed navigation to help tie them into my applications thematic design.  I have also incorporated the runes that translate to the featured letter, as runes were the symbols used by the Vikings in writing, see below:

I am happy with my illuminated letters and I feel that they compliment my application.

Exhibition

The second years are at the stage of exhibiting their finished M.A projects and we have been asked to exhibit some work, just to give an indication of our own projects.  The staff have made the decision that we are only allowed to exhibit something in a frame that the school is providing, with a short piece of text that gives an indication of our study to go alongside it.  My work is completely digital so this task does not suit me at all and thus to start off I was quite perplexed by this task but in the end I came up with an idea (with a bit of help from Gareth Sleightholme).  Gareth suggested documenting somebody using my application in photographs which is a good idea because ultimately I am making an item that is intended for use, and although I like this idea I felt some pictures of a user using my app on an iPad would not really be an accurate reflection of my work.

I felt that this approach could easily just be interpreted as a child using an iPad, which is like painter just exhibiting a paint tube, the iPad is just a medium and thus, this way of documentation does not in my opinion have enough of a focus on my actual application.  So I thought that instead of exhibiting a piece of work as such, I could create something more like an advert.  I took my inspiration from the minimalist approach taken by apple in their advertising and I came up with the image below:

I really liked what I came up with but it still felt wrong for the exhibition, so I came up with a compromise that merged the photographic documentation idea with my advert idea and the result is below:

I am happy with my exhibition piece, it may not fit with the work of the other students but as you may have guessed from reading my blog, my work does not seem to fit very well with the work of my peers in any way but at least I found a solution in this instance, but this process has raised questions about how I am going to exhibit my work in next year’s final exhibition.

I feel the only way that viewers will get a thorough appreciation for my work, will be through interaction with my application.  The imperative word in my previous sentence was viewers, art school exhibitions or exhibitions in general are aimed at viewers but my application is designed for users, which is a totally different experience.  So my task will not be easy and a simple answer would be to have a working version of my application on display, on a working iPad that people can interact with but here lies the problem.  The exhibition will be in situ for over a month and thus I cannot and will not leave my iPad at Hull School of Art & Design for over a month and Hull School of Art & Design does not, as far as I am aware currently possess an iPad that could be used, nor does it possess a secure display unit for such a device.

This all lends itself currently to the possibility of me not been able to have a working version of my application on display at next year’s exhibition.  If this is the case, no doubt suggestions will be made that I document the application in photos or video but as I mentioned earlier I do not feel this would be a fair reflection of my work, as the type of interactivity featured in my application simply needs to be used to be fully appreciated.  A year is a long way off at the moment but I do not believe that it is too early to be considering my exhibition, and my current feeling is that without exhibiting a working version of my application, I feel my best option would be to not exhibit at all.