Toward developer-focussed Fluid awareness videos

Peter Rowley prowley at
Fri Sep 19 04:25:09 UTC 2008


The subject approximately describes a mini project I've been  
discussing with a few Fluid folks, including Colin and Jess, and some  
people at York.  Put in simplest terms, the long-term goal is to  
create material that will encourage large numbers of open-source  
developers to spend more time creating usable and accessible  
interfaces for their software.

Short-term, the goal is to create:

- A short video (30-60 seconds is the target) that will be a quick  
way of getting a developer to think "I want to know more".  I call it  

- Two somewhat longer (2-3 minutes each) videos, one on UX issues and  
one on accessibility issues, both stressing the value of attending to  
them and a little on how quite a lot can be done with a basic  

- These would then lead the developer into sets of resources  
(content, tools, communities) that will help the developer spend at  
least a little of their time improving the usability of their products

There are multimedia staff at York that I can work with to create  
these materials, but of course getting the script right is key and  
that's where I'm looking to the Fluid community's expertise.

My initial approach to creating the "grabber" video is based on:

- one of the principles of good UI design: make the invisible  
visible.  For software, that means creating representations of an  
important part of system state.

- the belief that one of the principal reasons that, for example, I  
would create some software that you would find unusable is that you  
and I think about the relevant application domain in different ways  
(e.g. with different vocabularies, different sets of tasks, different  
ways of combining tasks, different levels of skill in understanding  
the objects in the domain and how they interact)

So, I'm thinking that it would make sense to start with a UX segment  
-- that attempts to depict how one person's mental representation of  
an application domain can be very different from someone else's  
representation of that domain.  As an example, maybe I think of  
objects in a room as a list of quadruples of coordinates and someone  
else thinks of them as shapes on a surface.

Cinematically, you could show two people arranging furniture and zoom  
into one head to show lists of coordinate quadruples (OK, this  
example is a little artificial) and into the other to show shapes on  
a surface.  You then show the first (coordinate-centered) person  
walking over to a laptop and generating software for that application  
domain, which of course would work in terms of coordinates.  You then  
show the second person getting that software and being confused by  
how it works (and ultimately walking away from the software).  Then  
you zoom out and see more people on screen -- but just a few of them  
think in terms of coordinates and a lot of people think in terms of  
shapes and then the crowd walks away from the software.  I'm thinking  
this would be best done with an animated style of presentation, but  
there might be ways to do it with images of real people.

Then, you have an accessibility segment that is structured similarly,  
but this time it's the developer's model of *operating* a computer  
that is different in some important ways from the models of others,  
e.g. people who have a hard time seeing the difference between red  
and green or (like me) a small font.  Again, the developer writes  
software to operate according to his/her model and the user has  
trouble with it because it doesn't support their model.  And, again,  
the result is a crowd of users walking away from the software.

Then the grabber video could end with something like "There are good  
ways of understanding enough about users so they don't walk away from  
your software.  For more, visit "

So, four big questions:

- What do you think of the basic idea?  Are there ways it could be  

- Which application domain would make sense to use?  Something  
specific like learning management systems (or even Sakai) or  
something more general like furniture placement?

- Do you think a cinematic style that has "real people" -- perhaps  
with cartoon bubbles to show the mental representations -- would be  
more compelling than the approach given above?  Are there ways to  
give the segments more emotional impact?

- Would be  
the right place on the wiki to anchor material for this effort, e.g.  
script proposals?

Thanks for your time!

Peter Rowley
York University
prowley at

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