Monthly Archives: September 2011

Collaborating with Rave-in-Context and how our projects differ!

iphone mockupYesterday Liz Masterton and I sat down to discuss evaluations and Liz kindly showed me how her mock ups for the Rave-in-Context project templates would work on an iPhone, iPad and small laptop screen.  We looked at myexperiment and chatted about usability issues in particular how users would be able to access their research on a small screen phone!

Liz added to the Rave-in-Context wiki an extremely useful report on usability and mobile technologies with several links.

It is interesting to note the difference between adapting a service, such as myexperiment for a smaller screen and the issues around changing the use of a service as is the case with the ALUIAR project.   Here we are looking at a service really designed to house lectures and discussions with the ability to synchronise the transcription and comments as well as add slides and Twitter additions.  Now we want to make it into a service that will take coding conventions for researches, colour and font changes as well as allow easier uploading of files and export features.  Quite a step change from usability as well as a learnability point of view!

However, I felt that the ALUIAR project team was not only working in a similar way to Rave-in-Context,  with our story boarding but as has been stressed by users we have to make the service easy to learn and remember!   Hence our discussions around the 1 – 2 -3 – 4 -5 step approach to working through the various aspects of the Synote service. It is hoped this will help those new to Synote, but that the re-design of the interface is more usable and memorable so that returning after a lull in a research project is not a daunting task! Perhaps it could be equated to learning to drive a car – see below!

I then came across a Jeff Atwood’s 2005 blog on Usability vs. Learnability that had an interesting quote towards the end taken from Joel Spolsky’s book on User Interface Design for Programmers.

It takes several weeks to learn how to drive a car. For the first few hours behind the wheel, the average teenager will swerve around like crazy. They will pitch, weave, lurch, and sway. If the car has a stick shift they will stall the engine in the middle of busy intersections in a truly terrifying fashion.

If you did a usability test of cars, you would be forced to conclude that they are simply unusable.

This is a crucial distinction. When you sit somebody down in a typical usability test, you’re really testing how learnable your interface is, not how usable it is. Learnability is important, but it’s not everything. Learnable user interfaces may be extremely cumbersome to experienced users. If you make people walk through a fifteen-step wizard to print, people will be pleased the first time, less pleased the second time, and downright ornery by the fifth time they go through your rigamarole.

Sometimes all you care about is learnability: for example, if you expect to have only occasional users. An information kiosk at a tourist attraction is a good example; almost everybody who uses your interface will use it exactly once, so learnability is much more important than usability. But if you’re creating a word processor for professional writers, well, now usability is more important.

And that’s why, when you press the brakes on your car, you don’t get a little dialog popping up that says “Stop now? (yes/no).”

Suggested Solutions to Synote ALUIAR Issues – 4th Meeting

The 4th meeting of the ALUIAR team was set up to finalise the storyboarding of the ideas suggested in previous meetings and to present the outcomes from the data gathering plus options for some functional solutions.

Those attending were Mike Wald(MW), Garry Wills (GW), Seb Skuse (SS), Yunjia Li (YL), Mary Gobbi (MG), Lisa Roberts (LR),  and E.A. Draffan (EA)


Apologies were received from Lester Gilbert,  Lisa Harris and Debbie Thackray.

Mike opened the meeting with a discussion document related to the functionality issues discussed at the outset of the project and comments collected from initial interviews.   Accepted ideas are in red. 

  1. Greater flexibility of movement backwards or forwards through a recording (e.g. by typing in new time) as at present can only move in 5 second  ‘nudges’ or move time slider or change speed if recording format and player allow.

Possible Solution(s)

a) Enter time into time entry box and player will move to that time

b) Change ‘nudge’ time from 5 seconds to 1 second

c) Add additional ‘nudge’ time of 1 second as well as existing 5 seconds

d) If in editor and transcript text is selected for the editor text box then move player time automatically to the start Synpoint time

  1. A drop-down box listing frequently used tags (e.g. for coding name of speaker and category code)

Possible Solution:

Implement drop-down box listing frequently used tags. E.g.

a)    tags they have used on this recording

b)    tags anyone has used on  this recording

c)    in alphabetic order

  1. foot pedal control of player

Possible Solution:

Find available foot pedal that works or allows pedals to be assigned to keyboard shortcuts – Research the issues – EA to contact Hagger about suitable foot pedals

  1. When manually transcribing a recording it is possible to also annotate this with the start time of the clip entered automatically but the end time needs to be manually entered. Synote allows a section of a created transcript to be selected and the annotation to be linked to that section with the start and end times of those sections to be automatically entered. It would make the system easier to use if it was possible to also do this without having first to save the transcript.

Possible Solution:

If there is text in the editor text box then when selecting create, automatically enter both the start and end Synpoint times into the Synmark start and end times

  1. Facility to download the annotation data (e.g. to Microsoft Excel for statistical analysis and charts and graphs or for a report or into other annotation tools). At the moment the information requires copying and pasting

Possible Solution:

Add csv export for Synmarks and Transcript to print preview

  1. Making it harder to exit without saving and so losing changes made.

 Solution: Already done this in the current version

  1. Allowing the user to control the recording playback when annotating by providing media player controls in the annotation window. (at present a user can annotate a recording and the annotation can automatically read the time of the recording but the user cannot easily replay a section of the recording while writing the annotation)

Possible Solution:

Add the javascript player controls to the Synmark panel

  1. Redesign of interface to improve learnability

Possible Solution:

This is related to the current interface work and can be seen in the PowerPoint slide show below. 

  1. Organise recordings into groups and categories to make them easier to find and manage

Possible Solution:

Add tags to the title field

If categories were to be used they would have to be hard coded and not all the categories would be suitable.

  1. Ability to replay just the video clip from a search (at present plays from the start time and manually have to pause at the end time of the clip)

Possible Solution:

Using linked multimedia fragments – not feasible in the time scale

Additional Issues NOT in original Proposal

xiii Users find it difficult to understand how to store and link to their recordings in their own web space

Possible Solution: (Yunjia is currently investigating this) 

Allowing recordings to be uploaded into database rather than only being linked to in user’s own web based storage area

There then followed a presentation by Yunjia to show the work already carried out on the uploading of videos and audio recordings as well as changes that are happening to the interface. A discussion followed and the ideas were accepted.  The website is not public at present but below are a series of slides to show how the system is changing.

There was no other business and possible dates for the next meeting have been added to the Doodle Calendar for October.