To fully develop my project it was essential to consider what field of design it was situated. Basing my project around the experience of social interaction and the ability to project one’s opinions through visual film boards, I consider the project sits within experience design. In order to create a strong user experience i had to focus on creating a clear responsive website that was easy to navigate across all screen resolutions. Leung (2008, p.94) states, “understanding the relationship between user and application is fundamental to developing something that works at a functional as well as experiential level.” This stresses the importance of understanding users and their needs, in order to create a product that satisfies.
Mcdonagh (2004, p.44) et al further support this view stating that people’s choice in a product are for both practical and emotive reasons. They state, “to design with the intent to satisfy function alone is no longer enough. Better design makes space for a feeling of identity, achievement, inspiration and joy.” Therefore the quality of the design needed to reflect the personality and motives of its users rather than function alone. To achieve this I incorporated a flat design that focused primarily on imagery and limited textual content. By contrasting and overlaying colours to make content appear more prevalent whilst maintaining a clear and minimalistic layout helped place focus on films and users opinions. To gain further knowledge of what users wanted to benefit from the site, user testing and questionnaires were undertaken.
To ensure that focusing heavily on imagery was the right path to go down I questioned users on their preferences. When asked whether they found a focus on strong visual aesthetics more engaging than more textual based sites user’s responded :
||Yes, i think other sites rely too heavily on textual content and find it a bit boring to flick through. I really like how the amount of text it limited but you can still view the most valuable info by hovering over images
||Yes; I liked the fact there was not too much text which can often websites look busy and messy, and feel pictures can often do a better job as well as looking more professional
||I think having images makes the site really visually attractive which is very important. It’s nice to have the images alongside the written descriptions because it gives you a better impression of what the film will be like.
This confirmed my belief that user’s did value a focus on imagery when searching the web.
The book Interactive Visualisation: Insight through Inquiry by Bill Ferster inspired the steps taken to build this project. Ferster (2013, p.20) defines information visualisation as, “The use of computer supported, interactive, visual representations, of abstract data to amplify cognition.” This definition implies the way information is visually presented can effect and increase an individual’s understanding. Therefore one of the most important aspects of designing the interface was recognising the theoretical issues that surround audience reception and understanding, including how they engage with information and communicate online.
Firstly I addressed the issue of engagement, attempting to establish the best solution to encourage users to join and take part. Pawan Vora (2009, p.50) states that as a designer we should, “delay registration for as long as possible and allow users to explore the application so that they fully understand the benefits of setting up an account.” In doing so users are able to recognise whether the site adheres to their needs. This view is supported by Topix.net who found an increase in posts after the removal of the registration process from their forums (Blake, 2006). I decided to incorporate this into my project by allowing users to explore the interface and therefore recognise the benefits of joining but denying them the ability to join in and share their opinions. In doing so, user’s were still encouraged to sign up so they could partake in the social interaction.
Secondly, I addressed the concerns surrounding the best way to represent the information visually. Stone et al (2005, p.171) highlight the importance of a clear interface stating the,
“Designer should employ actions, icons, words and user interface controls that are natural to the users. Complex tasks should be broken down into simpler subtasks, to keep the behaviour and the user interface appearance as natural as possible.”
To create as natural an interface as possible, I kept the film categories as designated by the BFI in order to maintain consistency for users who were already familiar with the festival. Furthermore to prevent information overload I limited the film content to the most significant information as chosen by users during testing. When asked what information on a film played the most important role in decision making 39 out of 60 respondents said a movie trailer, 35 said actors and 34 said film synopsis. I therefore only incorporated the information that users deemed most valuable in helping them decide on a film to watch.
Thirdly I needed to consider that consumers are no longer limited to the desktop screen, thanks to the abundance of technology available today. Therefore I had to contemplate the potential difficulties of designing for smaller screens. The greatest difficulty I came across involved styling content whilst maintaining a consistent look and feel across all screen sizes. This proved particularly difficult on the mobile screen. Icons appeared to work better, this was particularly evident on the movie page and was extremely useful when designing for the mobile as textual links were too small and difficult to click. When all content was presented textually, this overloaded the screen and defied Gestalts law of proximity, with different content overlapping and appearing confusing to the eye. Zwick et al (2005, p.124) highlight the importance of using icons for small screens stating that they, “allow fast non-verbal communication between the system and user.” To maintain a consistent design across all devices I incorporated the same icon and textual links across all screen resolutions, creating familiarity no matter what device user’s were on.
Furthermore I applied Gestalt Law of figure (Zwick at al, 2005) to distinguish between elements that were more and less prevalent to the user’s needs. This was achieved by changing contrast and brightness levels. For example I made the title of the films, the sharing and trailer icons a bold black to catch the user’s eye immediately. Additionally it was important to ensure the mobile navigation was in the foreground to avoid merging with the rest of the design, this was achieved by styling it, in such a way that all content below was pushed down.