All posts tagged “Lesson”

Google is shutting down live lesson marketplace Helpouts in April

After more than a year in existence, Google Helpouts, Google’s video lesson platform that connected users with experts in a variety of fields, will shut down on April 20th. In an official announcement on Google+, the company stated that the service hadn’t “grown at the pace we had expected” so it’s time to say a sad so long to the application and the community.

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The Verge – All Posts

Foo Fighters’ American music history lesson ‘Sonic Highways’ premieres tonight

The new HBO documentary series Sonic Highways — directed by the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl — debuts tonight, and if it’s anything like the extremely well-received documentary Sound City he directed in 2013, it might just be worth canceling your Friday night plans for.

The eight-part series is going to follow Grohl as he visits touchstone American recording studios in different cities that are steeped in musical lore, and will feature conversations with the important musicians who have called these places home. The power combination of (soon-to-be-unbundled) HBO and Grohl meant that the series was able to compile an impressive list of interviewees, as the trailer alone teases talks with everyone from 20th-century icons like Dolly Parton…

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A Lesson in Gradual Engagement

When a visitor lands on your marketing page, what should they see? For nearly all web applications it’s the same: testimonials, a feature list, screenshots. Marketing sites usually explain just enough to entice people to sign up. But what if there were a different way? What if people could use the actual application the moment they land on the page?

A traditional marketing page for a web application faces two problems: First, it must interest a visitor to the point that he or she will sign up for the application itself. Second, a marketing page much teach a user how to use the application once they’ve have signed up, through a process known as onboarding. Combining these two processes – essentially enticing users to use an application (marketing) while teaching them how to use it (onboarding) – is a process I call gradual engagement.

Becoming Fluent

To put this into context, let’s look at an example: I designed an flash card iPhone app called Fluent. It employed a behind-the-scenes system for showing users the cards they know less often and the cards they need to practice more often. This made it so that users could simply launch the app and review cards, rather than having to decide which set or category to review. How it all works took time to explain and, as a consequence, the iPhone app didn’t gain traction.

So I made a website to introduce the app.

A screenshot of the fluent web app

Instead of a bunch of marketing and/or technical language, it simply asks users what language they’d like to learn: French, Italian, Spanish, or Latin.

A screenshot of the fluent web app

Choosing Latin, for example, slides a flash card in that displays a Latin word. A tooltip instructs users to click on the card to see the answer.

A screenshot of the fluent web app

Clicking the card flips it over, showing the answer on the back. Additional tips explain that it will likely take several tries before learning the card.

A screenshot of the fluent web app

Next, a new card is shown with along with a tooltip that explains how cards that are incorrectly marked will be repeated in a review session.

After the user correctly answers the first three cards, a new box appears:

A screenshot of the fluent web app

Congratulations! You’re learning Latin. Create an account to save your progress.

Note how I delayed showing the “create an account” page. I never (explicitly) asked users to to try out the app. Instead, I asked them to save their progress after they invested their time and energy. The difference is huge.

Designers fight a constant battle for attention. Whereas the first paragraph in this section – the one explaining the Fluent engine – might have felt like a bore, a web app that asks a simple question is enticing. Most important, the web app seeds a placeholder account with a small amount of meaningful data, which makes users much more likely to continue using it.

Flipping the process

Gradual engagement encourages visitors to become users immediately. Rather than presenting users with information about the product, it enables them to use the product right away, without signing in and without creating an account …at least not until they have had a chance to use the product and add some of their own data!

This process may not be right for all applications, but it is worth considering for yours.

As another example, Netvibes lets users create a custom news dashboard and walks them through the process. After they’ve make some customizations to the interface, it reminds users to create an account. This allows visitors to actually use the application before deciding if it is right for them.

If possible, delay asking for signup until users have already invested in your application. At that point it becomes a simple decision.

As a final example, Pandora asks visitors to tell them an artist, genre, or composer that they like. The moment users do this, Pandora creates a station for that artist and starts playing their music, essentially letting users use the app without creating an account (though the option is always available). Instead of trying to create a marketing page to tell visitors about the fantastic recommendation engine, Pandora just asks a simple question, so that they can demonstrate the product immediately.

Imagine a marketing page for Pandora that tries to explain how the product works, why it is valuable, and that you should create an account. All that text wouldn’t have nearly the impact as the simple text box that gets visitors engaged immediately.

Adding gradual engagement to your application

After seeing it in action, you might be curious how to add gradual engagement to your own product. to get started, simply answer these two questions:

  • What is the core feature of my product?
  • What features are confusing or complicated that need more time to explain?

Pandora may have a lot of features, but playing recommended music is one of their cornerstones. So they placed it front and center, designing the rest of their onboarding process around playing recommended music.

The biggest obstacle for Fluent was that people had a hard time understanding the process – what was happening behind the scenes. By slowly explaining features as they were used, unknowing users were able to assess its value first hand.

The post A Lesson in Gradual Engagement appeared first on UX Booth.

The UX Booth

A lesson in laughter from design students

Three young talents from the Miami Ad School created this brilliant fake promo – you won’t believe it’s not a real ad!

Creative Bloq

A History Lesson on the Rise and Fall of Adobe Flash

The long history of Flash has proven to be an interesting journey. Mostly all Internet users are familiar with the Flash Player plugin which, along with Adobe Reader, is constantly pushing updates. Flash is the original multimedia platform for the web which spans all the way back into the 1990s.

Featured Image - Adobe Software Logo

But where has Adobe brought Flash into the present day? And what will the future hold for Flash developers looking to create rich Internet-based applications? There is a lot of speculation going forward now that Flash has been pulled from the Android Store. There isn’t a clear marketplace on the mobile web and although Flash has recently fallen to other technologies, there are still many areas where Flash/ActionScript development is wildly popular.

Looking Back in Time

Adobe Flash can find its origins back in some original software named FutureSplash Animator released in 1995. This project combined animated media with vector graphics to create an alternative for Java developers on the web.

In 1996 this software was purchased by Macromedia. The words “Future” and “Splash” were combined to create the more familiar “Flash”. The whole software suite was devoted towards creating animations and dynamic content which could be published on the Internet. There wasn’t a whole lot of exciting possibilities until the ActionScript language was paired with the software.

Installing Adobe Flash Player on Internet Explorer

The released of Flash 4 in 1999 included an overhaul of the scripting language. Developers could target graphics on the screen and call functions to animate them throughout different frames. It’s arguable that ActionScript was one of the defining programming languages which eventually pushed Flash technology further into the mainstream. By now Flash Player was already somewhat popular and growing very quickly.

By early 2002-2003 Macromedia updated the Flash/ActionScript pair with the largest innovative push forward. ActionScript 2.0 paired with the software suite Flash MX 2004 was a powerhouse for generating dynamic web content. AS 2.0 is a fully-fledged Object-Oriented programming language similar to Java or PHP or C++. You could build entire websites running on Flash – let alone custom UI panels such as video players or mp3 playlists.

The Rise into Stardom

Back in the early millenium there was honestly no better solution for cross-browser multimedia support. Most people running updated browsers had the Flash Player plugin installed(still true today). Instead of supporting 2-3 media file formats you could wrap everything into an SWF to embed and handle media on the backend.

YouTube Commission Offices Wall Artwork lgoo

Possibly the most famous practitioner of Flash Player was YouTube who launched in February 2005. Every video uploaded to the website was converted on the backend into an FLV and passed into a Flash video player. The digital media could be protected from direct downloads and yet still accessible to nearly every viewer. Most video upload websites followed this exact same format when launching online, and even many animation websites and music streaming services as well.

Ironically 2005 is also the same year Macromedia was purchased by Adobe Systems. They acquired the Flash software along with other big-name brands like Dreamweaver and Fireworks. ActionScript 3.0 was eventually released which improved the OOP functionality to include classes, libraries, and core interface features.

Adobe Flash Platform Summit 2010

If anything this update only made project development easier. AS3/Flash CS3 could be used to build entire widgets for your website using their own custom UI kit. Browser plugin support was still growing strong while more people were getting interested in sharing multimedia across the Internet.

Plus now that Flash can integrate with Adobe you can easily import work from other programs. This means you can start designing Illustrator vectors and port them over into a Flash project once you’re finished. Flash technology had grown out of its original boxed purpose for animation and hit a peak in popularity for dynamic UI elements on the web.

Dropping Mobile Browser Support

These trends in popular multimedia continued well into 2010-2011. By November 2011 an interesting blog post was published on the Adobe website which announced dropping support for all future mobile browsers. Flash was already left unsupported on iOS devices and keeping up with so many Android chipsets was becoming a burden.

Box set for Apple iPhone4 iPhone 3GS

Many technologists would attribute this to a possible downturn in the progression of Flash. However I feel this was a smart move by the company which has focused so much time on developing powerful software for digital multimedia editing. Flash is still part of this collection and obviously holds a purpose in game development and custom animations.

It wouldn’t make sense for Adobe to become some competition against HTML5 standards. It’s true that much of the Flash Player marketplace is supported by online video – and these services can still hold the option as fallback support for older legacy browsers (think IE6). But it’s even more truthful to say that web developers are noticing the trends in HTML5 and it’s ultimately a better route for supporting the widest audience.

Media of the Future

It’s fair to say that Adobe Flash is still a powerhouse for multimedia animations & rich Internet applications. Many game developers still work within Flash to publish their ideas on the web. There are even some tools you can use to convert Flash projects into native iOS apps for smartphone devices.

But one area where Flash has fallen off a cliff is within the web development community. Very few websites today are still created solely on a Flash SWF file for a number of reasons. The most obvious being a lack of SEO value since each individual page can’t be linked to a URL. But additionally there are so many open source JavaScript libraries that you can replicate almost any Flash functionality within the browser.

Going forward I would expect to see Flash content as a means for publishing online games, or even cartoons/animations. Web development is moving towards a more open collection of protocols and that doesn’t include Adobe Systems. This doesn’t mean nobody will support flash video players anymore – if anything websites such as ActiveDen will turn into a repository for premium Flash-based interfaces.

San Francisco city streets at dusk

But it is nice to know Adobe understands the trends and can gracefully cope with these new ideas. Future releases of Flash Player will not need to support mobile devices. This points towards more Flash/AS developers focusing efforts on RIAs along with their own creative ideas.

How Flash will transform over the next couple years is really anyone’s guess. But the history of Flash Player is long-winded and full of amusing anecdotes. As a web developer myself I’ll be following any updates closely and do sincerely hope for the best results from Adobe.

Final Thoughts

I would argue that Flash is by no means a dead technology. Actionscript development is still heavily influencing web games, animated websites, and other copy-protected dynamic content. The Flash browser plugin is also a staple install for new PCs and Macs alike. It’s hard to believe that Flash will ever completely phase out of existence unless some other better technology can take its place.

But we can see today that more standards are being implemented for web-based media players. HTML5 audio and video support has opened new standards for web developers to push away from the default Flash fallback. These newer HTML5 semantics not only support desktop browsers, but also most of the smartphones and tablets in the market today. If you have any similar thoughts or ideas on the future bearings of Adobe Flash you can share with us in the post discussion area below.

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