Preparing Graphics for Multimedia: Setup for Interactive Elements Between Photoshop and Director (Part 1)
Multimedia is such a broad term these days, relating to almost any type of digital display. Whether it be static graphics for a PowerPoint presentation to an interactive kiosk with hybrid DVD content, multimedia spans many deliverables. For the sake of this article, I'm going to focus on just a few basic features used within interactive applications. They are features that we have come to expect that all applications have; when they are not there, we can't understand why. Typically, amateur developers simply overlook these aspects. Most end users don't understand that even with today's advanced authoring systems, someone still needs to program these features.
As an author of a few books on Macromedia Director, I'm going to talk about a few shortcuts on how to best add some of these features into your application. There are many ways to set up a structure once and use it over and over again so that you don't have to "re-invent the wheel" every time you want to use these features. Even if you don't use Director, many other authoring tools have similar features. Take these concepts and apply them to the application that you are developing.
The first aspect that I wanted to address is making interactive elements interactive...that is, letting the end user know what and where to click in order to navigate through the application. Granted, I'm all in favor of people having to do some work on their own (depending upon the style and purpose of the application), but I believe it is important to identify and let the end user know that an interactive element is "clickable." Most Internet users have easily grasped the concept of blue text underlined as a link that will take them to another destination. In CD-ROMs, DVDs, and kiosks, hypertext is not the only type of element developers use for interactive links. From a courtesy standpoint, identifying clickable objects is the least a programmer can do, even if it is as simple as changing the cursor so that the user knows they can click on this particular area and expect something to happen. On the corporate side, I see so many sales, promotional, and training applications developed that do not have some of these basic features. Remember, many end users of these programs in the corporate environment are not familiar with the use of interactive multimedia applications, and can certainly benefit from these basic features.
Let's look at a very simple (and common) use of interactive text navigation. Typically, I try to create three "stages" to these interactive elements: normal, rollover, and down state. The normal state is how the text appears onscreen when there is no user interaction. The second state, or rollover state, is how the text appears when the user positions his mouse over the text. The third state is the down state. This is how the text will appear or function when the user clicks the mouse button while over the text element. As a programmer, you can certainly add additional state as you see fit. These are the basic ones that I find work well. Now, let's start creating the necessary elements.