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Cross platform UI design- thoughts and advice wanted!


We have been working on a Mac version of a java based desktop video tagging product, and are coming slightly unstuck on UI design. We've changed the UI and I'd be really interested/grateful to get your feedback, comments and suggestions for improvement.

I'll elaborate a bit here to explain where we are at. This was originally written as a Windows product,  but was picked up by Apple. As I'm sure you'll recognise,
its written in Java and as such will naturally suffer in comparison to other native Mac products in the video arena. The plan is to rewrite in Cocoa, but commercially speaking, we need a bit more traction with what we've got to justify the cost, and obviously to ensure the improved user logic and ease of use are correct before we green light the rewriting.

The thinking is that if the design is right for the Mac, we can replicate if for the PC.

So I'm effectively asking you how to cosmetically enhance YourView- written in Java- to appeal to a Mac audience with a view to porting that to Windows.

There are aspects that are work in progress- the star ratings you see will appear as just 1 star with a dropdown to represent the 5, and the media controls are not the finished article to name a couple- again, hit me with suggestions on this one, either on list or PM

The screenshots can be found here- this is the YourView classifier (where the tagging takes place) :


Matthew O'Connor Send private email
Monday, April 21, 2008
It's challenging to understand the purpose of the application just from the screenshot. I went and watched the video on your main website, and while I see some value in being able to mark sections of a video with names, I think you will have a huge problem explaining the idea in terms of a clip playing in a fixed window.

With a little bit of video processing you could instead break the video into sections based on content (using keyframes or maybe a frame-contrast algorithim.) Then, display each section as part of your timeline, and have the video move through it.

You might also want to have tagging occur with toggle buttons, ensuring the user needs to 'start' and 'stop' the tag. These can become bars on the timeline and can recieve star ratings, names or whatever you like.

I think you may want to consider professional usability consulting moving forward. There's potential in the idea but I think it will be hard to use as is.

Good luck.
Robby Slaughter Send private email
Monday, April 21, 2008
Thanks Robby,

The tagging does use a 'start/stop' method in the screenshot that you have seen (version is in development), the video you have watched on the site is older, and is the version currently released. We have pared the idea down to basics- the user finds a moment they like, they 'start' their tagging, describe it with an icon (rather than text) and then when the clip has ended, they 'stop' the tag.

So if you were tagging a ball game, you would mark up home runs with an icon (of your choice) to represent a home run, and then be able to filter on content to take 90 minutes of content into 3 minutes of home runs, for example. You could attach player icons to further describe each clip, add star ratings etc.

I agree professional useability consulting may be something to look into- the idea was to get a release out there to test this new 'start/stop' that ironically you have suggested from looking at the old video! But we need it to pass the 'prettiness' test, which it is failing to do so. Any thoughts you'd have on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your feedback

Matthew O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Well, the most basic thing you can do is clean up the interface to improve the balance of empty space. On the TIFF screenshot, there is tongs of blank space to the left and right of the video. You could control the way window resizing works to control the aspect ratio and avoid this. Or, you could justify the video to the left and use the right side to have information about the clip, such as duration, current tags, file name, notes, etc.

Second, you can think seriously about how you want to position your existing elements. Right now, the movie file is on top, followed by what I assume is a timeline of tags, and then the movie controls are in the bottom left. Movie information is at the bottom center and there is a mysterious "filter" button. Presumably "iMovie" switches or exports to that that application. I think this is a little less than obvious. Your activity areas are skewed across a wide horizontal range. There's nothing you can do in the bottom center of the screen, but lots you can do in the bottom left.

Hope that helps. Feel free to contact me off-forum if you want to discuss further. It's hard to provide critiques in this environment.
Robby Slaughter Send private email
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

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