Many of the tools and application packages you will be working with facilitate the inclusion of video in the output options. Video is a complex form of output, as it combines the strength and potential emotional impact of audio (including sound effects, voice, and music) with a visual channel. Some familiar applications are those that are Web-based.
There are many uses for including video output in your users’ displays. Video clips make useful output for:
- Supplementing static, printed output.
- Enabling distance collaboration that connects people who do not often get to see each other. For example, this can be helpful for virtual project team members who must work together, but who do not typically meet face to face.
- Showing how to perform an action, such as demonstrating how a form should be filled out, how software should be installed, or how a product should be assembled.
- Providing brief training episodes that are job specific or task specific in order to emphasize a new or unfamiliar skill.
- Shifting the time of an actual event by recording it for later output.
- Preserving an important occasion for addition to an organization’s archives.
In a way, audio output can be thought of as the opposite of printed output. Audio output is transient, whereas the printed word is permanent. Audio output is usually output for the benefit of one user, whereas printed output is often widely distributed. Audio output is interpreted by the human ear as speech, although it is actually produced by discrete digital sounds that are then put together in such a way as to be perceived as continuous words. Telephone companies were among the first businesses to produce systems using audio output for customers.
Sound can also enhance a presentation. Public domain music and sound effects are readily available. Presentation packages such as Microsoft PowerPoint allow users to insert sound, music, and even videos. Sound files come in various formats, but some of the most common for PCs are MP3, .WMP (Windows Media Player), .aac (iTunes and iPhones), and .WAV files.
Audio output is being used to “staff” catalog toll-free phone numbers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By using a digital phone, consumers can call the number and, in response to instructions via audio output, enter the item number, quantity, price, and their credit card number. Stores are capturing sales that would otherwise be missed, because hiring actual employees might be too expensive to justify offering a 24-hour phone number.
When using audio and telephone systems to enter data, be sure to provide proper user feedback, such as, “You have entered thirty three dollars. Press one if this is correct. Press two to change.” Audio input must be scripted into a well-designed and clear sequence. Keep audio instructions brief so that people remember the beginning segments.
Podcasting is the technique of putting downloadable voice files on the Web. These voice files may be used to inform customers about new products or the product of the week, to provide a walking tour of a city or other tourist destination, to deliver a newscast, and many other applications. Capability to download audio and video files has been available for some time on the Web, but podcasting uses a small RSS file (an XML file) to store the latest version of a podcast (if they are updated frequently).
Animation is another form of output that can be used to enhance a Web site or presentation. Animation is the presentation of different images in a series, one at a time. Animation images are composed of several basic elements. Elemental symbols can be abstract objects or real photos, and they can take on different colors, forms, and textures. Spatial orientation helps the user grasp whether symbols are closely related to one another. Transition effects are either gradual or abrupt, just as with PowerPoint slide transitions. Alteration effects include changing the color, size, or texture, and can also include transforming the image through morphing.
If animation is used to support decision making, experiments have shown that the use of realistic, rather than abstract, images results in better quality of decisions. Experimental subjects who viewed gradual, rather than abrupt, animated transitions made better decisions. When using animation on Web pages, use caution to keep sequences streamlined, and not busy.