on: using the tools you have

So last week I finished up my leg of the magazine design concepted by my colleague.  I costed my segment at one week, but finished just under 3.5 days, which always works in your favor for the inevitability of revision requests, bug fixes, etc.

magazine design - caption controls
magazine design - caption controls

After a brutal design review in the studio, during which many of the “new” features created especially for the design (such as the movable captions) are eliminated, I think we finally have a solid model.  Yet another reason why sharing your concepts early in the design phase is key: get as many eyes on the project as possible and solicit feedback from everyone.

We decide the caption boxes will be in fixed locations – which takes care of several focus issues we have when switching between the editing of a caption and the editing of a photo.  This also makes irrelevant the use of the cool lock/unlock feature designed to make it easier to “set it and forget it.”  I create a vertical color picker tool instead of using a cycle function on the box/text/title buttons – afterall, it’s easier to visualize a color when you can actually see it, and with the addition of four more colors, it was too hard to get to the color you wanted by repeatedly pressing a button to cycle through them all.

With the changes in place, it was time to get the click to zoom feature wired.  Because I have been refining the same piece of click to zoom code since 2006 (when we first featured zoomable photos in a Making Memories scrapbook) the implementation of the feature went smoothly.  Over the summer, I designed the customized magnifying glass cursors now used as a design standard at Smilebox (see below).

magazine design - playback zoom feature
magazine design - playback zoom feature

Once the click to zoom feature was fully operational, it was time to add a few more finishing touches to the design – such as the removable circular photos you see in the photo above  Whenever possible, I like to make it a priority to allow the user as much flexibility as is feasible within the design – that’s a fine line to balance.  On one hand, you want to offer a lot of great features (font colors, font faces, variable number of photos, background selections, etc.) but on the other hand, you don’t want to overwhelm the user.  In this case, being able to have one, both, or neither of the small circular photographs seemed like the right thing to do — their design elements are a nice addition to the otherwise segmented, rigid-feel of the photo spread, making them “nice to have,” but not essential.  So, being able to remove them makes sense.

The Smilebox Studio and Marketing teams spend a considerable amount of time deciding what to call the design – ultimately concluding that any association with the word “gossip” seems overtly negative and not at all the kind of message we want to send to our users (even in jest).  So, we settle on “Photo Spread” which leaves the concept of the magazine cover ripe for another pass in six months.

The design is now in the hands of the studio designer who is creating the intro transition for the piece.  This kind of collaboration is rewarding on so many levels – not only because it allows me to get back in a creative zone (coding IS creative, but not always satisfying viscerally) but it also opens the mind to possibility, opportunity, and the what-if.

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