Thursday, April 23, 2009

Index Cards & Mind Mapping to Organize a Presentation

I'm in the process of developing an online visual explanation SlideShare presentation about plastic water bottles and ocean pollution for my blog SaveTheOcean (and to share with other Ocean advocacy organizations). I've liked both Cliff Atkinson's and Nancy Duarte's presentation development methodologies, but for some reason have still felt the need to combine elements of both and customize.

Two tools that I'm finding to be really useful are a stack of index cards and mind mapping software (I'm using Nova Mind). The index cards are great for capturing key points in the brainstorming phase. In Nancy's workshop at VizThink recently she had us use post-it notes, but personally I'm finding that index cards are easier to use. I don't have a big whiteboard or wall to organize them all so I can just lay out my index cards on a table or the floor and rearrange as needed, then pack them all up in order when I need the space for something else.

At a certain point, the index cards started getting to be a bit unwieldy so I created a mind map in NovaMind to continue working on the structure of the presentation. I think any of the presentation gurus will tell you that defining your presentation content and structuring it all outside of PowerPoint or Keynote is a best practice. So, next time you have a presentation to develop, hold off on opening up PowerPoint, get some index cards and some mind mapping software (free versions are readily available if you don't have any) and give it a try.

An example of the mind map I'm using to develop my presentation is shown below. It's still a work in progress with more to flesh out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Digital Photo Basics Screencast

As a web and multimedia developer, I work with photos provided by clients to incorporate into websites on a daily basis. A common problem I run into is that a lot of people don't understand some really basic things about digital images. For example, I'm often provided photos that are way too small for the space needed on a web page. Since I'm expanding my service offerings to include online visual explanations, I thought it would be a good idea to create an explanatory video or screencast that explains some of the basics of using digital images on the web. The result is the following (click on full-screen mode to view it larger).

Digital Photo Basics - Image Size & Resizing from Jeff Bennett on Vimeo.

Now for some self-critiquing. One of my explicit goals in developing this video was to work out the process involved - what settings to use in the video screencapture, what images sizes to use for static images that I imported, R&D on audio capture, etc. While I'm not completely satisfied with the end result, I'm very satisfied with what I learned through the process.

The biggest lesson learned was that the script really needs more work and refinement. More time spent up front in developing the script will result in a better explanation and also reduce fixes and edits later on in the production process. For example, after creating all the visuals and audio and reviewing a rough cut of the video, I noticed an error in the narration that I should have caught when writing the script. It was minor, but I re-recorded a portion of the audio to correct it and also to find out if there would be a noticeable difference in the audio recorded at different times. Despite using all the same audio settings and same microphone, I can detect a difference. So, lesson learned - spend a lot of time developing, editing and nitpicking the script, then once it's perfect, record all the audio at once, then synch up the audio with the visuals later in the production process.

The audio quality also leaves a bit to be desired, but this was expected since I just used the built-in microphone on my Mac Powerbook. Investing in a better quality external mic will fix this problem. There's also a slight inconsistency at one point that I did just to make a point. In retrospect, it would probably be better to avoid this kind of thing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Web Trend Map 4 Release

Every visual thinking blogger in the blogosphere is going to be blogging about it, but it's just so damn cool that I have to do it too. Information Architects have just released their Web Trend Map 4. Popular domains on the Web are mapped to the Tokyo Metro and organized by how they are most related to the cities. Heights represent success in traffic and branding. Subway lines are colored by area of interest. Check it out!