Don’t Repeat Yourself

Doing two projects in iBooks Author showed me how I tend to work more than any project before. I didn’t really like what I saw.

The first project was a simple one. I needed to take a book and create an eBook experience from it which included custom cover art, filled out metadata, and a couple little interactions within the book itself. I was able to copy the text from the Kindle version of the book I own, but just copy and pasting text into iBooks Author wasn’t enough. I needed to adjust the typography within iBooks Author fixing the leading and kerning to make the book more legible.

Left: Kindle eBook chapter heading. Center: My eBook chapter heading. Right: Medallion interaction and bold text Glossary term

A few annoying things I ran into from this project included adding and manipulating images within iBooks Author, and fitting content into the page or popup. First off the cover page dimensions aren’t well documented online or in the software so I had to go off the ruler baked into iBooks Author which isn’t too exact. Second I had to run multiple tests of popups because the size of the box wouldn’t dynamically fit to the content so it was a lot of back and forth between resizing content and resizing the popup.

These annoyances turned out to teach me how important device testing is. Products can look great in the development environment, but look vastly different on the desired device and that in the end it doesn’t matter how it looks in the development phase as long as the end product fits the intended audience.

The second project in iBooks Author was a group project on a topic we decide, but it needed more interaction and to be more of an experience than just a novel with a couple pictures. We decided on a Lord of the Rings, but we wanted to something more than a book synopsis or go over the basics of the world. The book we ended up making was, in essence, a family tree of all the peoples in middle earth which we aptly named “Peoples of Middle Earth”. This still included a large amount of information so planning and sketches were required.

Left and Center: Sketches of exact page layout. Right: Sketches of cover page ideas

Sketches finished we were ready to start creating. My job in the group was to bring together the assets: images, text and plug-ins, and use our sketches to create the actual pages of the book. This is where I didn’t like my style of working because I started with a basic layout and did all of the pages in that layout without trying any other possible designs. So after 80% of the book was together I reviewed it with the group and we weren’t excited about the visuals used so I started from scratch and mocked up a couple other designs with the same layout and presented them to the group like I should have done at the beginning. With the new design the work did go smoother and the final project looked good, but I cringe at the time I wasted with the first design and how much more polished the final product could have been with that extra time.

I said at the beginning I didn’t like what I found when I examined my work tendencies and this project is the main reason for that. Before expanding on a design or idea I need to flush out a couple extra ideas so I don’t end up doing double or triple the amount of work required.

Brian Talbert is a student in the Digital Media program at Utah Valley University, Orem Utah, studying Interaction & Design. The following article relates to projects in the DGM 2260 Course and representative of the skills learned.

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