The steps in multimedia development can be grouped in several ways, such as preproduction,
production and postproduction. The phases presented here are planning, creating and testing.
The three phases of multimedia development and the steps they involve are outlined below.
- Step 1: Developing the concept
- Step 2: Stating the purpose
- Step 3: Identifying the target audience
- Step 4: Determining the treatment
- Step 5: Developing the specification
- Step 6: Storyboard and navigation
- Step 7: Developing the content
- Step 8: authoring the title
- Step 9: Testing the title
The Planning Phase
Step 1: Developing the Concept
Every multimedia project originates as an idea. The idea for what was to become a series of very
popular titles. The process for generating ideas can be as unstructured as brainstorming sessions or as
formal as checklists with evaluation criteria. A series of questions might consist of the following:
- How can we improve it (make it faster, use better-quality graphics or updated content)
- How can we change the content to appeal to different market (consumer, education,
- How can we take advantage of new technologies (virtual reality, speech recognition)?
- How can we make it disposable?
One of the tenets of marketing is to “find a need and fill in”. Because manufacturing is market
driven, companies rely on customer and employee feedback to help generate new ideas. This could be in
the form of product lines (help desk) or feedback from retailers on why products are returned.
Ideas can provide the vision, but they must be presented in a way that can guide the
development process. That is, they must be stated clear, measurable and obtainable objectives.
Step 2: Stating the Purpose
Once the concept has been developed, project goals and objectives need to be specified. This is
perhaps the most critical step in multimedia planning. Goals are broad statements of what the project will
accomplish, whereas objectives are more precise statements. Goals and objectives help direct the
development process and provide a way to evaluate the title both during and after its development. The
following are examples of goals and objectives.
Broad statements of what a project will accomplish:
“Be the leader in educational CDs”
“Create products that take advantage of emerging technologies (such as the internet)”
“Use multimedia to reduce our training costs”
The goal for a specific multimedia title must fit within the overall mission of the company or
organization. The following are objectives that would be useful to a development team.
Precise statements of what a project will accomplish:
“To develop an entertainment title based on the book Tracks, which chronicles one women’s
journey across the continent of Australia. The title will include an interactive map that shows her
progress and allows the user to view photographs and text about any selected map location.
Sound clips will provide narration of the author’s adventures in her own voice. The title will be
rich with photographs of the outback and music native to Australia. The product will place in the
top five for its category at the annual CD awards this year.”
Step 3: Identifying the Target Audience
The more information a developer has about potential users, the more likely a title can be created
that will satisfy the users’ needs and be successful. Audiences can be described in many ways, in terms of
demographics (location, age, sex, marital status, education, income, and so on) as well as lifestyle and
attitudes. Developers must determine what information is needed and how specifically to define the
audience. Companies want to identify as large audience as possible in order to maximize potential sales.
The larger the audience is, however, the more diverse its need and the more difficult to satisfy their needs.
Step 4: Determining the Treatment
The concept, objectives, and the audience can help determine how the title will be presented to
the user. “Look and feel” can include such things as the title’s tone, approach, metaphor and emphasis.
Tone, many multimedia titles intended for home use, such as games and recreational titles,
include humor, whereas those intended for business use are more serious in their tone. Titles intended for
children tend to be whimsical, whereas training titles are straightforward and conservative.
Approach, some titles, especially children’s games, focus on exploration. For example, clicking
on the sky causes an airplane to appear. Other titles, especially adult-education application, provide a
great deal of direction. Users are provided with menu choices and generally must follow a predetermined
path in order to complete the title. Another aspect of approach is deciding how much help to provide and
in what form. Some titles provide a “host” or “guide” that is available to assist the user.
Metaphor, the Explorapedia title uses space travel as the theme for exploring different areas of
content such as Nature and People. The TOEIC test program uses a mountain-climbing metaphor in
which the user starts at the “base camp” and proceeds to a higher camp until the summit is reached.
Emphasis, budget and time constraints may ultimately dictate the relative weight placed on text,
sound, animation, graphics, and video. For example, a company may want to develop an informational
title that shows the features of its new product line, including video clip demonstrations of how each
product works. But if the budget did not allow for the expense of creating the video segments, the
emphasis would be on still pictures with text descriptions that might already be available in the
company’s printed catalogs.
Step 5: developing the Specification
The specifications list what will be included on each screen, including the arrangement of each
element and the functionality of each object. Specification should be as details as possible. The more
detailed and precise the specifications, the greater the chance of creating a title that will meet the
objectives of the project on time and within budget. The goal in creating the specifications is to be able to
give them to the production team and have the team create the title.
Although specs will vary from project to project, there are certain elements that should be
included in the specifications for all titles such as target playback systems, element to be included,
functionality, and user interface.
Target playback systems, the decision of what computer to target for playback is not difficult.
Companies developing commercial titles intended for the business market are guided by the fact that 80
percent of desktop computers are Windows based system. Companies developing for the K-12 education
market are faced with majority of the computers being Apple systems. Many companies targeting the
home market develop for both platforms.
Elements to be included, the specification should include details about the various elements that
are to be included in the title. For example, should the resolution for the graphics be 8 bit, 256 colors?
Should video be designed to play back at 15 frames per second? What are the sizes of the various objects
such as photos, buttons, text blocks, and pop-up boxes?
Functionality, The specifications should include how the program reacts to an action by the user,
such as mouse click. For example, clicking a door it might cause the door to open. In addition,
specification should include how the object changes based on a user action. For instance, when the user
clicks on button, how does the button change? The user needs the feedback that the button has been
selected, such as the button appearing “pressed.”
User Interface involves designing the appearance – how each object is arranged on the screen-
and the interactivity-how the user navigates through the title.
In computers, interactivity is the dialog that occurs between a human being (or possibly
another live creature) and a computer program. (Programs that run without immediate user
involvement are not interactive; they're usually called batch or background programs.) Games
are usually thought of as fostering a great amount of interactivity. However, order entry
applications and many other business applications are also interactive, but in a more constrained
way (offering fewer options for user interaction).
On the World Wide Web, you not only interact with the browser (the Web application
program) but also with the pages that the browser brings to you. The implicit invitations called
hypertext that link you to other pages provide the most common form of interactivity when using
the Web (which can be thought of as a giant, interconnected application program).
In addition to hypertext, the Web (and many non-Web applications in any computer
system) offer other possibilities for interactivity. Any kind of user input, including typing
commands or clicking the mouse, is a form of input. Displayed images and text, printouts,
motion video sequences, and sounds are output forms of interactivity.
The earliest form of interaction with computers was indirect and consisted of submitting
commands on punched cards and letting the computer read them and perform the commands.
Later computer systems were designed so that average people (not just programmers) could
interact immediately with computers, telling them what programs to run and then interacting
with those programs, such as word processors (then called "editors"), drawing programs, and
other interactive programs. The first interactive human-computer interfaces tended to be input
text sequences called "commands" (as in "DOS commands") and terse one-line responses from
In the late 1970's, the first graphical user interfaces (GUIs) emerged from the Xerox
PARC Lab, found their way into the Apple Macintosh personal computer, and then into
Microsoft's Windows operating systems and thus into almost all personal computers available
Step 6: Storyboard and Navigation
Multimedia borrows many of its development processes from movies including the use of
storyboards. A storyboard is a representation of what each screen will look like and how the screens are
liked. The purposes of the storyboard are:
- To provide an overview of the project
- To provide a guide (road map) for the programmer
- To illustrate the links among screens
- To illustrate the functionality of the objects
The storyboard comprises hand-drawn sketches on 8.5-by-11 inch paper turned sideways to more
closely represent the dimensions of a computer screen. Each frame represents one careen of the title and
presents a rough layout of the elements to be displayed on the screen and their approximate size and
location. It is not necessary to put the exact content, such as a particular photo or graphic. It is important
to show where text, graphics, photos, buttons, and other elements would be placed.
Another feature of the storyboard is the navigation scheme. One of the most significant aspects of
multimedia is the nonlinear interactivity. The linking of screens through the use of buttons, hypertext, and
hot spots allows the user to jump from one screen to another. The links are represented on the storyboard.
There are three types of navigation schemes including sequential, topical, and exploratory. A
sequential navigation scheme takes the user through a more or less controlled, linear process. Example is
games with a story line that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. To keep the user on track, interactivity
might be limited to clicking on objects that cause an action, such as playing a sound or animation or
displaying a graphic or text.
A topical navigation scheme allows the user to select from an array of choices or even search for
specific information. Examples are multimedia encyclopedia, interactive shopping catalogs, and
information kiosks. Topical navigation schemes often have many layers.
An exploratory navigation scheme provides little structure or guidance. It relies on user
interaction, usually the clicking of objects displayed on the screen. Many games use some form of
The Creating Phase
At this point the focus changes from planning to production, including creating the content and authoring
Step 7: Developing the Content
The specifications indicate the content to be incorporated into the multimedia title. There are
numerous content issues that need to be addressed:
- What is the level of quality for the content (photorealistic graphics, stereo sound)?
- How will the content be generated (repurpose existing content, hire content experts to write
text, employ graphic artist and other professionals)?
- Who will be responsible for acquiring copyrights and licensing agreement?
- How will be content be archived and documented?
This chapter discusses the sources related to these elements: libraries of clip art, sound, and video. If the
multimedia repurposed existing content obtaining the material might be relatively easy. If the original
content must be created, especially animation and video, the process is more involved and often requires
contracting with outside supplies. Graphic designers and photographers would be contracted to create
original artwork and pictures: actors would be employed for video production and narration.
Step 8: Authoring the Title
If the planning phase has been completed properly, the authoring requirements would be fairly
straightforward. It would be a clear indication of what needs to be done. There are several considerations
before using any authoring system.
1. The playback system (Macintosh and/or Windows-based computers)-some authoring programs
work with only one platform.
2. The emphasis placed on animation-certain programs have fairly sophisticated 2-D animation
3. The expertise of the programmer-programs differ greatly in the approach they use (metaphor) and
their scripting language.
Authoring a multimedia title can be simple as creating an electronic slide show using presentation
software such as Compel. You could select a background, type the text, scan some graphics, and import
clip art, video, and sound. You could even create buttons with hyperlinks. These types of titles might be
appropriate for in-house training, lectures, conference presentations, and sale presentations. If the goal is
to create a commercial-quality stand-alone title, authoring plays a significant role. Scripting becomes a
focal point in order to provide the functionality called for in the specifications. It is critical that the
programmer work closely with those designing the user interface and those providing the content to help
ensure that the specifications are being met.
The Testing Phase
Step 9: Testing the Title
Testing can start at the very beginning during the concept stage. Small groups of potential users
could be shown a prototype of the proposed title. The prototype could be as simple as an electronic slide
show presentation with enough content and interactivity to demonstrate the concept and determine its
feasibility. Throughout the creation phase of the title, it is important to test the design and the function.
Testing the design involves how the user interacts with the title and asks questions such as; does the user
understand the navigation scheme, terminology, icons and metaphors? This allows the developer to see
what users do, why they interact the way they do, and what their feelings are as they progress through the
title. Testing the function of a multimedia title involves making sure it works according to the
specifications. There are two formal processes of testing which is Alpha testing and Beta testing.
Alpha testing is usually conducted in-house and is not restricted to the development team. Beta
testing is the final functional test before release. It involves selected potential users that could number in
the thousands. Companies try to make it easy for beta testers to provide feedback by giving them an e-
mail address to contact or a disk containing a questionnaire that each tester fills out and returns in a
prepaid package. A goal of beta testing is to get feedback from a variety of potential users.