The Blog

Mar 7, 2009

Flex Camp Miami: The Art Of Storytelling (Christian Saylor) 

by Maxim Porges @ 9:19 AM | Link | Feedback (0)

Christian gave an impassioned and compelling presentation about how to deliver immersive user experiences in rich applications.

Drawing examples from iconic flicks of the past and present and using movie story/character development as a basis, Christian described how Universal Mind uses storytelling to create personas to understand the motivations and conflicts of an application's users. Once you understand these key elements, you can build an application that helps users reach their goals. Christian clarified the fact that ultimately, great software is all about the people who use it, and we have to keep the user front-and-center at all times in order to create the right solution for their needs.

Christian also pressed the issue that in order to make applications fully realizing the capabilities of a rich platform, designers and developers must work together to find that perfect intersection of art and science. Thankfully, based upon Greg Wilson's earlier presentation of Flash Catalyst, it seems that Adobe is doing everything they can to make this collaborative worflow as smooth as possible

Universal Mind has a highly distributed development team, so making sure that the entire team understands the story behind the users helps them to make independent decisions about how an app should flow, and what the best interests of the user will be. Having recently been taken through UM's portfolio, I can attest to the stellar quality of the applications they have been able to produce by following this approach. You can get a taste of what UM has to offer by looking at their demos.

I couldn't agree more with Christian's stance on driving application design through user stories. In my career, I've seen the negative effects of feature-driven approaches veer so far off the path of the user's motivations that the software usability has practically hit zero. Case in point, I've seen an application with processes that should have taken 3 minutes dragged out to almost a half hour, requiring the user to take copious notes on paper and use a calculator during the process (which kind of defeats the purpose of having a computer system in the first place). In the most extreme example, I had a user break down in tears while describing how hard it was for her to do her job on a legacy software system we were working with her to modernize.

Following these experiences, I've committed myself fully to applying user-driven approaches, and using the motivations of the user as the barometer for feature inclusion/depth and user interface design. We're applying these principles to the next major release of StrikeTracker, and have already had very positive feedback from the Sales team at Highwinds based upon the wireframes alone.

Coming back to Christian's presentation, he mentioned the work of Allen Cooper in interaction design. I intend to pick up a copy of About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design at my next opportunity.

All Flex Camp Miami Roundup Posts
Welcome and Keynote (Greg Wilson, Adobe)
Working with Data in AIR (David Tucker, Universal Mind)
In Search of AOP for AS3 (Maxim Porges, Highwinds)
Merapi or How To Blow Your Mind with AIR (Andrew Powell, Universal Mind)
The Art of Storytelling (Christian Saylor, Universal Mind)
Continuous Integration and Flex (Brian LeGros, Highwinds)
Spring & BlazeDS Integration (Jeremy Grelle, SpringSource)
Mate Flex Framework (Laura Arguello, ASFusion)