Interactive Character Reference

Intteractive Character Reference

Launch Presentation

This week I am putting my “Let’s Make a Book Trailer Series on hold in order to showcase the interactive character reference I put together.  I tweeted about this a while back and I thought I should get off my ass and actually build the damn thing.

To take a look at the character reference click the button above.  I hope you will read on first, though.

Some Background

I do a lot of work in eLearning.  As one would expect, tools to produce eLearning courses have grown in sophistication over the years.  You can do some pretty cool things with the various development suites out there and I have often thought they are flexible enough to be used to create presentations, trailers, and what I term “author-marketing tools”.

Author Marketing Tools

An author marketing tool is a term that I made up after seconds of careful thought.  It refers to an interactive presentation used to support the author’s marketing efforts.  The tool is created using eLearning development suites or applications.

I think author-marketing tools offer an advantage that a book trailer simply cannot — interactivity.   You can build all kinds engagement methods into an author-marketing tool that are not possible in a video.

This is hugely important.   A book trailer is very much a passive-consumption type of book promotion.  You click the link, watch the video and that’s it.  A properly built author-marketing tool allows the potential buyer to interact — or engage — with the tool.  Engagement spurs memory on the part of the potential purchaser, because you provide them with the means to explore the content, not just sit back and passively consume it.

There are a number of development suites available, though Articulate and Adobe appear to be the market leaders.

Using eLearning Development Suites

The supported features that can be used to create an author-marketing tool are pretty impressive:

  • Video importation and manipulation
  • Audio importing and editing
  • Graphics creation
  • Image importation and manipulation
  • Animations
  • Rollovers
  • Pop-ups
  • Hot-spots
  • Hyperlinks
  • Scrolling text boxes
  • Menu systems
  • Publishing for the Web, HTML 5, Flash, and the IPad

Barriers to Entry

There are significant barriers to entry for creating an author-marketing tool.  The first is the learning curve.

Making a book trailer is conceptually pretty simple. There are a number of free video tools available on the web, and even the ones you pay for are pretty cheap.  The tools are simple to learn, and with a little bit of effort most people can put together a book trailer video.  Quality book trailers, of course, will require much more skill than the average author has or is willing to acquire.

In contrast, learning how to use an eLearning development suite requires an investment in time far beyond what most people who are not already eLearning developers are willing to make.  The learning curve is steep, much steeper than learning to use simple video tools.

The second barrier to entry is cost.  Good eLearning development suites are not cheap.  Adobe Captivate is $999US and Articulate Storyline 2 is $1400US.  Are there cheaper development suites out there?  Of course, and some are even free, but in my experience you get what you pay for.

While not really a barrier, a third consideration is ease of distribution.  Videos can be easily distributed on the web; there are a variety of sites that will host them, YouTube and Vimeo immediately coming to mind.

eLearning Development suites produce courses that typically must be hosted on a Learning Management System or a on a website set up to handle their more complex “Installation” requirements.    This applies to anything else created with an eLearning development suite, such as an author-marketing tool.  However, thankfully this is becoming less of a concern as today’s eLearning development suites will “publish” content for a variety of platforms: Web, Flash, HTML5, iPad, and Android.  You cannot, however, publish eLearning content to YouTube of Vimeo and will not be able to in the foreseeable future.  This is because those platforms are not set up to allow the kinds of interactivity that eLearning development suites typically produce.

That said, if you have a WordPress blog, you CAN publish/host author-marketing tools of the type demonstrated here.

The Lady Merreth Character Reference

I chose to use Articulate Storyline 2 to develop the Lady Merreth Interactive Character Reference.  The character reference is quite simple and uses only a small fraction of the available features:

  • Animations
  • Rollover menu system
  • Pop-up boxes
  • Hot spots
  • Links

The images were all created by S.Yoshiko, and you can find more of her work here.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Launch Presentation

One Reply to “Interactive Character Reference”

  1. wow this is a very cool way to present the information on your character. I just love character sheets anyway – and always interested in different interfaces and layouts that present what the character is all about – in animals and landmarks or buildings, I like to see the representation of an average human form, or other comparable animal, in relation, to show sizing. I like how this shows everything at a glance, then focuses on one thing at a time to explain it. Well done!

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