Home / Articles / Obvious, Yet Subtle: Making Interactivity Easy for Users

Obvious, Yet Subtle: Making Interactivity Easy for Users


  1. Highlighting and Triggering Videos
  2. Navigation Buttons and Page Curls
  3. Stealth Navigation Controls

Article Description

As the creator of an interactive project, you expend a lot of effort to make the project intuitive for the end user. You have to anticipate the needs and reactions of the viewers. Somehow, you have to make it obvious where to click in order to make things happen; otherwise, how will they know where all the fun is? Claudia McCue shows how to make interactivity simpler for your users.

Whether you’re using InDesign, Flash Catalyst, Flash Professional, or Adobe Acrobat Pro to create interactive projects, you have to consider the needs of the end uers. You don’t want to sully your design with big ugly road signs saying “Click here!” You have to be subtle, yet obvious (that’s sort of Zen, isn’t it?). How do you juggle these opposing needs? You get creative (or sneaky).

In this article, I’ll propose some solutions for these issues in InDesign.

Highlighting and Triggering Videos

When you place a video (FLV, F4V) in InDesign, you have the choice of four different types of poster for representing the video in the page, as described in the following sections.


If you choose the None option in the Media panel, the area of the video is represented by a frame containing a tiny filmstrip icon and a background of diagonal lines (Figure 1). When you export to SWF or interactive PDF, this disappears. This is nice if you don’t want the video to take up space on the page until it’s played. If you want the video to play when the user opens the page, without requiring the user to click anything, just use the options in the Media panel to set the video to play on page load.

Figure 1 Don’t worry; the diagonal lines just highlight the area of a video placed with no poster. They aren’t visible in the exported SWF or interactive PDF.

But what if you want to give the user the option to control the playing of the video, rather than springing it on them when they reach the page? Here are some options:

  • Underlying artwork: Incorporate a hint into the area of the page underneath the video that lures the user to click on the hotspot area of the video. For example, in a children’s book about farm animals, an animal’s picture can be the clue to click for video, once you’ve established this convention. A legend in the front of the piece should be provided to explain this approach. Note that videos should not overlap completely: Only the topmost video in stacking order would be clickable.
  • Caption: Create text that instructs the user where to click, and place it within the video hotspot area.
  • Use a button: A button labeled “Click here to play video” is straightforward, and it has some advantages—it can be placed anywhere on the page, so it’s easier to use as a trigger without interfering with your design. And a user who is focusing on buttons may be less likely to trigger the video by accidentally clicking on the area of the video, spoiling the surprise.

Whatever method you choose for triggering the video, just make sure it’s not so subtle that the user will overlook it and thus miss out on the fun.


InDesign’s built-in Standard poster (Figure 2) is a 75x100 pixel filmstrip graphic that is a fairly obvious indicator of video content. While the filmstrip graphic takes up relatively little space on the page, it implies that only the area of the visible artwork is clickable. Because the entire area of the video is a hotspot, there’s the risk that the user will accidentally trigger it, but at least it’s not likely to be overlooked.

Figure 2 The Standard poster is a subtle but unmistakable hint that there’s a video on the page.

From Current Frame

When you choose the From Current Frame option, the first frame of the video is selected. But you can use the use the frame scrubber in the Media panel to shop for a better frame for the poster. When you find it, click the icon to the right of the Poster pull-down (Figure 3). While this can provide a good representation of the video’s subject matter, it doesn’t shout “Hey, I’m a video! Click me!” So you still may want to add a button or caption to lead the viewer in the right direction.

Figure 3 You can select any frame in a video to be used as the poster. Just scrub through the video and click the icon to the right of the Poster pull-down.


This option allows you to designate any raster image (JPEG, TIFF, PSD) as the poster for the media content (sadly, vector formats aren’t eligible). This provides you with some interesting possibilities: You can build an obvious hint into the poster image, perhaps using the universal triangle-and-circle symbol for “click me” (Figure 4). The use of an alternate image to represent a video also gives you the option to use a high-resolution image that’s appropriate for print, enabling you to create a document that can be used for both print and Web distribution.

Figure 4 Choosing an image for your poster lets you control the appearance of the video hotspot so you can inform the user.

2. Navigation Buttons and Page Curls | Next Section