I was trying to put myself in a new user's shoes and assumed I'd just downloaded and launched Stykz, and had dismissed (without reading) the dialog boxes that appeared. I get a new document window with the default Stykz figure. What would I do next? I'd probably play around with the current figure first (pivoting segments, dragging the figure, maybe even changing figure properties), but then I'd want to know how to create my *own* figure.
So there are two places I'd look: the menus and the open palettes (specifically the Tool palette), and the first thing I'd go to would be the Add Line or Add Circle tool. Hoping there'd be a tooltip to tell me what the tool did, I'd hover over it and be told that the tools are called "Add Line" and "Add Circle". So I'd probably click on the Add Line tool and then try to click somewhere on the stage - which of course did nothing.
Today's release of Stykz (Win Rel 2/Mac Rel 4) has added a few things to help with this: the first is that the tooltips for tools were expanded to get an additional one-line description of their functions, and the second is that it displays some warning dialogs if the user tries to do something with a tool that doesn't work (such as clicking on the Stage with the Add Line tool) instead of just doing nothing, as the previous version of Stykz did. Of course, you can turn off these dialogs through a checkbox in Preferences, but at least it helps to eliminate a bit of frustration.
But I know we can do better than that. So here's my thoughts on how to do this:
- Make it so that if you have the Add Line or Add Circle tool, you can click on the Stage and it will start a new figure - the idea is that the first click will fix in place the drag node of the line/circle, and then as the mouse moves the pivot node for the line/circle will follow the mouse and the line will extend/shrink (or the circle will expand/contract) until the user clicks again, at which point the segment is "locked into place" on the Stage. This same approach should work if you click on a node with the Add Line/Add Circle tool.
- Add some transparent "instructions" that pop up as you work in Stykz. For those of you with Macs and know what Growl is, I mean something like that, probably in the same "smoky" style as the current Hints palette in Stykz. For example, if you picked the Add Line tool, it might show this in the lower left corner of your current document window:
If you moused over the instruction window, it would display a close box on it that you could click to dismiss it. Of course there would be a Preference to turn the instruction window off completely.
- Add a menu item at the top of the Figure menu called "Create New FIgure..."; when a user selects it, they automatically switch to the Add Line tool and displays the instructions window and walks them through creating a figure.
Can you think of any other things that would help a new user get going with Stykz? Or any changes/suggestions to the items above?