Library e-Book Usability

Since the onset of the pandemic in March, e-Books have occupied a position of higher importance in library collections. They allow for the easy circulation of library resources without patrons ever needing to enter the library building thus possibly infecting our staff or vice versa. This shift to e-Books was swift and now the library will even purchase an e-Book before circulating a physical copy. You can read more about the library’s Electronic-First Access Strategy on the Covid-19 Response page. This strategy is potentially saving lives but it is important to acknowledge some of the challenges for users that e-Books present. I have personally struggled with using library e-Books for class work and research and I identify as a pretty advanced library user. For years many users have avoided e-Books in favor of print copies in order to bypass usability problems.

Lets explore some of the most common usability problems for library e-Books. I conducted a brief literature review of recent publications on the usability of e-Books for library users. Below are the top 4 themes that I noticed in the literature:

1.) Every e-Book platform is different

Every single library electronic resource vendor has a different user interface. Some of them are better than others and I am not here to name names. The problem emerges when users are asked to learn new platforms. They will become frustrated quickly by poorly designed interfaces with steep learning curves. It would be easier for our users if vendors standardized their interfaces so users don’t have to continue figuring out how to use a different website every time they check out an e-Book.

2.) Interfaces can be “cluttered”

Often times when you open an e-Book using a vendor’s site the text will be surrounded by different features and tool-bars. Examples of these features include: table of contents, citation tools, note-taking capabilities, arrow navigation buttons, and more. Sometimes these features can provide increased functionality.  However, a lot of the time these tools and pop-ups distract from the text. Additionally, users complain that the cluttered e-Book displays can make it harder to enhance the size of the text for improved readability thus creating an accessibility problem. This problem could be solved if vendors conduct thorough user testing or work alongside librarians to ascertain which features are commonly used by our end-users and remove those features that are simply taking up space.

3.) Difficulties with citations 

Have you ever noticed how some e-Books don’t have page numbers? Or they do but they change when you increase the text size? This was a common complaint among e-Book users who expressed frustration generating accurate citations using e-Books because page numbers were inconsistent. Users did not have this problem when e-Books could be viewed as a PDF because formatting remained consistent. The solution to this is to have standardized page numbers and formatting for e-Books. Additionally, it is important to educate our users that when citing an e-Book they need to specify that in their bibliography because the page numbering will most likely be different from the print version of the same book.

4.) Navigational challenges

In order to gain access to the full text of an e-Book users often have to navigate through many webpages first. They may start at the library catalog, then go to bibliographic record, then choose between several links to access the book through the vendor site, then they are asked to log-in to the vendor site, then they need to navigate to the correct chapter using the navigational toolbar, etc, etc, etc. All of this takes a lot of time, patience, and knowledge. Something could go wrong at any point of the process between finding the book in the catalog and accessing the text. I for one, can never figure out how to log-in to the different vendor sites. For our users who may not be as comfortable navigating in the digital world, this creates a huge barrier to access. I think it’s important for us as librarians and library staff to know the ins and outs accessing our resources. Additionally, we need to keep an open line of communication with vendors and publishers to help them provide our users with the best product possible.

Resources consulted

Alkawaz, M. H., Segar, S. D., & Ali, I. R. (2020). A Research on the Perception and use of Electronic Books Among it Students in Management & Science University. 2020 16th IEEE International Colloquium on Signal Processing & Its Applications (CSPA), Signal Processing & Its Applications (CSPA), 2020 16th IEEE International Colloquium On, 52–56. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.1109/CSPA48992.2020.9068716

Jaffy, M. (2020). Bento-Box User Experience Study at Franklin University. Information Technology & Libraries39(1), 1–20. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.6017/ital.v39i1.11581

Landry Mueller, K., Valdes, Z., Owens, E., & Williamson, C. (2019). Where’s the EASY Button? Uncovering E-Book Usability. Reference & User Services Quarterly59(1), 44–65.

Tracy, D. G. (2018). Format Shift: Information Behavior and User Experience in the Academic E-book Environment. Reference & User Services Quarterly58(1), 40–51. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.5860/rusq.58.1.6839

 

Creating Accessible Slides for Presentations and Online Posting

Making presentations accessible is important, whether in a classroom, in a meeting, or any situation you find yourself delivering information to an audience. Now, more learning than ever is taking place online where inaccessible content can create unequal learning opportunities.

Do you want to learn what it takes to make an accessible presentation? Read on for information about creating accessible slides for both live and recorded presentations!

Thinking about Universal Design

Universal Design is the idea that things should be created so that the most people possible can make use of them. What might be considered an accommodation for one person may benefit many others. The following tips can be considered ways to improve the learning experience for all participants.

Live and Recorded Presentations

Whether your presentation is happening in-person, live virtually, or asynchronously, there are several steps you can take to make your slides accessible.

1. Use a large font size.

During in-person presentations, participants may have trouble seeing if they are sitting far away or have impaired sight. In the virtual environment, participants may be tuning in on a phone or tablet and a larger font will help them see better on a small screen.

Image reads "this text is way too small" in 12 point font.

Example of text that is too small to read from a distance, phone, or tablet in 12 point font.

Image reads "This text is big enough to read" in size 28 font

Example of text that is big enough to read from a distance in 28 point font.

2. Use sans serif fonts.

Fonts like Calibri, Franklin Gothic Book, Lucida Sans, and Segoe are the most accessible to people with reading comprehension disabilities. Leaving plenty of white space makes your slides both more readable and more visually appealing.

3. Minimize text on slides.

People who can’t see the slides may be missing out on important content, and too much text can distract from what you’re saying. When you do include text, read everything out loud.

Image of a slide with too much text. Slide is completely filled with text.

Example of a slide with too much text.

Image of a slide with the right amout of text, including three main bullet points and a few sub bullets not in complete sentences.

Example of a slide with the right amount of text.

4. Use high contrast colors.

High contrast colors can more easily be seen by someone with a visual impairment (black and white is a reliable option). Always explain your color-codes for people who can’t see them and so all participants are on the same page.

Top half contains dark blue background with white text reading "this is high contrast". Bottom half contains light blue background with white text reading "this is low contrast"

Examples of slide font and background using high and low contrast colors.

5. Summarize all charts and images.

Images and charts should also be explained fully so that all participants understand what you are communicating.

6. Use closed captions.

For recorded presentations, both PowerPoint and Google slides allow you to add closed captions to your video or audio file. For live sessions, consider using subtitles or creating a live transcription. Technology Services offers instructions on how activate subtitles for Zoom meetings.

Posting Slides Online

Virtual presentations should be recorded when possible as our usual participants may be in other time zones, experiencing technology issues, or dealing with a countless list of challenges brought on by the pandemic or life.

Posting your slides online in an accessible format is another way to make that information available.

1. Use built in slide designs.

Slide designs built into PowerPoint and Google Slides are formatted to be read in the correct order by a screen reader. If you need to make adjustments, PowerPoint allows you to check over and adjust the reading order of your slides.

Screenshot of office theme slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

Built-in slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

2. Give all slides a title.

Titles assist people who are reading the document with a screen reader or are taking notes and allow all readers to navigate the document more easily.

3. Add alt-text to all images.

Alternative text allows screen readers to describe images. Use concise, descriptive language that captures the motivation for including the image on the slide.

4. Use meaningful hyperlinks.

Both screen readers and the human eye struggle to read long hyperlinks. Instead, use descriptive hyperlinks that make clear where the link is going to take the reader.

Examples of inaccessible hyperlinks

Examples of inaccessible or non-descriptive hyperlinks.

Example of a descriptive hyperlink

Example of an accessible and descriptive hyperlink.

5. Create a handout and save it as a PDF.

Finally, always include your speaker’s notes when posting slides online as the slides themselves only contain a fraction of what you will be communicating in your presentation.

Example of a slide with speaker's notes saved as a handout

Example of a slide with speaker’s notes saved as a handout.

It is always easier to make your presentation accessible from the start. By keeping these tips in mind, you can make sure your content can be used by the widest audience possible and help create a more inclusive learning environment!

For more information about how to use and apply these features, check out the following resources:

Blogs for All: Making Accessible Posts in WordPress

As blogs continue to provide a low barrier to entry for authors to distribute content in all avenues from academia to entertainment, it is important to make sure that blog posts are just as easy to access for readers. Here at Illinois, our blogs are run through publish.illinois.edu, a WordPress-based publishing service. As we try to improve our services for all, especially our remotely available services, I wanted to use this week’s Commons Knowledge post to discuss improving accessibility in WordPress. Within the platform, making more accessible blog posts isn’t difficult nor does it require much time; however, building these practices into our workflow allows for posts to be accessible—not just for some, but for all.

Wordpress logo - a gray W in a circle

Continue reading

It Takes a Campus – Episode One with Dena Strong

Image has the text supporting digital scholarship, it takes a campus with icons of microphone and broadcast symbol

 

For the transcript, click on “Continue reading” below.

Continue reading

Lightning Review: Optical Character Recognition: An Illustrated Guide to the Frontier

Lightning Review: Optical Character Recognition: An Illustrated Guide to the Frontier

Picture of OCR Book

Stephen V. Rice, George Nagy, and Thomas A. Nartaker’s work on OCR, though written in 1999, is still a remarkably valuable bedrock text for diving into the technology. Though OCR systems have, and continue to, evolve with each passing day, the study presented within their book still highlights some of the major issues one faces when performing optical character recognition. Text is in an unusual typeface or contains stray marks, print is too heavy or too light. This text gives those interested in learning the general problems that arise in OCR a great guide to what they and their patrons might encounter.

The book opens with a quote from C-3PO, and a discussion of how our collective sci-fi imagination believe technology will have “cognitive and linguistic abilities” that match and perhaps even exceed our own (Rice et al., 1999, p. 1).

C3PO Gif

 

The human eye is the most powerful character identifier to exist. As the authors note “A seven year old child can identify characters with far greater accuracy than the leading OCR systems” (Rice et al., 1999, 165). I found this simple explanation so helpful for when I get questions here in the Scholarly Commons from patron who are confused as to why their document, even after been run through and  OCR software, is not perfectly recognized. It is very easy, with our human eyes, to discern when a mark on a page is nothing of importance, and when it is a letter. Ninety-nine percent character accuracy doesn’t mean ninety-nine percent page accuracy.

Look with your special eyes Gif

In summary, this work presents a great starting point for those with an interest in understanding OCR technology, even at almost two decades old.

Give it, and the many other fabulous books in our reference collection, a read!

Scholarly Smackdown: PowerPoint vs. Google Slides vs. Prezi

Everyone, at some point in their life, will be asked to give some kind of presentation to go along with a talk. For many of us, projecting a slide show along with a class report or talk has been something we’ve done since childhood. That being said, the nature of the presentation game is changing. While the PowerPoint remains the standard, new challengers are making a splash in the presentation world. In this article, I’ll go through the pros and cons of each of these platforms.

The PowerPoint logo.

PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint is so ingrained in our idea of modern presentations that giving any sort of slide show is often called “giving a PowerPoint”. But at the same time, does PowerPoint hold up to its new competitors? Let’s take a closer look.

Price:

Microsoft has shifted towards yearly subscriptions for various packages. UIUC affiliates can download the suite on their home computer for free. Otherwise, packages range between $70-$100 per year, or a one-time purchase of $150, which does not include applications such as OneDrive. For more information on options, go to the UIUC Webstore or Microsoft’s website.

Usability:

Though it’s gotten better with time and my own familiarity with Microsoft Office, PowerPoint is not the most usable option of these. Part of that has to do with the sheer amount of options available in PowerPoint. That being said, the more you can customize your project, the greater the potential to misuse tools or make mistakes. Real problems arise when you want to do things that aren’t included in their preset slide layouts, and formatting images — while it has become simpler than in older versions of the software — remains, at times, an issue.

Web Capability:

Microsoft PowerPoint is first and foremost downloadable computer software. However, PowerPoint has recently come out with a competitor to online platforms called PowerPoint Online, which has most of the capabilities of PowerPoint software, but allows for you to collaborate in real-time with others. To log into PowerPoint Online one needs a Microsoft ID (UIUC affiliates can log in with their email). One cannot access or purchase access to PowerPoint Online without a Microsoft ID. PowerPoint Online is useful if you like the look of PowerPoint and want an easy-to-open and portable version, but I find that the interface is a little clunky, but it does integrate slideshows made on the desktop version easily. I think PowerPoint Online is an important addition to the Microsoft Suite because, with time, it will eliminate that awkward 15 minutes that happens during any and every presentation session where someone can’t get their jump drive to work.

Aesthetics:

When done well, a PowerPoint can look good. It isn’t going to be a beauty queen, but it will look good. However, people have a tendency to over-embellish a PowerPoint, or leave it so bare that it looks sad. There’s a happy medium when it comes to PowerPoint. Just make sure you include some images to spice up your PowerPoint and stay away from templates that include gradients — this isn’t a business convention in 2002.

The Google Slides logo.

Google Slides

Google Slides is Google’s online PowerPoint equivalent. Most notable for the ability to collaborate on presentations, it’s a simplified PowerPoint that you can access from anywhere (with Wifi).

Price:

Google Slides is free with your Google account. Your limiting factor here is memory. While the automatic Drive memory is typically more than enough for most people, you can add on extra memory or $2-$300 a month, depending on your needs.

Usability:

Google Slides is the most bare bones of these three programs and the easiest to use. This is a trade-off, of course, because it also means that it has the least options of these choices. Google Slides’ controls are generally pretty similar to Google Docs and easy to learn. Even for those who aren’t familiar with other Google Drive programs, the tools are pretty intuitive — more so than PowerPoint’s.

Web Capability:

Google Slides was built for the Web. It’s the easiest to access of these programs, and the most widely-recognized Web application. That being said, it lacks a good offline mode, which can be frustrating when you need to work on a presentation without Wifi. However, its connectivity with the other online components of Google Drive are worth it.

Aesthetics:

I give Google Slides a one-up on PowerPoint for aesthetics, because while they have fewer templates, they tend to be a little more modern and aesthetically pleasing than PowerPoint’s. Further, while there are fewer overall customization options for Google Slides, the result can end up more attractive because your time and energy is focused on getting the job done, as opposed to playing around.

The Prezi logo.

Prezi

Prezi is the newest presentation platform on the scene. Created as a more dynamic alternative to slideshow presentations, this web-based app uses zoomable canvases for presentations.

Price:

A basic account is free, and a basic student account (which includes privacy controls) is also free. Other individual packages range from $7 to $59.

Usability:

Honestly, I find Prezi difficult to use. Part of that can be attributed to my years of experience with PowerPoint and similar platforms and my comparative inexperience with Prezi, but I do think that there’s an element that isn’t entirely my fault here. Moving through your presentation can be cumbersome, even in the edit mode. Customization options are more limited, and can easily ruin the flow of your presentation if you’re not careful. I do think that the more closely you stick to Prezi’s pre-made options, the easier it is to use. Also, the shorter your presentation is, the less cumbersome Prezi is both as a creator and consumer.

Web Capability:

Prezi is a web-based application, and offline access must be paid for.

Aesthetics:

Prezi is, undoubtedly, pretty. I find it a little ironic that animation — which PowerPoint has been criticized for — is one of the major selling points of Prezi. When I watch a Prezi, I do have the tendency to feel a little seasick, especially if it’s a presentation with a lot of points that zoom in and out. But overall, the aesthetics are the most modern of any of the platforms, the most visually-striking, and the most impressive if you are able to handle them correctly and create a good presentation.

Overall:

Each of these have their merits and flaws, but I will be, personally, sticking with PowerPoint. Especially given the new online component of PowerPoint, it is a tried and true partner that may not produce the most striking results, but can accompany my work just fine. That being said, I’ll also look further into Prezi, maybe sign up for our Savvy Researcher workshop on it, and see if it does live up to its incredible reputation.

Bad Web Design with e-Portfolio Software

E-portfolios (sometimes spelled ePortfolio) and digital portfolios are websites where you can display your academic achievements and works for the world to see. These professional websites are often created with a specific career goal in mind and display examples that demonstrate how you meet the competencies of your career goal. Digital portfolios can be used to supplement a LinkedIn profile, and some graduate programs even require the creation of an e-portfolio in lieu of writing a master’s thesis or even as a graduation requirement.

Should I make an e-portfolio with e-portfolio software?

A lot of online portfolio software creation tools aimed at educators make sites that tend to look very formatted. Essentially, what you end up working with is close in appearance to a Google Sites page. Oftentimes, individuals pay for their own site, if funds are not provided by your university. The University of Illinois supports use of the ePortfolio site Digication, which is free to faculty, students, and staff. That being said, default templates for e-portfolios tend to be… ugly. You may consider using these if your school subscribes to them, or if you want a free portfolio site for your fifth graders. Otherwise, probably not.

Issues to consider when choosing an e-portfolio software: digital preservation, usability, aesthetics, and cost. You also want to consider the most important question here: Am I better off using Google Sites?

Mahara

Mahara is a New Zealand-based open source e-portfolio software. You need your own server to use Mahara, but you can customize the software to your liking if you know how or have a very supportive IT department. For all of my server-free readers, FolioSpaces is a web application based on Mahara, but feels a lot more like a social network for third graders. Users are unable to customize the background of their sites unless you pay up to $9.95 a year. On FolioSpaces you create “portfolios” that are actually sections where you can store different aspects of your work. FolioSpaces is an odd public space where you are likely to see posts from high school students from Michigan who really could benefit from spell check. Still, this could be a good free option for folks looking for a portfolio creation tool for their students’ classwork. However, you will probably save a lot of time and trouble, as well as have more control over privacy settings, by just using Google Sites, especially if you have Google for Education (and if you are a student at Illinois, you do).

Digication

Digication is an e-portfolio alternative. U of I students, faculty, and staff can easily create, share, and access ePotfolios for free, and continue to access them after graduation. Digication has pretty intuitive steps for creating an ePortfolio. One great aspect is the easily editable custom URLs you can create for your portfolio. With Digication, you can either use a pre-made template (some more aesthetically pleasing than others), or customize your own theme. Because we have access to Digication through the University of Illinois, it has some themes that are better suited to our needs than some of the other ePortfolio options on this list, because they are geared to a UIUC audience.

One of the best parts of Digication are the options to allow comments and “conversations” on your ePortfolio, which are a great social aspect that encourage interaction between yourself and your audience.

Like all of these options, there are pros and cons to using Digication, but it’s definitely a path to explore. For more information on Digication at the U of I, head to the ePortfolio Resources at Illinois page.

Portfolio Gen

Portfolio Gen provides free pages, as well as paid options that have more space and no “Powered by Portfolio Gen” widget on the page. Frankly, most of the themes on Portfolio Gen seem very childish, and seem to cater to an audience of younger students creating (tacky) portfolios. They are, however, the easiest to use e-portfolio software, and it would be nice if they could expand their theme options to have some better-suited for adults.

My default portfolio and landing page took about five minutes to make and looked like this:

Portfolio homepage with default settings

Pathbrite

In my opinion, this is probably the most promising e-portfolio builder that is specifically built for this purpose. Pathbrite is free for individual users but costs money for institutions. You can create a free, simple site with a Google account and incorporate documents like a resume/CV and a writing sample directly from your Google Drive from the side bar “Add Work” tab and/or by dragging and dropping the icon of the type of work you want to add to your portfolio site. Although this looks similar to the Weebly drag and drop, it will give you options to upload from all sorts of places. You can arrange uploaded items by dragging and dropping them around on your page. A particularly nice feature is that you can also incorporate screenshots and links to websites you have created by simply clicking “Web link” and including the link to the website you want to share so you don’t have to screenshot it yourself.

add items mode in pathbrite

That being said, on the “Style and Settings” tab on the side bar you have a very limited amount of control over the way that the different items are arranged on your site. You can choose between light and dark and resume views and a couple of different ways to arrange the layout of how your work will appear, but that’s about it.

Pathbrite Style and Setting Editor

My default portfolio and page took about 15 minutes to make and this is how it turned out:

demo pathbrite portfolio

Overall, I am not a big fan of any of these options. At the end of the day, I still think you’re probably better off working with a regular CMS like WordPress, Weebly, or even the most basic of site creation tools, Google Sites. If you are an artist, photographer, or some other kind of all around creative genius there are web site builders and e-portfolio designs that specifically cater to you that look nice; however, this post is focusing on researcher/educator e-portfolios that aren’t as image heavy.

And if you’re a UIUC faculty member you’re in luck, because soon you will be able to create an e-portfolio through an Illinois Experts where you can showcase your research and accomplishments.

UPDATE 11/14/2017: Those post initially and incorrectly stated that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign does not provide free access to any ePortfolio site. However, we just learned that we do! University of Illinois students, faculty, and staff can create a free ePortfolio on Digication, which they can continue to access even after they have left the school. We apologize for our mistake, and hope that this news comes as a pleasant surprise for our readers!

More resources:

And make sure to check out our two fabulous LibGuides on online scholarly presence:

Adventures at the Spring 2017 Library Hackathon

This year I participated in an event called HackCulture: A Hackathon for the Humanities, which was organized by the University Library. This interdisciplinary hackathon brought together participants and judges from a variety of fields.

This event is different than your average campus hackathon. For one, it’s about expanding humanities knowledge. In this event, teams of undergraduate and graduate students — typically affiliated with the iSchool in some way — spend a few weeks working on data-driven projects related to humanities research topics. This year, in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we looked at data about a variety of facets of university life provided by the University Archives.

This was a good experience. We got firsthand experience working with data; though my teammates and I struggled with OpenRefine and so we ended up coding data by hand. I now way too much about the majors that are available at UIUC and how many majors have only come into existence in the last thirty years. It is always cool to see how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.

The other big challenge we had was not everyone on the team had experience with design, and trying to convince folks not to fall into certain traps was tricky.

For an idea of how our group functioned, I outlined how we were feeling during the various checkpoints across the process.

Opening:

We had grand plans and great dreams and all kinds of data to work with. How young and naive we were.

Midpoint Check:

Laura was working on the Python script and sent a well-timed email about what was and wasn’t possible to get done in the time we were given. I find public speaking challenging so that was not my favorite workshop. I would say it went alright.

Final:

We prevailed and presented something that worked in public. Laura wrote a great Python script and cleaned up a lot of the data. You can even find it here. One day in the near future it will be in IDEALS as well where you can already check out projects from our fellow humanities hackers.

Key takeaways:

  • Choose your teammates wisely; try to pick a team of folks you’ve worked with in advance. Working with a mix of new and not-so-new people in a short time frame is hard.
  • Talk to your potential client base! This was definitely something we should have done more of.
  • Go to workshops and ask for help. I wish we had asked for more help.
  • Practicing your presentation in advance as well as usability testing is key. Yes, using the actual Usability Lab at Scholarly Commons is ideal but at the very least take time to make sure the instructions for using what you created are accurate. It’s amazing what steps you will leave off when you have used an app more than twice. Similarly make sure that you can run your program and another program at the same time because if you can’t chances are it means you might crash someone’s browser when they use it.

Overall, if you get a chance to participate in a library hackathon, go for it, it’s a great way to do a cool project and get more experience working with data!

Pinterest Pages for Researchers

The Pinterest logo.

When one thinks of Pinterest, they tend to associate it with work night crock pot recipes and lifehacks that may or may not always work. But Pinterest can also be a great place to store and share links and information relating to your academic discipline that is widely accessible and free. In this post, we’ll look at how threegroups use Pinterest in different ways to help their mission, then go through some pros and cons of using Pinterest for academic endeavors

Examples of Groups Using Pinterest

A Digital Tool Box for Historians

A Digital Tool Box for Historians is exactly what it says on the tin. On the date this post was written, A Digital tool Box for Historians boasts 124 pins, each a link to a digital resource that can help historians. Resources range from free-to-use websites to pay-to-use software and everything in-between. It is an easy to follow board that is made for easy browsing.

Europeana

Europeana is a website dedicated to collecting and sharing cultural artifacts and art from around the world. Their Pinterest page serves as a virtual museum with pins grouped into thematic boards, as if they were galleries. With over a hundred and fifty boards, their subject matter ranges from broad themes (such as their Birds and Symbolism board), artistic medium (such as their Posters board, or specific artistic movements or artists (such as their Henri Verstijnen – Satirical Drawings board). Pinterest users can then subscribe to favorite boards and share pieces that they find moving, thus increasing the dissemination of pieces that could remain static if only kept on the Europeana website.

Love Your Data Week

Sponsored by — you guessed it — Love Your Data Week, the Love Your Data Week Pinterest board serves as a community place to help institutions prepare for Love Your Data Week. Resources shared on the Love Your Data Week board can either be saved to an institution’s own Love Your Data board, or used on their other social media channels to spark discussion.

Pros and Cons of Pinterest

  • Pros
    • Can spread your work to a non-academic audience
    • Free
    • Easily accessible
    • Easy to use
    • Brings content from other platforms you may use together
    • Visually appealing
    • Well-known
  • Cons
    • Poor tagging and search systems
    • Interface can be difficult to use, especially for users with disabilities
    • Content gets “buried” very quickly
    • Poor for long-format content
    • Non-academic reputation

Whether it’s a gallery, tool kit, or resource aggregation, Pinterest shows potential for growth in academic and research circles. Have you used Pinterest for academics before? How’d it go? Any tips you’d like to give? Let us know in the comments!

 

Using Microsoft Publisher for Easy and Attractive Documents

The ability to create quick and attractive layouts for posters, research presentations, and other published materials. While many will head to Photoshop, if you need something on-the-go, Microsoft Publisher is a great option for basic, yet impressive, layouts that will make you stand out. The best part is that you can make these with tools you probably already know from using other products in the Microsoft Suite.

In this post, I’ll walk you through how to make a professional-looking poster for “My Digital Humanities Project” in less than fifteen minutes.

The first thing I’ll do after opening Publisher is select a new blank document. While there are great choices for templates on Publisher, I want to design my poster by myself. From there, I’ll go to the “Page Design” tab on the top ribbon. From there, I’ll choose my color scheme and background color.

Tutorial 1

What the “Page Design” layout looks like.

The color scheme option on Publisher is great. It saves you the hassle of having to find complementary colors or and allows you to make more than boring black and white poster. Of course, you can create your own scheme, as well, but for now I’ll pick “Solstice” to use for my colors. You also have the option to choose a scheme for your fonts, but I stuck with the default.

The color scheme option saves time and energy by giving you eye-catching colors without having to find them yourself.

The color scheme option saves time and energy by giving you eye-catching colors without having to find them yourself.

Now, there are two ways to go about using Publisher. The first is to create your own layout and design using Publisher’s tools, which is what I’m doing in this tutorial. Creating your own layout and design allows you more control over what is and is not included in your final product. That being said, Publisher has a number of editable built-in templates that you can use for your project, if they fit your needs.

Tutorial 7

You can find the “Change Template” option on the left side of the the “Page Design” ribbon. From there you can choose from a number of editable designs, as well as color and font schemes.

After picking my scheme, I decide to do a plain fill for my background with the yellow from my color scheme. You also have choices to do a gradient background, a pattern background, or to upload your own image to use as your background.

The background button on the ribbon gives a drop-down menu with background options.

The background button on the ribbon gives a drop-down menu with background options.

My project's background.

My project’s background.

Following that I moved to the “Insert” tab on the top ribbon to create the content of my poster. Most of what I did came from the “Page Parts” or “Borders & Accents” options in the “Building Blocks” section of that top ribbon. I began by selecting the diamond pattern from borders and accents, and copy pasting it until it went across the page. Next, I chose the title from the “Headings” section of “Page Parts,” and the border around my title from “Borders and Accents.”

Tutorial 8

The layout of the “Insert” tab. Many of the best aspects of Publisher are found in the “Building Blocks” section of this ribbon, including “Page Parts” and “Borders & Accents.”

The bottom part of my poster came from the “Page Parts” tabs. There you can choose the shapes you want your text in. One nice option that my shape on the lower left has is the option to include three pictures within the shape. I also created the rectangle on the bottom right using the “Illustrations” tab on the top ribbon. I filled it with blue on the “Page Design” tab so that the date would really stand out.

My finished product!

My finished product!

One of the best parts of Publisher is that it takes the difficult aspects of design and simplifies them. While you may not have as much personal control over the final project as you may in Photoshop, Publisher saves time and energy while still giving you a noticeable and vivacious end product. Publisher is useful not only for posters, but to create presentations, booklets, cards, and even eye-catching resumes!

If you want to give Publisher a try, head to the Scholarly Commons!