Over the past 10 years of Wixie, we have built a lot of templates and activities for students. Here are some things that we have learned that you will hopefully find helpful in your own templates and activities.
Landscape vs. portrait orientation. It is almost always better to create templates and activities using landscape orientation. This layout works best on a variety of devices. Portrait layouts become hard to work with in the work-space of a tablet, so try to use this orientation only when designing templates that will need to be portrait when they are printed.
Protect and turn off scaling for objects to be dragged. If you are creating a sorting activity with text objects or stickers on the page that are to be dragged around, go to the Edit menu, choose Properties, and turn on Protect and turn off Scale. This will make the objects easier to drag around without inadvertently deleting or scaling them. This is especially useful if students are doing the activity on a touch device.
Clone objects you need more than one of. If you are making a counting activity, or an activity where students are working with money, instead of adding multiple copies of a sticker to the page, add one copy and go to the Edit menu, choose Properties, and select Clone. This way each time students click and drag the sticker it will create a new copy giving them an endless supply.
Lock labels and headers. If you have labels and headers, turn off scaling and lock these items (again, under the Edit menu). This way they won’t get inadvertently edited, but if another teacher wants to customize your activity, they can easily unlock the labels and edit them.
Text Layouts. Try not to be pixel-perfect with your text layouts. Make sure you have space for the text to be a little smaller or a little larger. Different browsers on different devices display fonts at slightly different sizes. Don't get hung up on exact text layouts, it is a losing battle.
Instructions vs descriptions. If you are providing instructions to students, click the Instructions button on the tool palette and enter instructions for students to read. If you want to provide detailed instructions to teachers on how to use or possibly customize your activity, choose the File menu and select Project Information. What you enter in the Description field will display to teachers when they are looking for activities in the detail view of the project list.
Set a default sticker category. If there is a specific category of stickers that works best with an activity, such as the Numbers category in Math, you can have this category open when the activity is opened. This makes it easier for students to get started without having to navigate the image library.
To set the default folder that appears when the Image dialog opens, edit the activity, choose the File menu and select Project Settings. Then navigate to the folder you want to set as the default.
Take advantage of the background layer. One of the more subtle features in Wixie is the difference between the background, paint, and objects layer. Since the background layer in Wixie exists behind everything, students can quickly and easily add text, stickers, and even painted artwork above it without “damaging” the image.
If your activity would be harder to use if students accidentally erased part of it, design that part first, then go to the Edit menu and choose Send to Background. This will make that part of the template untouchable. The background layers sits behind the paint layer, so make sure you don't ask students to fill a shape that is in the background, since the paint bucket fills the paint layer and if shapes are on the background, the bucket will fill the entire page.
Use device neutral terms in the instructions. Try to use terms that are understood on both tablets using a touch interface and PCs using a mouse interface. For example, instead of saying “Click and drag”, use “Drag” as it is a more device neutral term that is easily understood on both a PC and a tablet. Instead of saying “Click” when describing an action, such as “Click the Paint tool”, use “Choose” or “Select”.
Even more to think about!
A few other ideas include not placing text objects in columns since they grow across the page and might make it harder to use for students. Also, if your page looks cramped with a lot of stuff, can you break it up onto multiple pages?
Not all of the Tech4Learning activities follow these guidelines. We add activities over time so some of the older ones still serve as examples of how we learned these lessons. Hopefully these tips will help you make better activities right from the start.