Thoughts about Forums Tool

Daphne Ogle daphne at media.berkeley.edu
Wed Oct 17 22:35:20 UTC 2007


It does make me cringe a bit that we allow user's to create  
unwieldily navigation for their sites.  But I think the root of the  
problem is less about us letting them create multiples and more about  
whether that is the right solution.  Why did the instructor need that  
many web content tools.  Perhaps the current tool isn't supporting  
their needs well.

When I read Clay's comment I think, "perhaps tools aren't the best  
way to structure out navigation".  Of course, this is nothing new --  
many have said it before (you and I probably had this conversation,  
eh Diana :) ).  Thinking about changing it seems overwhelming at this  
point but perhaps its time to give this some real attention.   If not  
tools, then what?

Some people in Fluid and Sakai have been thinking about this question  
a bit.  In fact, there may be a WG forming soon that will focus on  
the problem spaces of file management and navigation (2 areas that  
have risen to the top form the UX Walkthroughs we've been doing).   
One of the first steps will be to do some contextual inquiry with  
users to understand how they work with content in their sites -- why  
do they want it in there, how do they get in, what are they doing  
with it once it's in, etc.  The result should be a much better  
understanding of this space which should lead to a better  
understanding of how navigation structures can best support users  
work.  I'm curious if there are people in the community that could  
help with some of the research, analysis and design?   If you're  
interested and have the time to get involved in a project like this,  
let me know.  I'm in the midst of thinking through what a plan for  
this would look like and how we get the greatest user coverage with  
limited time and resources.

-Daphne

On Oct 17, 2007, at 12:27 PM, Diana L Perpich wrote:

> Indeed, there are several useful tools that can structure  
> themselves in that way...
>
> For example, we've always allowed the site owner to create as many  
> Web Content and News sections as their little hearts desire.  I've  
> seen absolutely sites with a dizzying number of Web Content links.   
> One site, no joke, had 30... and of course until recently there  
> wasn't a very good way to re-order them, so they didn't even have  
> *organization* going for them!
>
> So what kind of policy or pedagogy might inform a decision to  
> restrict the number of left-nav links to Forums, or Chat, but not  
> Web Content or News sections?
>
> As training and support staff, I looked at the 30-Web-Contents site  
> in horror not because the system allowed them to create thirty web  
> content sections, but because we had failed to inform/teach them  
> that discretion is the greater part of valor, that less can be  
> more, and that the wiki would have gotten them nine-tenths of what  
> they wanted without all that confusion.
>
> More thoughts on ways to combat left-nav sprawl.
>
> -- a prompt on the Edit Tools confirmation page, some kind of a tip  
> recommending that they consider limiting their left nav bar to 10  
> (or whatever) of fewer for ease of use.
>
> -- more boldly, a limit to the number of left-nav items a site can  
> have (or show) at any given time.
>
> -- a reassessment of the value of Help as a left-nav item in every  
> site.  What about moving this out of the site-specific navigation?   
> Might it live comfortably as a link in the banner?  It seems often  
> to live at the upper-right corner of complex sites I visit.  Often  
> beside search.
>
> -- a thought to whether Site Info must be a left-nav item visible  
> to all.  For our students, all they see there is the most basic  
> site info, little that is regularly useful to them.  Could Site  
> Info be hidden by default from all but those who have site.edit  
> permissions?  The site owner could choose to unhide it if class/ 
> project protocol deemed it useful.
>
> -- in the Workspace particularly (physician, heal thyself) a  
> reassessment of tools like Preferences and Account.  Do they need  
> to be separate left-nav items?  Could they be combined in multi- 
> tool page or reworked to present as a single tool?  Someone posted  
> recently about combining Memberships and Browse Sites and maybe  
> even Worksite Setup.
>
> -- more guidance.  Too often folks turn on more tools than they  
> actually use.  Email archive is a common tool that I see, more  
> often than I'd like to admit, turned on at course sites with not a  
> single message posted half way into the term.  Announcements is  
> another-- lots of instructors that turn on announcements and then  
> post 10 or fewer the whole term.  Train people to turn off or hide  
> tools when they aren't being used.  Train people on alternatives  
> (announcement content on the wiki page, if they're also using the  
> wiki).
>
> -- muti-tool pages.  While this may well merely move the confusion  
> out of the nav bar and onto the main page, there are also strong  
> cases for bringing this option out of the sole province of system  
> admins.  Some infrequent Announcements users would just as soon use  
> the half-width frame on the Home page to post announcements.  If it  
> were easy to replace Recent Announcements with Announcements on the  
> Home page, thus eliminating a left-nav link, that could reduce what  
> appears now to be redundancy.  Schedule can behave similarly.  I've  
> tweaked handful of sites so that the Schedule tool appears on the  
> Home page instead of occupying its own left-nav space.  A trim view  
> of Resources could show up on the Home page, or beside a trim  
> Schedule.
>
> I notice that my bullet points are getting progressively longer,  
> and that's a good sign to close.
>
>
> • diana lee perpich • use-lab •  digital media commons •
>
>
> On Oct 17, 2007, at 12:25 PM, Clay Fenlason wrote:
>
>> 2007/10/16, Diana L Perpich <dperpich at umich.edu>:
>>>
>>> 1-- RE Clay's comment:
>>>
>>> Between Web Content, RSS feeds, Resources Viewer (in development)  
>>> and
>>> other potential areas
>>> like this one, that tool navigation menu itself becomes rather  
>>> unwieldy.
>>>
>>> I think the nav bar only becomes unwieldy when people wield the  
>>> tools
>>> willy-nilly.  A site with just three tools (maybe we should call  
>>> them
>>> pages, since a page can have multiple tools.  Better yet, call them
>>> sections, since "Pages" don't do justice to the multiple pages  
>>> within
>>> any given "Tool").  Anyway, a site with
>>>
>>> Home
>>> Forum 1
>>> Forum 2
>>> Resources
>>>
>>> on the left isn't unwieldy at all.  It's actually quite  
>>> straightforward.
>>
>> Right, but that example is rather begging the question.  If there are
>> several useful tools that structure themselves in this way, we are
>> creating a situation where instructors are tacitly encouraged to
>> produce sprawl - and it's what we are in fact starting to see.  We
>> shouldn't design around only the most spare and Spartan of site
>> mantainers, and there's currently some tension between best practices
>> of creating multiple such pages and a minimalist structure for site
>> navigation.
>>
>> ~Clay
>
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Daphne Ogle
Senior Interaction Designer
University of California, Berkeley
Educational Technology Services
daphne at media.berkeley.edu
cell (510)847-0308



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