Thoughts about Forums Tool

Hannah Reeves hreeves at rsmart.com
Thu Oct 18 13:57:36 UTC 2007


Me too, I've been on this soap box since CHEF 1.0.

Hannah
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Korcuska" <mkorcuska at gmail.com>
To: "Daphne Ogle" <daphne at media.berkeley.edu>
Cc: "Diana L Perpich" <dperpich at umich.edu>, "Sakai UI" <sakai-dg-ui at collab.sakaiproject.org>, fluid-work at fluidproject.org
Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:56:28 PM (GMT-0500) America/New_York
Subject: Re: Thoughts about Forums Tool


I'll chime in and say I don't think tools are the best way to think  
about navigation. Maybe for an instructor it works. Less so for the  
learner. Even for instructors, though, I think we'll be more  
successful in structuring navigation around tasks/activities that  
folks are trying to accomplish. I know this is (one strand of)  
conventional wisdom in the design world, but I like it.

Sign me up to help, Daphne.

Michael

On Oct 17, 2007, at 3:35 PM, Daphne Ogle wrote:

> 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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-- 
Michael Korcuska
Executive Director, Sakai Foundation
mkorcuska at sakaifoundation.org
mobile: +1 510-599-2586 // phone: +1 510-931-6559
skype: mkorcuska


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-- 
Hannah Reeves
CLE Product Manager
The rSmart Group




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