Drag and drop behaviour for the Layout Customizer

Allison Bloodworth abloodworth at berkeley.edu
Fri Apr 18 18:18:58 UTC 2008

Hi there,

I definitely believe that we should support the i-Google style  
preview that our 'drag and drop layout preview' pattern supports.  
However, I had also not noticed before that (as Eli pointed out) the  
iGoogle portlets are all the same size. If this pattern is used for  
columns with different widths, I'm guessing this may complicate  
things from both a coding and user perspective. For instance, how do  
you clearly tell a user that they cannot drag a portlet from a wider  
column into a narrow column? It may be that there would be enough  
feedback with the fact that a drop target did not appear, but that  
would be something I think we should user test. Another question  
would be whether we even want to prevent that interaction...should  
users be able to drag portlets around without worrying about column  
width? I'm guessing the coding for this could be complicated. This  
could result in a page like this:

...but perhaps there *may* be contexts where this would make sense  
(e.g. users organizing piles of photos if the Gallery every  
implements this). I did a bit of searching on the web and it seems  
like not too many portals (or design patterns) are dealing with at  
least *moveable* portlets of differing widths yet, so this is  
probably something that deserves more thinking and then inclusion in  
our design patterns.

I had also been a bit confused by what was described as the more  
"Yahoo!-style" interaction our Layout Customizer displayed, as I  
hadn't been too involved in the Layout Customizer design process and  
actually hadn't seen a (in the process of being dragged) portlet  
avatar represented as a very small box before. Today I realized why-- 
Yahoo! has apparently recently changed this interaction in their  
portal, though their drag-and-drop modules Design Pattern has *not*  
been updated to reflect it: http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/ 
pattern.php?pattern=dragdropmodules#. If you hit "play" you will see  
that a half tone avatar is still used here, as opposed to the very  
small box representing the portlet which Layout Customizer (and My  
Yahoo!) is currently using. This is the interaction I was more  
familiar with, and is represented by our Drag-and-drop List Ordering  
Pattern (http://wiki.fluidproject.org/display/fluid/Drag+and+Drop+- 

I had a short conversation with Gary about this a few weeks ago, and  
he said that after the usability testing done on a more i-Google-like  

"One of the main concerns was keeping the drag avatar the same size  
as the original portlet.  With potentially very large portlets, there  
were usability issues with having such a huge drag avatar, jerk-like  
shifting in the page contents on drag, and sometimes obscuring the  
drop target indicator with the drag avatar."

It sounds like this could be a real concern, but I'm wondering if  
using a full-size half-tone avatar (which you can see through, so the  
drop target is visible), which both Yahoo!'s *design pattern* (not  
portal) and iGoogle use, might mitigate this problem in a more  
effective way. This could be backed up by user testing, but I am  
worried that users will not be able to see or understand the  
interaction of a very small avatar, which they may not clearly be  
able to understand is a representation of the portlet they are  
dragging (because it is difficulty to make that mapping and is likely  
not in accord with the user's mental model of what a portlet looks  
like). With an avatar that is the same size which immediately moves  
from the original spot when the user begins to drag it, the mapping  
is much more clear.

I had also suggested to Gary that we make our drop target color very  
different from the portal's theme colors (e.g. make it green) to  
ensure users could see it. I would also recommend including this info  
in the design pattern.  Also, I thought the way the drop target is  
placed right next to a portlet without any padding makes it harder to  
see. I'd like to see it spaced about halfway between the portlets in  
between which it is indicating a drop target.

After we figure out what to do with the portlet avatar styling for  
the Layout Customizer if anyone is up for thinking through some of  
this and updating the design patterns with me, let me know.


On Apr 16, 2008, at 4:54 PM, Daphne Ogle wrote:
> Thanks Colin!
> Looking at the results it does look like users had difficulty
> understanding where the portlet would land based on the summary:
> "Drop Target Indicators:
>      * Green bar is too small and not being noticed enough.
>      * Maybe make it thicker and with an arrow indicating where
> portlet will go."
> Perhaps we could include the bar and make it thicker along with the
> igoogle dotted outline pattern?  Not being involved in the testing,
> it's difficult to understand exactly where the hang up was for
> participants.
> It looks like the link is broken to the original designs (off the
> testing page Colin identified below).   Assuming we have it someplace,
> we could do some additional testing with the new design and an updated
> version of the old one.  Since so much changed between designs I'm
> concerned that testing just the new design won't give us very good
> comparison information.
> That said, our current iteration is very full so we could sure use
> some volunteer help doing the testing if we decide to go that route?
> And takers?  We could do pretty low intensive "hallway" testing so I
> wouldn't expect it to take more than a day but we'd have to look at it
> closer to see what is required.
> -Daphne
> On Apr 16, 2008, at 4:38 PM, Colin Clark wrote:
>> Daphne,
>> Sorry for the confusion; we haven't renamed all the wiki pages to
>> reflect the new Layout Customizer name. The user test results are
>> located here:
>> http://wiki.fluidproject.org/display/fluid/Portlet+Layout+Manager 
>> +Results
>> The results, as I read them, suggest that some participants had
>> difficulty determining exactly where their portlet would land. On
>> the other hand, this test was performed with a prerelease version of
>> the component that was a bit buggier in some respects.
>> Hope this helps,
>> Colin
>> On 16-Apr-08, at 7:33 PM, Daphne Ogle wrote:
>>> Does anyone know where the user testing results for the layout
>>> customizer are?  There doesn't seem to be a link off the main page
>>> for the component and I haven't had luck with search (probably
>>> don't know what terms to use).
>>> Thanks!
>>> -Daphne
>>> On Apr 16, 2008, at 3:33 PM, Colin Clark wrote:
>>>> Hello designers,
>>>> We've been doing a lot of review and testing of the Layout
>>>> Customizer
>>>> component in preparation for the Fluid Infusion 0.3 release. One of
>>>> the things we've been thinking about is the behaviour of drag and
>>>> drop
>>>> in this component.
>>>> A couple of months ago, Gary and Shaw-Han did a great job of  
>>>> putting
>>>> together some detailed mockups. They're available at:
>>>> http://wiki.fluidproject.org/display/fluid/Portlet+Reorderer 
>>>> +Mockups
>>>> If you notice, these mockups specify an approach that is very
>>>> similar
>>>> to myYahoo's news portal, available at http://cm.my.yahoo.com/. The
>>>> noteworthy features of this approach are:
>>>> * the use of a small drag "avatar" (the thing that follows your
>>>> mouse during a drag operation)
>>>> * a coloured, horizontal bar representing the drop target (the spot
>>>> where the thing will land when you let go of the mouse)
>>>> Another approach to drag and drop layouts is documented in the  
>>>> Fluid
>>>> design pattern for Layout Preview:
>>>> http://wiki.fluidproject.org/display/fluid/Drag+and+Drop+-+Layout 
>>>> +Preview
>>>> This approach is similar to iGoogle, http://www.google.com/ig.
>>>> Noteworthy features include:
>>>> * the use of a full-sized, transparent drag avatar that shows the
>>>> whole portlet
>>>> * a full-sized outlined box for the drop target
>>>> * other portlets on the page shift out of the way to show a
>>>> realistic preview of how the layout will look
>>>> What's the best approach? I'm thinking this is one of those "it
>>>> depends" questions. When portlets are similar in size and closely
>>>> spaced, the myYahoo approach is probably simpler and easier to
>>>> control. When portlets are more widely spaced and may have  
>>>> different
>>>> sizes, a full preview of the layout seems more useful.
>>>> At the time of the original designs, it's my understanding that we
>>>> went with the myYahoo-style interaction because it was immediately
>>>> similar to some existing code we have in the Reorderer. On the  
>>>> other
>>>> hand, the Reorderer is highly customizable. The dev team tells me
>>>> that
>>>> implementing both behaviours should be relatively straightforward.
>>>> It
>>>> may impact our release date a bit, but should we consider taking  
>>>> the
>>>> time to provide an option that will allow for the iGoogle-style of
>>>> preview?
>>>> I'd really appreciate opinions and advice from designers in the
>>>> community.
>>>> Colin
>>>> ---
>>>> Colin Clark
>>>> Technical Lead, Fluid Project
>>>> Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto
>>>> http://fluidproject.org
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> fluid-work mailing list
>>>> fluid-work at fluidproject.org
>>>> http://fluidproject.org/mailman/listinfo/fluid-work
>>> Daphne Ogle
>>> Senior Interaction Designer
>>> University of California, Berkeley
>>> Educational Technology Services
>>> daphne at media.berkeley.edu
>>> cell (510)847-0308
>> ---
>> Colin Clark
>> Technical Lead, Fluid Project
>> Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto
>> http://fluidproject.org
> Daphne Ogle
> Senior Interaction Designer
> University of California, Berkeley
> Educational Technology Services
> daphne at media.berkeley.edu
> cell (510)847-0308
> _______________________________________________
> fluid-work mailing list
> fluid-work at fluidproject.org
> http://fluidproject.org/mailman/listinfo/fluid-work

Allison Bloodworth
Senior User Interaction Designer
Educational Technology Services
University of California, Berkeley
(415) 377-8243
abloodworth at berkeley.edu

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