Drag and drop behaviour for the Layout Customizer

Paul Zablosky Paul.Zablosky at ubc.ca
Fri Apr 18 22:56:15 UTC 2008

    Your discussion of the columns of different widths prompts me to 
question the whole notion of having colums, and what their value is to 
the user.  With the original uPortal customization tools, columns 
provided a crude organization of the display -- allowing users to move 
portlet windows left or right by shifting them to the next column.  But 
with drag and drop the user can move the portlet through a continuous 
space, dropping it anywhere, and columns become less useful as a page 
organization model.  As for columns that are narrower than the portlet, 
we should remember that the user can adjust the column widths -- so is 
there a reason to restrict the user from dropping a portlet in a column 
that is too narrow?  She can always adjust the column width and retry 
the drag-and-drop -- so why would we make extra work for her?  
Tangentially, we should remember that it's possible to resize the 
portlet width -- dropping it into a too-narrow column could just make it 
skinnier -- and this could be reflected in the dimensions of the avatar 
(the avatar would get narrower if it moved to a narrower column).

I suppose what I'm suggesting here is that before we get caught up in 
how to deal with procrustean columns, we should think about just what 
the column convention is useful for, and how much of it we need to 
maintain. Right now portlet coordinates are column number and ordinal 
position, but does it have to be that way?  And right now column 
boundaries are the way the user says "I want everything over here to be 
just this wide, and no wider", but it's worth questioning just what this 
means from the user's viewpoint.

The layout of boxes you show below doesn't fit into columns, but it may 
make sense to the user.  So what is our reason for prohibiting it?  I 
feel that having some sort of grid that portlets can  snap to makes 
sense, just to help the user make the layout look regular on the screen, 
but your example suggests that simple columns may be both more 
restrictive and more cumbersome than is necessary.


Allison Bloodworth wrote:
> 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+-+List+Ordering).
> 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 
> implementation:
> "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.
> Thanks!
> Allison
> 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 <mailto: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 <mailto: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 <mailto:daphne at media.berkeley.edu>
>> cell (510)847-0308
>> _______________________________________________
>> fluid-work mailing list
>> fluid-work at fluidproject.org <mailto: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 <mailto:abloodworth at berkeley.edu>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> fluid-work mailing list
> fluid-work at fluidproject.org
> http://fluidproject.org/mailman/listinfo/fluid-work

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