Reorderer behaviour -- more discussion

Paul Zablosky Paul.Zablosky at
Tue Sep 9 18:55:57 UTC 2008

Thank you Gary.  One of the problems with this issue, is that we don't 
really have a way to do comparison testing with users.  Now that we're 
discussing this in the open fluid-work list, I can put a question 
directly to the developers:

Would it be possible to create a version of the reorderer that sets the 
position of the drop target not with reference to the pointer position, 
but with reference to the centre of gravity of the avatar?  Since the 
avatar and pointer are locked together during the drag, this would seem 
to me to be a simple fixed translation of coordinates, but I don't know 
enough about the implementation details to guess if it's easy or 
difficult.  Anyway, if we had such a thing, we could easily do user 
testing to find out which they preferred:

    * targets that move with the pointer
    * targets that move with the centre of the avatar

I'm suggesting using the centre as tracking point, simply because it's 
the most obvious alternative to following the cursor position. There may 
be other loci that could be considered.

I'll respond to Gary's responses within his message below.


Gary Thompson wrote:
> Paul,
> I'm cc'ing fluid-work so everyone can appreciate the questions and 
> digest the responses.
> Great questions.  The goal is to create an intuitive, elegant design, 
> so questioning the behavior is warranted if it seems to not match your 
> expectations.
> As Colin mentioned, the Reorder - and thus the Layout Customizer - are 
> currently moving targets.  The target movement was initiated from the 
> user testing done on the first integration environment, which reported 
> unusable response and behavior.  Refer to the user testing results:
> Three comments:
> 1. Context is king.
> How drag and drop behaves will be specific to context.  The examples 
> on the Layout Customizer springboard: 
> ...actually represent something closer to list reordering, which by 
> context will have a different behavior.  What most currently 
> represents the Layout Customizer, is the uPortal integration here:
I totally agree that context is king.  That's why I tried out all the 
different examples of the reorderer on the demos page.  I found that I 
had the same difficulty with all of them,  which led me to think that 
the problem was below the application level.
> 2. The grab handle can be defined.
> And is defined to be just the portlet title bar in the Layout 
> Customizer integration in uPortal (rather than the whole portlet).  
> This should help alleviate the confusion of location of the drag 
> avatar to cursor, though we may find in further testing that that is 
> still an issue.
Yes, I noticed this.  It's harder to demonstrate with the Layout 
Customizer because the grab area is smaller.  But you can show the 
effect by grabbing at the left or right end of the grab area.  The 
behaviour of the drop indicator is more consistent with a limited grab 
area, but it still feels strange if the grab area is at the edge of the 
element I'm grabbing.

This of course gives us another thing to test.  Do users prefer to have 
a large area where they can grab an element, or should it be limited to 
a specific "grab me here" region?
> 3. The drag avatar may need to be minimized in uPortal.
> The size of a portlet in uPortal is highly variable, and user testing 
> has already uncovered the unwieldiness of large portlets being dragged 
> in a preview mode.  It may turn out that for uPortal, we revert to an 
> earlier design that more closely resembled the Yahoo behavior at the 
> time - a small grey box as the drag avatar, and a non-preview, colored 
> line as the drop indicator.
A smaller avatar might help, but I still think it skirts the issue of 
where the drop indicator appears.
> Gary
> Paul Zablosky wrote:
>> I have been playing with the reorderer examples on the daily build 
>> page <> and getting a feel for the 
>> behaviour of the avatars and the targets.  The behaviour is not quite 
>> what I expect as I move things around, and I'm wondering whether I'm 
>> taking an idiosyncratic view of things.  The problem is that the drop 
>> target doesn't seem to appear where I expect it to.  I position the 
>> avatar squarely over where I want to move the element, and yet the 
>> target is one position off to the left  or right (or above or 
>> below).   I have to move the avatar farther than (I feel) should be 
>> necessary to get the target to appear where I want it. It makes the 
>> whole interaction sort of weirdly sticky for me.  What it comes down 
>> to is that I feel I should be able to predict where the target 
>> appears, and I can't. At first I thought that this was just a 
>> performance issue, but now I know what causes it.
>> Here's the explanation.  What I'm trying to do is position the avatar 
>> where I want to drop the element, but the target isn't following the 
>> avatar.  The target follows the /pointer/.  So with a fairly large 
>> avatar -- such as a portlet window, or  a multi-line list element, it 
>> makes a huge difference where I grab the element.  If I grab the top 
>> edge of the list element, the target will appear in relation to the 
>> top edge of the avatar.  If I grab the bottom edge, the target 
>> follows the position of the bottom.
>> But I never pay attention to where I grab the thing.  My eyes are 
>> tracking the outline of the avatar, and I sort of expect the target 
>> to appear where I have the avatar centred -- and that's not happening.
>> So it raises the question in my mind.  Is it just me, or do others 
>> have the same experience of the movements of the screen objects not 
>> quite following their expectations?
>> Of course my experience means nothing.  I know that we can only 
>> settle an issue like this with user testing.  So here's the real 
>> question: Do users have the idea that they are influencing the 
>> position of the drop target by the location of the avatar, or do they 
>> have the feeling they are shoving it around with the pointer, while 
>> ignoring the outlines of the avatar?  And do we have any user testing 
>> results or research data (possibly from some outside source) that can 
>> tell us this?
>> I spent a little time this afternoon trying to train myself to be a 
>> better drag-and-dropper, using the four reorderer examples 
>> <> -- either centring the pointer 
>> carefully on the element I'm grabbing, or following the pointer image 
>> rather than the avatar outline.  I'm learning, but it doesn't feel 
>> quite natural.
>> Comments?  Am I marching to a completely off-the-beat drummer here?
>> Regards to all,
>> Paul

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