[Theforum] interface ideas (was: Inviting other people)

Marlene Bruce marlene at members.evolt.org
Mon Nov 19 20:36:41 CST 2001

>>I believe we should take a fresh look at how the information is 
>>organized within the interface, and how to improve the experience 
>>for our users.
>Sounds interesting. What did you have in mind? Let's hear your ideas.

Okay, heres a stab. I will have lots more ideas once I have a couple 
more days of pondering.

First, we need to identify the following:
a. Which features do our visitors want at their fingertips?
b. Which features do we want to highlight for our visitors 
(continuously or on a rotating basis)?

I wasn't around during the survey discussion, so I don't know what 
it's asking, but perhaps it will answer (a) above? If not, we need to 
investigate the answer. Regarding (b), what do we think is important?

Here are the current home page elements:
* Logo
* General Nav (currently: browsers, lists, tips, members, directory)
* Utility Nav (currently: home, faq, contact us)
* Category Nav (currently: drop-down menu of article categories)
* Article data:
   * Article title
   * Summary & "Full article" link
   * Date
   * Category
   * Author
   * Comments data
   * Ratings data
* Sidebar items:
   * Search Articles
   * Search Users
   * Logged in data/preferences links
   * Submit articles
   * Contact evolt.org (duplicate of the button at top)
   * Recent jobs (these have no date to put them in context!)
   * Highest rated articles
   * Recent hot discussions
   * New comments
   * [Admin only contents]
* Evolt description & definition

Besides all that, what do we want to consider adding? Maybe, the most 
popular/visited articles (by category?). Something like this should 
at least be a highlight at the top level of each of the category 

What else would we want to add? Anything?

It would be helpful to know how people currently use the home page of 
the site. Do our stats show that people primarily come to the home 
page, select a category, and then browse from there? Or do they just 
look at articles linked from the home page? Or do people come in, put 
in a search string, and query the database?

I almost always do the latter (to greater or lesser degrees of 
success, but that's another matter), but I've been too close to the 
site for too long to be a good test subject.

Maybe it doesn't matter what people do primarily, 'cause we need to 
continue to accommodate all of those options. We do great for the 
'latest article' surfers, reasonably well for the search engine 
types, and (IMNSHO) rather disappointingly for the category browsers. 
There's no way to glimpse contents of the categories from the home 
page. That's where listing the categories and a few representative 
(most popular? most highly rated? most recent?) articles might be a 
good thing.

One easy improvement would be to add text to the buttons under the 
logo. I made text-enhanced buttons a year or so ago, and they were 
appreciated (by Isaac anyway) but they never got implemented in the 
interface. We really should do this in the next iteration (icons 
should be supported with text), and it would help us eliminate the 
redundant "Contact - Email evolt.org" link in the sidebar.

Just to throw a (perhaps) crazy idea out there: Do we want to think 
about making the home page configurable for repeat visitors? Some may 
always want to see the latest articles, regardless of category 
(status quo). Some may only be interested in one or two categories. 
Some may just want articles containing certain key words, (like 
"XML") to always appear at the top of the home page. While I think 
the latter is much less likely, the idea of offering people content 
arranged to their liking might be worth considering.

On a related note:
Regarding the home page, we could organize the data in boxes of some 
kind. "Boxes" is a word I wish I could avoid, but there it is. I did 
a design for a client of my last employer that went unselected, and 
it kinda gets the point across of what I mean. IMO it's got way too 
many boxes (the client insisted), but it was a configurable interface 
which their repeat visitors could pare down to the important 
essentials. I'm not suggesting we do something exactly like this, but 
perhaps the idea is worth mulling over. Like evolt.org, it was a 
database driven site, with almost no graphics. 
Gee, I really want to reuse this design. Maybe I should redo *my* 
site using elements of it.

If we're talking about a new evolt.org design, and if I don't get a 
job any time soon, I may want to take a stab at a design direction as 

Gotta run to a lecture on Rajasthan at the Cupertino library. More 
later. And please, feedback!


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