Updates from April, 2009

  • UI details: two-part drop down menus

    April 23rd, 2009

    “Dual” drop down menus are menus that perform a default action when the menu title is clicked, and only show the actual menu when the down arrow on the right side of the element is clicked. Usually such menus do not communicate clearly that clicking the left side of the element performs the default action, instead of showing the menu. (The expected behaviour is that of traditional drop down menus, which always show the menu whereever one clicks).

    Of course this never constitutes a fatal usability problem, if the default action is reasonable and provides the choices the menu would have on the target page. It only potentially slows down users by one page load. However, when a truly fluid user experience is the aim, details easily become a differentiating factor compared to other similar products. Today I noticed a solution for “dual” drop down menus that is aesthetically subtle and still seems to efficiently communicate the functionality available.

    screenshot 1: menu bar in default state

    Delicious has what looks like a pretty standard (and plain) menu bar.

    screenshot 2: mouse on the main link

    However, when you hover the mouse over either the menu title or the down arrow (of the ‘People’ menu in this case), the corresponding side of the element is highlit.

    screenshot 3: mouse on the menu arrow

    This effect would not be achieved if either side were highlit already. The point is that the UI gives a subtle hint to the user as a reaction to their action. The user understands almost seamlessly the fact that the element that seemed to be just one menu actually behaves differently depending on where on it you click. (This was my experience, anyway.)

  • Project Accepted: Moodle User Experience consistency

    April 22nd, 2009

    Yay! I am happy to announce that I will continue to work on what I love to, Moodle usability, during Summer 2009 (in Google Summer of Code this time). The goals of this Summer include getting the community more engaged thinking about the user’s experience (ideas welcome) while developing, creating UI guidelines for that, and of course, evaluating and fixing consistency problems in Moodle. See also: Project documentation.

    This blog will be used to report the progress of the work during the Summer and for general thoughts about usability in open source – which is the subject I am currently also writing my Master’s thesis on.

    Next: Adding this to Planet SoC.

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