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Ideas on how to improve the layout of the Tool pages

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I think the biggest flaw with the current layout of the Tool pages is that on any Tool page the discussion happens aaaaaall the way at the bottom. But, it's a layout challenge because how on earth are we can't just put it at the top and the Wiki at the bottom? That also doesn't make sense to me (but I might be convinced otherwise if anyone has any good ideas on why that should be done). One option might be a "Table of contents" block that has links to jump to "Tool profile", "Tool Wiki", and "Tool Forum" and perhaps the block follows the user as they scroll up and down on a tool page. That would make jumping around on the potentially very tall tool page a lot easier. Perhaps we even include some metrics on the those like a sparkline graph (small graph http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparkline) to show the activity on each section for the past few weeks. This sparkline graph would let the user know if it's worth clicking on the link. Lots of activity in the forum but none on the wiki page?? Click the Forum link to jump to the action! This also has the added benefit of kind of solving our need to publish usage metrics to increase usage transparency on the site, but I think we could probably still benefit for a more full array of usage statistics in the profile (more on that here -> http://dev.farmhack.gotpantheon.com/forums/usageparticipation-statistics-tool-profiles).

David Meehan's picture

What if the Tool Wiki and the Tool Forum subsections of the page were collapsible and expandable? You could probably add something to the banners for each section to allow it to be collapsed or expanded. And this way, if a user wants to go to the discussion, he or she could just collapse the wiki section. I’m not sure how practical such a thing would be, but just throwing some ideas out there.

The table of contents idea definitely sounds like a good idea though. It would be very intuitive for users and would allow easy access to the content of the page.

R.J. Steinert's picture

Hi David, Making things collapsible would definitely help squeeze things in. I've been thinking a lot lately about how to accomplish usability but still make it accessible for 99% of users. What I worry about is users who aren't familiar with modern UI elements like collapsible elements on a page not knowing that there is more information behind a click of an expand button. I guess if we made anything collapsible expanded by default then we might avoid that problem.. hmmm..

Here's an example of I imagine clicking on a table of contents might behave. Check out http://rasantiago.com/ and click on "solutions" at the top. It will scroll you down the page to the Solutions section of the page. What do folks think about the table of contents scrolling down with the user? Does that sound confusing or helpful?

David Meehan's picture

I would say it’s very helpful. The best way to make the interface as user-friendly as possible would be to keep it simple, and based on the way the table of contents works on the example site, it’s quite simple. The fact that it follows the user is great since they don’t have to scroll around to find it. It’s always there and hard to miss. Furthermore it works similar to standard hyperlinks, so it should be easy for users to understand. And if a user happens to miss it, he or she could still scroll through the page regularly and it wouldn’t get in the way at all.

One thing I just noticed though is that the banner at the top of this site does not appear in internet explorer. So I’m not sure if that means that any table of contents that gets added will not show up as well in IE. The table of contents at rasantiago does show up in IE though so it can probably be worked with to allow IE users to still have the feature. Making sure users of different browsers can all access the feature is quite important. I just made a post under website problems, so maybe it’s just my browser in which case this would be a non-issue anyway.

R.J. Steinert's picture

Cool, I'm glad you find that to be a good example. It's also good to know we have someone using IE in the crowd who is willing to point out issues!