[sword-devel] Re: OSIS Web tool

Andrew Vardeman sword-devel@crosswire.org
Wed, 17 Sep 2003 21:30:17 -0500

I've been up late several nights in a row with heavy things on my mind, 
so I'll give quick thoughts, try to get some real rest, and hopefully 
get tomorrow started right with early-morning devos so I have some free 
time in the evening.

My confusion had to do with the fact that many pages are more 
"programs" than they are "pages" and what seemed like navigational 
links are actually ways of entering parameters to the programs.  Hope 
this isn't vague; I'll give an example:

I enter the site and click "Power Search."  I'm presented with a search 
page sandwiched between what appear to be two sidebars full of 
navigational links.  But they're not navigational links; they're really 
lists of possible parameters to the page.  That is, they are form 
elements disguised as links.  All my web browsing experience tells me 
that if I click a link in a list of links in a sidebar, it'll take me 
to "another page."  But in this case, clicking a link is really a 
programmatic way of setting a parameter to the search.  I may not 
immediately realize what has happened: the link doesn't "send" me 
anywhere like I expected; it just sets a variable that updates the 
"Module to search" text.  There is no functional difference between 
this and an HTML form <select>, but the latter reminds people that this 
web site is acting like a program and they are about to "ask a program 
to do something" rather than "tell the browser to go somewhere."  I 
think both lists could be condensed into one <select> tag positioned 
right where the "Module to search:" text is currently.  This would make 
the page more compact and eliminate the confusion when clicking a link 
doesn't make you "go" anywhere.  It reinforces that this intermediate 
page exists only to collect parameters for the ultimate destination and 
keeps the user from being distracted by "all these other options."

The same is true of the "parallel translations" screen.  It's 
frightfully confusing that I can be in two different mini-"programs" 
(from the user's standpoint) and I have what seems like the same static 
list of options on the left and right, but clicking "A Conservative 
Version" on this page means something completely different from what it 
meant on the search page.  There, it meant "set a variable to be used 
as input in the form I am about to submit to get my results."  Here, it 
means "add this module immediately to the list of modules I am viewing, 
refreshing my screen with the new list of parameters.  Again, I think 
this is much better represented by a single module picklist at the top 
of the screen and a button right next to it that says "add module to 
active list" or some such.

There is a redundant screen.  What can I do in "Passage Study" that I 
can't do by selecting a single text in "Parallel Texts"?  (Sorry if I'm 
missing something obvious.)

"Tools and Things" should be labeled "External Links" or "Other useful 
resources" to indicate to the user that they'll be leaving the current 
interface if they click there.  Clicking any other link on the site 
just loads a different page with the same navigation bar; these links 
do something very different.  The user has a right to know this in 
advance.  This also helps to explain why these links disappear when the 
user goes elsewhere in the site: because they are not part of the fixed 
navigational interface.

The "Search" box is on every page--that is, it is a fixed navigational 
element.  But it is positioned in the left sidebar, which sometimes 
changes content and usually changes meaning between screens.  It is 
then unclear to me what "search" means.  Is "search" part of the 
current application I'm using (e.g. the Parallel Translations app)?  
That is, will searching for "Jesus" from the Parallel Translations page 
bring up passages about Jesus on the Parallel Translations page?  I 
tried this; it doesn't.  It switches pages on me, and I end up in what 
appears to be the Passage Study section, viewing passages about Jesus 
in the Matthew Henry Commentary (the last module I had selected in that 
screen).  Now I think I've got it figured out.  I enter "John 1" from 
the Parallel Translations page, expecting to be hurled to Matthew 
Henry's commentary on John 1.  But I'm not.  I stay right there on the 
Parallel Translations page, and now I'm looking at John 1 in parallel.

I think the search function should be either universal or particular to 
the screen.  If universal, it should not be in a UI area that is used 
for screen-specific input (but then I don't think sidebars are a good 
place for screen-specific input in the first place).  If page-specific, 
only functionality relevant to the current page should be exposed on 
that page.  So if searching for "Jesus" doesn't mean anything in a 
parallel passage search, don't give me the option to do it, and 
definitely don't take me somewhere else without giving me any cue 
that's what will happen.

This may be a technically non-trivial thing, but it would be a lot more 
user-friendly if the intermediate search results from a commentary 
looked more...well, intermediate.  If I do a search for "Jesus" in the 
Matthew Henry Commentary, I'm going to get thousands of hits, and 
seeing the full text of the commentary for every verse where Matthew 
Henry had something to say about Jesus (that's a lot) doesn't narrow 
things down much.  Ideally, you'd return just the sentence where Jesus 
came up, maybe with the word highlighted.  But again, I assume this is 
not a technical cakewalk or it'd be done.

Nothing says "You Are Here."  I click Passage Study and up pops what, I 
assume, must be the passage study page.  But say I've been doing a lot 
of research, I have several browser windows open, and I've just gotten 
up for some coffee.  Ick, coffee.  Now where was I?  Where's that page 
I was looking for?  Nothing's labeled.  (Yes, it's in the browser title 
bar, but I certainly never think of this as part of the UI of the 
page--it belongs to the browser and I largely ignore it.)  It should be 
fairly simple to make "Passage Study" unclickable white text when I'm 
on that page, and I think it would help tremendously.  Changing the 
background behind it or drawing a box around it would help too.

These are all just observations and suggestions; hope they don't sound 
overly critical or pushy.  Other people may disagree violently.

Time for bed--g'night


p.s. I will get sleep and think through what time I have for tinkering 
tomorrow, when I've tended to the duties of the day.

On Wednesday, September 17, 2003, at 06:18 PM, Troy A. Griffitts wrote:

> Andrew,
> 	Both (pretty, and expressions of what confused you) are very 
> valuable.  I've demo'd it to a number of people and watched as they 
> pondered what to do.  It makes you want to yell, "Just click 
> on....!!!".  But I don't know how to visually lead them to the 
> controls pertinent for each screen.  We've had suggestions, for 
> example, on the passage study page, to surround: "Passage Study", the 
> current Bible and where to change it, current verse and verse 
> navigation, with some kind of swoosh graphic-- kindof saying, "On this 
> screen, these are the important pieces of navigation"
> But I don't know.  I don't think anyone would say that I'm a very good 
> UI designer.
> So, please suggest!  And any contributions would be greatly 
> appreciated.  There are a number of us with 'sandboxes' set up so we 
> can play with the pages and show our ideas.  Let me know if you're 
> volunteering to have a go at some stuff.
> 	-Troy.
> Andrew Vardeman wrote:
>> I think it looks decent (nice and clean, maybe not flashy but 
>> certainly not ugly).  I agree it can be a bit confusing on first use. 
>>  Which was their priority--colors and graphics or functional UI 
>> improvements?
>> I can do pretty, but slower than any "real" designer.  If they're 
>> thinking more functionally, I could at least express what confused me 
>> and offer suggestions for improvement.
>> Andrew
>>  On Wednesday, September 17, 2003, at 03:00PM, Troy A. Griffitts 
>> <scribe@crosswire.org> wrote:
>>> Just what should be an obvious correction:
>>> -and are not looking for people to make it look pretty
>>> +and are now looking for people to make it look pretty
>>> Troy A. Griffitts wrote:
>>>> Hey guys.  We've finished up about 80% of the functionality for the 
>>>> web tool and are not looking for people to make it look pretty / 
>>>> work more intuitively.
>>>> ABS is happy with the functionality, but they are about to go out 
>>>> and pay someone to redesign the user interface.  I'd hate for us to 
>>>> have spent so much time on the real meat of the project to offer 
>>>> this as a free gift to them, and then they have to go pay someone 
>>>> to add colors and graphics.
>>>> Any volunteers would be greatly appreciated by ABS and me, as well.
>>>> Here's the link:
>>>> http://www.crosswire.org/sword/biblenew/
>>>> Thank you for your consideration.
>>>>    -Troy.
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