We are working on a couple of new themes, documentation and features that wil make it easier to customize the look and feel fo dotLRN.
Dorian Peters as 'Art Director' has done really nice graphics, and with Jeremy's Monnet programming is looking really good. Dorian has also identified a number of usability issues described below.
These are important changes on the portal navigation. I just thought it might be useful to explain the usability decisions regarding the tab rearrangement (since it's technically tricky to acheive, or at least that it compromises backwards compatibility).
After being in contact with non-technical users of .LRN for a while, we've been able to pick up on the many usability issues that are of particular difficulty for them. A lot of these are details that can
be dealt with with graphic design changes or technical tweaks. One issue, however, is the navigation and has to do with the fact that it suffers from a "false logic" in the tab structure.
It is assumed by common understanding that tabs are all on the same level. Like folders in a cabinet they're top level items that contain content within them. Therefore, the 4 common tabs in .LRN (eg. MySpace, MyCalendar, MyFiles, etc.) should all be on the same level.
But they're not. Calendar and files are not alternatives to MySpace, they are part of MySpace. They are located within this MySpace section and should therefore, logically, be subnavigation pertaining to that tab, not separate tabs themselves.
The tab logic is also comprimised when you click to go elsewhere, such as into a community. Suddenly all the tabs you had established as your primary navigation, dissappear and are replaced with all new ones. While they seem to mirror the old ones to some extent (eg. community, calendar, files, etc.) they're still not the same ones. So
the main navigation is, in essence continuatlly changing, which is generally regarded as a usability no no. Meanwhile, there's the repeated problem, that calendar, files and people are all part of this specific community, not separate from it and should therefore be subnavigation to a community tab. While community hompage is indeed
on the same level as community calendar and the rest, the
representation of this is awkward. We're meant to assume that because the first tab says community home, that for the other tabs community should be inferred.
I believe changing the tab structure to remove the false logic and make it more clear and intutive will greatly enhance usability, particularly for new users. The new structure I propose also makes it immediately clear what possibilities .LRN offers the user. A user can
easily see what they have access to with my proposed tabs: MySpace, Classes, Communities, Preferences and Tools. The .LRN offering and the structure of the entire system is suddenly obvious to the user from the very first page. This should improve users understanding of the system dramatically. Right now, when you first arrive in MySpace,
there are few clues to what you're doing there. You may not know there are classes or communities on offer unless you are already enrolled in them. If you're looking for a particular community it is often hard to find (since it's just a small link among others in one of many portlets, no more prominent than a news item). You are also
likely to have trouble finding personal preferences or tools like
help. All these problems have already been encountered repeatedly with users of .LRN. All these tasks would be greatly simplified for users with the new proposed tab structure.
I think these changes will make a huge usability improvement. Once it's implemented we plan to test it with users of .LRN to ensure that it is easier to use this way for them. I hope we can eventually establish the new strucutre as a default for .LRN.
Screenshots can be seen here: http://jmonnet80.free.fr/Selva/