CASUAL Group

Discussion of plan and activities involved in creating new look and feel for UNL website. Archived Jan. 17, 2007.

Postby mapliopl » Fri Mar 10, 2006 11:25 am

works for me... anytime this afternoon would be fine...
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Postby smeranda » Fri Mar 10, 2006 11:50 am

1:30 would be the earliest for me. But you can go ahead and start and I will catch up.
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Postby rcrisler1 » Fri Mar 10, 2006 12:44 pm

Thanks, Seth.
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Postby nhummel » Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:05 pm

I'm down for 12:30.

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Friday 3-10-06 Layout

Postby dsockrider » Fri Mar 10, 2006 5:07 pm

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Postby mapliopl » Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:30 pm

I updated Friday's layout with the proposed photo...

Also cleaned up a few things and added some shadow, as well as added an overlay of the same photo in our title bar...

Here it goes... if anyone wants to venture cleaning this up a little more, make sure you post it back up here for tomorrow's meeting...

Thanks,


http://extended-test.unl.edu/graphics/NexGen3-13.psd


MP
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Postby rcrisler1 » Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:38 pm

Was there any discussion on font styles for the navigation system? It looks like the ones at the top are in Arial and the scholfa ones are in Grotesk. We'd need to render those with SiFR.
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Standard Top UNL navigation/Non functioning interface design

Postby dsockrider » Fri Mar 17, 2006 10:32 am

I have a couple concerns that are somewhat interrelated. 1. The standard top UNL navigation for every web page, and 2. Non functioning interface design for focus group evaluation:

One item that seems to have been decided on for the new site is having a standard set of UNL navigation links across the top of the page that go back to the main UNL site. I think this is a bad idea because of the potential to have the same titled links going to different places on the separate websites. This would cause major confusion for any new visitor to the site. For example, the visitor may want to view faculty/staff in an individual department that they are browsing and end up sifting through the whole UNL faculty/staff pages, while not even realizing that the 2nd faculty/staff button on the page is actually what they were looking for . The solution has been put out there that if the top UNL navigation appears and reappears on a roll-over then that'd solve any redundant link problems.

It also concerns me is that in reality, we aren't going to know if it's easier or more confusing to navigate using the top bar as a result of the focus group testing. We won't know because the focus group IS NOT going to have a functioning interface for any of these design evaluations. The focus group(s) simply is going to have a flat photoshop document...or even worse, just a print out, to evaluate an interactive web interface. It is going to be left to the focus group's imagination to assume how the interface technology functions and imagine where the links might take them. I compare this to buying a car based on a photo alone. It may be a place to start but you really need to test drive something before being able to give an accurate evaluation.

Creating functioning prototypes seems like the logical next step for accurate evaluation. I believe it's better to program 3 pages and throw 2 away, rather than program 100 pages and realize there's major interface problems that weren't realized because the focus group never realized. We've heard numerous times that the current site's navigation with the disappearing and reappearing horizontal navigation is hard and frustrating to navigate. If the current website was evaluated on appearance alone, would anyone have realized it's difficult to select the sub-links? Concerning the consistent top UNL links, it just doesn't make sense to me, to recreate something we already know is a problem and then throw redundant link titles into the mix.

To me, the logo returning me to the current UNL site is adequate to get me where I want when I'm currently navigating in an individual department of UNL's website. Having more links, not to mention the same titled links visible or not always visible to me is just creating confusion.
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Postby rcrisler1 » Fri Mar 17, 2006 11:07 am

I'll respond regarding the non-functioning concern.

I'll be talking with MSR group this afternoon ... I would rather underpromise and overdeliver on the aspect of whether the interface is functional or not.

I'll hold open the possibility that we test a functional interface, at least an emulated one. MSR tells us that we can get quality responses relating to design out of a simple PS document on screen or on a printout. For instance, if there were a sheet of paper with two Faculty/Staff links, one in the global nav and one in the subsite nav, we might have a single sheet with instructions to have the participants circle the navigation element that they'd click for the faculty/staff information within the subsite. We might run the same test with and without beginning the global nav line with 'Navigate UNL.'

In some ways, using printouts yields a set of data that is easily coded and understood. And it is data that we can look back on weeks later and understand it just as well as we did the day after. Those pencil marks can be gold when we later want to understand what the user did when presented with those options.

BUT - We can't test interactive behaviors on paper. There could be a middle ground here in terms of not ginning up the entire CSS for the test page, but in creating something simple in Javascript to emulate behaviors for certain test conditions. I had previously suggested that we might emulate various navigation menu behaviors by simply loading a visual of the page in its static state and showing/hiding layers on mouseover. A lot of the visuals to do that are already in the Photoshop files.

What I don't want to do is create too much of a burden in terms of building out all of the underlying code if it is not necessary for testing; we need to conserve our energies a bit if we're going to meet our fairly aggressive timetable.

We need to also decide what it is that we want data on. The biggest thing, to me, is responses on overall look and feel. We have a few areas that we're all questioning about what is the optimum user interface solution for this element or that. Let's decide what we want to test and how to test it. Identify areas that you're questioning and we'll try to get them into the test. I proposed above a possible test for the issue of whether or not a user will be confused by the inclusion of global navigation in all pages, and whether adding the explicit wording "Navigate UNL" might not help in the user's understanding.

Or ... we could reincarnate Quick Links as a global navigation element to include the top-level nav.

Let's focus on solutions here.
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Top nav links

Postby dsockrider » Fri Mar 17, 2006 11:29 am

Yes, I believe a 'quick and dirty' coding job would be very beneficial to get an accurate evaluation. Just to show how the mechanics behind the page would function in the real world using the chosen technology solution, across multiple browsers and platforms would be very helpful. I can also see the value of written evaluation of the design too.

I just spoke with a professor I'm creating a lab site for within the College of Engineering. We have a consistent interface button for Faculty/Staff within the College of Engineering in the current top navigation, then this professor wants a faculty button for his lab. ...With the new design, if we have top UNL global nav links, ...with this lab page as an example, we would have up to three Faculty/Staff links on the same page with the similar titles going to different places.

I believe it would be good to test the page with 1. global navigation across the top and have a 2. version with customizable navigation at the top. I'm currently very satisfied with the customizable links in the current templates, I just hope the freedom to customize the top links for our individual departmental pages isn't taken away.
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Postby rcrisler1 » Fri Mar 17, 2006 1:55 pm

Whatever we do, it needs to be done in a consistent way, so that user expectations reliably transfer among pages. If half of the pages use a navbar at the top of the page for global navigation and half use it for a second level of navigation, I'm not sure if that would make sense to the user.

Global tools, whatever they are, need to be consistently applied throughout the site.

I was looking at the ESPN site earlier today, and they just stack their navigation (horizontal, with drop-downs) as you go deeper into the site. But they limit it to two levels, which can be moderately confusing. If anyone finds a perfect navigation system, by all means let the world know.

If we could make breadcrumbs a more integral part of the navigation system, we might be able to create a rational hierarchy that allows one-click access back up through the levels of the site without repeating any navigation headings. If I'm violating every tenet of breadcrumbs, please stop me, but it seems that only back-links are really useful in a breadcrumb trail. For instance, on the current casual design, we have the office of scholarships and financial aid. If our breadcrumbs line only included links to levels above this local navigation system, that might allow us to integrate it in a logical way with the navigation. As it is, breadcrumbs tend to be a list of all links to a given page, including the null link to the page that the breadcrumbs are on. In other words, there are links in the breadcrumbs line that are hierarchically both above and below the local navigation. So we don't know whether to display the breadcrumbs above or below that navigation - an argument can be made either way.

What if our breadcrumbs were UNL > Student Affairs > Scholarships and Financial Aid, with no null link for the local page? It seems to me then that we could run those breadcrumbs just above the local navigation and they could function as an integral part of the local navigation as well as be functional breadcrumbs. I may be violating canons of the Jakob Nielsen Breadcrumbs Belief System in this suggestion, but please give it some consideration. Would the user understand it? Is there a better compromise?
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Postby mapliopl » Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:01 pm

http://www.blackboard.com/products/as/

Take a look at this site... It's casual with rounded corners... very interesting...

There are a few things that I think we can get from that to ease some of the confusion from the main UNL links and department links

First is that we may get rid of the TOP BAR and have the links float (like breadcrumbs) on the page... that way, the confusion would probably diminish, because right next to it there's a UNL QUICK LINKS AND UNL SEARCH box, and we could write before the links at the top - NAVIGATE UNL (where they have BLACKBOARD WORLDWIDE...

Their drop down menu system is really interesting too... even though the links are above the main header bar, it is an interesting way of doing drop downs... I believe it's CSS too...

It doesn't have a drop shadow or is transparent, but we could still keep that feel even if the dropdowns stretch horizontally more...
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Postby mapliopl » Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:04 pm

code-wise it's still got gif images (as opposed to PNGs) and non-editable text and not SiFR on the headers, but just go by the asthetics of it...
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Postby smeranda » Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:42 pm

Forgive me for my late post, I spent the last week in Sunny Miami!

The consistent UNL top navigation is in place for the users. It is a device to unify the whole UNL site and give the user the ability to quickly move from one section to another.

Departments will undoubtly run into an issue with naming, in this case the main UNL site would hold the trump card -- departments will need to change the verbage of their interior link title. This is where the WebDev Group will come in handy. A solution and content suggestion can be made through the group so that the verbage is consistent across all departments. I know my department will run into this issue, and I am putting together the process to change our verbage.

As for the focus group. The initial idea is to only determine design, not functionality. Research has shown that internet users (especially tech-savvy teens) will base their opinion on a site/institution within .2 seconds. In .2 seconds, they haven't had a chance to play with any of the functionality. Therefore a paper printout will be an acceptable litmus test.

Functionality is different than design. Functionality has no direct influence on branding, or positioning. With a little creativity we can make any functionality work with any design.

The purpose of the site template is to unify the University's web presence. The only way to do that, is to step into the shoes of an outsider (in this case, a future undergrad recruit -- our primary audience), who expects to see the University as a whole. Once we start looking at the template from an individual department's perspective, we have strayed away from our initial purpose.
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UNL links/Branding/Main Purpose

Postby dsockrider » Mon Mar 27, 2006 12:51 pm

If I could choose which University links were always at the top I would select and title them:

"UNL Home, UNL Admissions, Visit UNL, UNL News, Huskers and UNL Alumni."

Using these titles would clarify to the user where they will go if they click those links. This would also allow departments/colleges to not have redundant titles in the department/college website navigation.

Departments will undoubtedly run into an issue with naming, in this case the main UNL site would hold the trump card -- departments will need to change the verbage of their interior link title. This is where the WebDev Group will come in handy. A solution and content suggestion can be made through the group so that the verbage is consistent across all departments. I know my department will run into this issue, and I am putting together the process to change our verbage.


I don't think there is a better titled link for Faculty/Staff than Faculty/Staff. If we use the link 'Faculty/Staff in the UNL top nav and also in the individual department nav, we're going to be creating confusion for the website user. For example, if they're in Chemical & Bimolecular Engineering and they want to view Faculty and Staff, they'll most likely click the first Faculty/Staff link they see which will take them to the main UNL site. That would not be the correct link and will cause confusion and irritation.

There has been mention of having these main UNL links disappear and reappear with a click. I think we already have that option... click the logo and the UNL main page appears with all those nav links. I'm just thinking that if the site is going to require a click to view that navigation anyways, why don't' they just go to the main UNL site?

Branding:
The brand of the University is the sum of all the publications, television shows, radio shows, websites, signage etc. All of these items come together to created the perceived brand in the mind of the consumer. We luckily have a very strong brand that we simply need to reenforce through the website. As long as we have intuitive navigation and provide all the content the potential viewer might need, we will be reenforcing the brand. If we have a confusing or hard to use navigation system, we're not helping anyone or the brand.

I understand that opinion on a site is formed after .2 seconds. ...Opinion on the appearance of the site. Users fortunately stay longer than .2 seconds on the website, therefore making content, functionality and ease of navigation become more important than appearance after .2 secs. People visit the site for information, the easier it is to direct them to the information the better experience the user has. Make things difficult or confusing to find, and it reflects negatively in the user experience.

The purpose of the site template is to unify the University's web presence. The only way to do that, is to step into the shoes of an outsider (in this case, a future undergrad recruit -- our primary audience), who expects to see the University as a whole. Once we start looking at the template from an individual department's perspective, we have strayed away from our initial purpose.


I hope for the sake of all individual departments and colleges, we do focus on how the template affects them. I think this is a very important part of our purpose and if we ignore individual departments or colleges, they'll be forced to change the templates or create new templates as needed to fulfill their individual requirements. I want a template that can be adapted for any University site and not just for the main UNL site.

Currently only 4 of the 10 UNL colleges use the current template. http://www.unl.edu/unlpub/depts/ I believe it's important to understand why those colleges felt it was more important to do their own thing, rather than to create their sites within the current UNL website template. Is the current template too hard to develop within? Did it not meet the college's needs, or did they just not care about/understand the benefit of staying within the University brand? I'm interested in understanding why these departments didn't follow the templates so that we can avoid that problem in the future.
Last edited by dsockrider on Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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