design question - what makes a page of options clear for the user?

Discussion in 'HTML' started by lawrence, Sep 28, 2003.

  1. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    We (publicpen.com) are designing a new weblogging service, similar to
    Typepad. Our graphic designers (Misty Vredenburg and Peter Agelasto)
    are currently doing multiple design mock-ups of possible control
    panels. These would be the panels you arrive after you, the owner of
    the website, log into your secret, password-protected control-page. We
    are trying to figure out what visual arrangement makes the options the
    most clear.

    None of the links work yet, but if you can guess their meaning from
    their arrangement on the page, and the words that were choosen for
    them, then our designers must be doing something right.

    Comments welcome. One design can be seen here:

    http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=389




    and here is another:

    http://www.monkeyclaus.org/index.php?pageId=662
    lawrence, Sep 28, 2003
    #1
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  2. lawrence

    Whitecrest Guest

    In article <>,
    says...
    > We (publicpen.com) are designing a new weblogging service, similar to
    > Typepad. Our graphic designers (Misty Vredenburg and Peter Agelasto)
    > are currently doing multiple design mock-ups of possible control
    > panels. These would be the panels you arrive after you, the owner of
    > the website, log into your secret, password-protected control-page. We
    > are trying to figure out what visual arrangement makes the options the
    > most clear.
    > None of the links work yet, but if you can guess their meaning from
    > their arrangement on the page, and the words that were choosen for
    > them, then our designers must be doing something right.
    > Comments welcome. One design can be seen here:
    > http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=389
    > and here is another:
    > http://www.monkeyclaus.org/index.php?pageId=662


    Well I guess you could make them a little more plain if you really
    tried. If this is the best your graphic designers can come up with, you
    might want to look for different talent.

    --
    Whitecrest Entertainment
    www.whitecrestent.com
    Whitecrest, Sep 28, 2003
    #2
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  3. Toby A Inkster, Sep 28, 2003
    #3
  4. lawrence

    Talc Ta Matt Guest

    You've got a lot crammed onto one page. If I were doing this I'd get some of
    that stuff onto the sub pages.

    For instance, there's no reason to have all those management things on there.

    Just say...

    WEBLOG ENTRY
    new entry, manage old entries

    FILES
    upload, manage

    IMAGES
    upload, manage

    Then of course on the manage pages you'd have options for specific things.
    Talc Ta Matt, Sep 28, 2003
    #4
  5. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    Whitecrest <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > In article <>,
    > says...
    > > We (publicpen.com) are designing a new weblogging service, similar to
    > > Typepad. Our graphic designers (Misty Vredenburg and Peter Agelasto)
    > > are currently doing multiple design mock-ups of possible control
    > > panels. These would be the panels you arrive after you, the owner of
    > > the website, log into your secret, password-protected control-page. We
    > > are trying to figure out what visual arrangement makes the options the
    > > most clear.
    > > None of the links work yet, but if you can guess their meaning from
    > > their arrangement on the page, and the words that were choosen for
    > > them, then our designers must be doing something right.
    > > Comments welcome. One design can be seen here:
    > > http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=389
    > > and here is another:
    > > http://www.monkeyclaus.org/index.php?pageId=662

    >
    > Well I guess you could make them a little more plain if you really
    > tried. If this is the best your graphic designers can come up with, you
    > might want to look for different talent.



    I appreciate all the responses on this thread. The design with a lot
    of options is meant to test the theory that users infer meaning from
    context. It's an idea that both Edward Tufte and Jakob Nielsen have
    pushed. The other design was scrapped and the designer started over
    again with something different:

    http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=398
    lawrence, Oct 8, 2003
    #5
  6. lawrence

    PeterMcC Guest

    lawrence wrote:
    > Whitecrest <> wrote in message
    > news:<>...
    >> In article <>,
    >> says...
    >>> We (publicpen.com) are designing a new weblogging service, similar
    >>> to Typepad. Our graphic designers (Misty Vredenburg and Peter
    >>> Agelasto) are currently doing multiple design mock-ups of possible
    >>> control panels. These would be the panels you arrive after you, the
    >>> owner of the website, log into your secret, password-protected
    >>> control-page. We are trying to figure out what visual arrangement
    >>> makes the options the most clear.
    >>> None of the links work yet, but if you can guess their meaning from
    >>> their arrangement on the page, and the words that were choosen for
    >>> them, then our designers must be doing something right.
    >>> Comments welcome. One design can be seen here:
    >>> http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=389
    >>> and here is another:
    >>> http://www.monkeyclaus.org/index.php?pageId=662

    >>
    >> Well I guess you could make them a little more plain if you really
    >> tried. If this is the best your graphic designers can come up with,
    >> you might want to look for different talent.

    >
    >
    > I appreciate all the responses on this thread. The design with a lot
    > of options is meant to test the theory that users infer meaning from
    > context. It's an idea that both Edward Tufte and Jakob Nielsen have
    > pushed.


    If the above is your theorising, my apologies for any offence in the
    following; however, if it is the underlying principal that the designers are
    claiming is driving their work, they're talking tendentious nonsense. There
    is no "theory" being "tested" - that meaning is in part derived from context
    has been established beyond any doubt for some considerable time.

    I may be missing something but the designs that have been suggested look to
    be largely artless and unattractive - sold as a good thing because they are
    at the cutting edge of some supposedly radical concept about meaning and
    context. I'd be inclined to get the designers to re-examine some of the less
    radical notions - form and function looks like a good place to start.


    > The other design was scrapped and the designer started over
    > again with something different:
    >
    > http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=398


    --
    PeterMcC
    If you feel that any of the above is incorrect,
    inappropriate or offensive in any way,
    please ignore it and accept my apologies.
    PeterMcC, Oct 8, 2003
    #6
  7. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    "PeterMcC" <> wrote in message
    > If the above is your theorising, my apologies for any offence in the
    > following; however, if it is the underlying principal that the designers are
    > claiming is driving their work, they're talking tendentious nonsense. There
    > is no "theory" being "tested" - that meaning is in part derived from context
    > has been established beyond any doubt for some considerable time.
    >
    > I may be missing something but the designs that have been suggested look to
    > be largely artless and unattractive - sold as a good thing because they are
    > at the cutting edge of some supposedly radical concept about meaning and
    > context. I'd be inclined to get the designers to re-examine some of the less
    > radical notions - form and function looks like a good place to start.


    Thanks much for your feedback. Your remark is similar to my own
    concern, but I'm glad that I won't have to say that to them. I'll
    forward your critique to them. My main concern is that neither design
    has gone far down its road. For the user test to be much of a test, we
    need two really different designs that clearly make different
    assumptions about how users interact with a computer screen. I'd like
    one design to be to super-heavy with options, and the other design to
    have only, at most, 3 options on the screen at a time. And then we can
    watch the users interact, and see if they prefer the design that hits
    them with all the options at once, or the design that protects them
    from that complexity. And so far, neither of these designs go very far
    in the direction they are supposed to go.
    lawrence, Oct 10, 2003
    #7
  8. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    By the way, I encourage you to leave your remarks over on those pages,
    rather than here. Both pages have the comments function enabled.
    However, I do also ask that you tone it down it a bit. Several of the
    replies so far have been agressive and hostile. We're looking for
    advice, not beligerence. Keep it useful and constructive or please,
    please, please don't post.

    We begin testing next week so then our opinions will meet reality. The
    test will include these two designs, plus the design that TypePad is
    using for their service (we've purchased an account on TypePad so our
    users can login and post a real weblog entry to the web, using Ben and
    Mena Trott's service).

    Obviously we are hoping that, in the end, we will come up with a
    design that is cleaner and clearer than TypePad. We will keep
    listening to user feedback and modifying things accordingly until we
    reach that level. By the way, has anyone here used TypePad, and if so,
    what do you think of the service?

    We also hope that people who've used PostNuke will look at our control
    panel and consider our's better. Of course, this won't be very
    difficult to acheive.
    lawrence, Oct 10, 2003
    #8
  9. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    Whitecrest <> wrote in message
    > > None of the links work yet, but if you can guess their meaning from
    > > their arrangement on the page, and the words that were choosen for
    > > them, then our designers must be doing something right.
    > > Comments welcome. One design can be seen here:
    > > http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=389
    > > and here is another:
    > > http://www.monkeyclaus.org/index.php?pageId=662

    >
    > Well I guess you could make them a little more plain if you really
    > tried. If this is the best your graphic designers can come up with, you
    > might want to look for different talent.


    As to the plainness, I was personally inspired the extreme minimalism
    of Phillip Greenspun's early ArsDigita system:

    http://philip.greenspun.com/register/index?return_url=/shared/community-member.tcl?user_id=6066

    Nothing but a little black text on a white background. However, both
    of the graphic designers on the team were horrified with the idea of
    taking minimalism to such an extreme, and also they made the
    reasonable point that the link structure in Greenspun's system is
    damned confusing. However, it was another design dimension along which
    the designers were supposed to split (and so far have done so to any
    significant degree), and I hope they will. The blue/white design is
    supposed to be quite minimalist, the other design, is supposed to, in
    the end, have a lot of flash and javascript.

    Of course, in the end, whatever the users like is what will go with.
    The idea is simply to come up with two very different designs, so we
    can see which way users lean. If we had the resources we would test 4
    designs, and thus test each combination on the two dimensions we
    mentioned so far (complexity verus simplicity of choices, and
    minimalism versus flashiness).

    The blue/white design is pretty much in final form. The other design
    has morphed a great deal. I think we'll have another version out by
    late Sunday night. It might be worth checking on it then.

    Again, I appreciate the feedback.
    lawrence, Oct 10, 2003
    #9
  10. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    Toby A Inkster <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > lawrence wrote:
    >
    > > http://www.publicdomainsoftware.org/index.php?pageId=389
    > > http://www.monkeyclaus.org/index.php?pageId=662

    >
    > See this message (excluding the last paragraph).



    You wrote:
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    This site suffers from the
    i've-heard-that-the-font-tag-is-evil-and-div-and-
    span-are-better-so-i'll-use-nothing-but-div-and-span syndrome.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


    Actually, I've found that it is not necessary to use span tags. If you
    give a div tag a class, and then in the style sheet you go like this
    to the class:

    display:inline;

    Then the div will behave exactly like a span. So you can build
    webpages with nothing by the A tag and creative use of the div tag. It
    simplifies the toolset you have to work with, with the benefits that a
    carpenter might understand, if the carpenter had to walk around all
    day with 5 different hammers in his belt, but then one day discovered
    a magic hammer that could take on any shape and do anything he wanted.
    So then, instead of 5 hammers, he could use just one, and his life is
    made that much more simple.

    However, if its true that both designs are made of nothing but a,div,
    and span tags, then I'm surprised, because one of our designers does
    all his work in Dreamweaver, and I'm under the impression that
    Dreamweaver uses the full range of HTML 4.0 tags in the markup that it
    creates.
    lawrence, Oct 10, 2003
    #10
  11. lawrence wrote:

    >> This site suffers from the
    >> i've-heard-that-the-font-tag-is-evil-and-div-and-
    >> span-are-better-so-i'll-use-nothing-but-div-and-span syndrome.

    >
    > Actually, I've found that it is not necessary to use span tags.


    Um. Me thinks you're missing the point.

    > So you can build
    > webpages with nothing by the A tag and creative use of the div tag. It
    > simplifies the toolset you have to work with, with the benefits that a
    > carpenter might understand, if the carpenter had to walk around all
    > day with 5 different hammers in his belt, but then one day discovered
    > a magic hammer that could take on any shape and do anything he wanted.
    > So then, instead of 5 hammers, he could use just one, and his life is
    > made that much more simple.


    Yes, but <div> is *not* a magic hammer. It's an ordinary hammer.

    Consider a Swiss watch maker, crafting delicate timepieces using a variety
    of intricate tools.

    Now take away his tools and give him a single hammer.

    Is he going to build watches with the hammer? No, he's going to cave your
    skull in to get his tools back!

    > However, if its true that both designs are made of nothing but a,div,
    > and span tags, then I'm surprised


    **If**??? You mean you haven't even **looked** at them?

    --
    Toby A Inkster BSc (Hons) ARCS
    Contact Me - http://www.goddamn.co.uk/tobyink/?id=132
    Toby A Inkster, Oct 11, 2003
    #11
  12. lawrence

    Isofarro Guest

    lawrence wrote:

    > Then the div will behave exactly like a span. So you can build
    > webpages with nothing by the A tag and creative use of the div tag. It
    > simplifies the toolset you have to work with,


    At the considerable cost of having a non existant structure. There are good
    reasons to identify headers, paragraphs, lists and sections using proper
    HTML elements. Using just divs and anchors is pointless to the extreme.

    > and I'm under the impression that
    > Dreamweaver uses the full range of HTML 4.0 tags in the markup that it
    > creates.


    Who authors pages, the tool or the user? If the user isn't using the range
    of HTML elements, the tool isn't at fault.

    --
    Iso.
    FAQs: http://html-faq.com http://alt-html.org http://allmyfaqs.com/
    Recommended Hosting: http://www.affordablehost.com/
    Web Design Tutorial: http://www.sitepoint.com/article/1010
    Isofarro, Oct 11, 2003
    #12
  13. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    Toby A Inkster <> wrote in message
    > > However, if its true that both designs are made of nothing but a,div,
    > > and span tags, then I'm surprised

    >
    > **If**??? You mean you haven't even **looked** at them?


    Sure, we've spent hours talking about them, in house, but I don't
    think I've looked at the source code on them. They are changing fast
    and it is pointless to try to keep up with day-to-day changes.
    Besides, if you know a page was made with Dreamweaver, then what is
    the point of looking at the source code? Isn't all Dreamweaver code
    pretty much the same?

    I thought your remarks about the Swiss Watch maker needing a wide
    array of tools was very interesting, so I sent it to both designers.
    Of course it'll be pure-Greek to the fellow who designs only in
    Dreamweaver - he doesn't know how to hand code. The other woman might
    find it interesting.

    I really do appreciate your feedback, however, mostly, on this forum
    I'm looking for feedback about the clarity of the options, not the way
    the HTML tags are written.
    lawrence, Oct 14, 2003
    #13
  14. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    Isofarro <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > lawrence wrote:
    >
    > > Then the div will behave exactly like a span. So you can build
    > > webpages with nothing by the A tag and creative use of the div tag. It
    > > simplifies the toolset you have to work with,

    >
    > At the considerable cost of having a non existant structure. There are good
    > reasons to identify headers, paragraphs, lists and sections using proper
    > HTML elements. Using just divs and anchors is pointless to the extreme.
    >
    > > and I'm under the impression that
    > > Dreamweaver uses the full range of HTML 4.0 tags in the markup that it
    > > creates.

    >
    > Who authors pages, the tool or the user? If the user isn't using the range
    > of HTML elements, the tool isn't at fault.


    I appreciate the feedback, but surely there are a lot of designers out
    there who use Dreamweaver or Frontpage exclusively?

    Anyway, we are under a very tight deadline, so there may not be time
    for the person in question to learn a new set of skills. Though, of
    course, every project allows a person to learn new skills.

    But somehow this conversation has gone off track. We're now talking
    about HTML markup. Does anyone have an insight to offer regarding the
    clarity, or lack thereof, of the designs?
    lawrence, Oct 14, 2003
    #14
  15. lawrence

    lawrence Guest

    Isofarro <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > lawrence wrote:
    >
    > > Then the div will behave exactly like a span. So you can build
    > > webpages with nothing by the A tag and creative use of the div tag. It
    > > simplifies the toolset you have to work with,

    >
    > At the considerable cost of having a non existant structure. There are good
    > reasons to identify headers, paragraphs, lists and sections using proper
    > HTML elements. Using just divs and anchors is pointless to the extreme.


    She wrote me back: "Yes... and what is the good reason? the structure
    is obviously not nonexistant - the japge renders."

    I think that about sums up my view. XML has semantics, HTML doesn't.
    When dealing with HTML, as long as the page renders across all
    platforms (we test IE and Netscape on PCs and Macs, and Netscape on
    Linux) then that seems to be good enough, yes?
    lawrence, Oct 14, 2003
    #15
  16. lawrence

    Mark Parnell Guest

    Sometime around 13 Oct 2003 20:58:02 -0700, lawrence is reported to have
    stated:

    > Isofarro <> wrote in message news:<>...
    >>
    >> Who authors pages, the tool or the user? If the user isn't using the range
    >> of HTML elements, the tool isn't at fault.

    >
    > I appreciate the feedback, but surely there are a lot of designers out
    > there who use Dreamweaver or Frontpage exclusively?


    No, that's *deezyners*. ;-) But you are missing the point. The tool is
    irrelevant (to a large extent, anyway). It is the ability of the user that
    matters. Someone who knows what they are doing can make a better site in
    Notepad than someone who doesn't know what they are doing who happens to be
    using DW, and vice-versa.

    >
    > But somehow this conversation has gone off track. We're now talking
    > about HTML markup.


    What do you expect, in alt.html? :)
    ^^^^
    --
    Mark Parnell
    http://www.clarkecomputers.com.au
    Mark Parnell, Oct 14, 2003
    #16
  17. lawrence

    Mark Parnell Guest

    Sometime around 13 Oct 2003 21:03:11 -0700, lawrence is reported to have
    stated:
    >
    > I think that about sums up my view. XML has semantics, HTML doesn't.


    Are we talking about the same HTML here? HTML is a _Markup Language_. It
    describes the structure of the document. If text is a heading, why not
    mark it up as a heading? If it is a list, why not mark it up as a list?
    And so on, and so forth. If you aren't going to do that, then you may as
    well just write it in plain text.

    > When dealing with HTML, as long as the page renders across all
    > platforms (we test IE and Netscape on PCs and Macs, and Netscape on
    > Linux) then that seems to be good enough, yes?


    Taking headings as a specific example, there are various browsers which
    allow the user to get a kind of "document outline" from a page, using the
    headings on the page.

    --
    Mark Parnell
    http://www.clarkecomputers.com.au
    Mark Parnell, Oct 14, 2003
    #17
  18. lawrence wrote:

    > XML has semantics, HTML doesn't.


    Quite the opposite actually. How could anyone interpret the semantics of
    the following well-formed XML snippet?

    <flibble>
    <foo f="John" x="Steve" />
    <foo d="Chas" f="Dave" />
    <bar zibble="zonk">
    Potato<baz />Celery<baz />&russian;
    </bar>
    </flibble>

    There is simply no way to make any sense of it, unless you know what the
    elements flibble, foo, bar and baz mean, and what their attributes mean.

    You might be able to infer some meaning if you had access to the DTD, but
    that is certainly not guaranteed.

    On the other hand...

    <body>
    <img src="John" alt="Steve" />
    <img id="Chas" src="Dave" />
    <p id="zonk">
    Potato<br />Celery<br />&Pi;
    </p>
    </body>

    .... has a well defined meaning: any browser worth ots salt could tell you
    that "Dave" is the URL from which it may load an image; <br /> should
    cause a line break; if "John" can't be displayed, that it should display
    the text "Steve" instead.

    HTML has semantics, XML sometimes does.

    --
    Toby A Inkster BSc (Hons) ARCS
    Contact Me - http://www.goddamn.co.uk/tobyink/?id=132
    Toby A Inkster, Oct 14, 2003
    #18
  19. lawrence wrote:

    > I really do appreciate your feedback, however, mostly, on this forum
    > I'm looking for feedback about the clarity of the options, not the way
    > the HTML tags are written.


    But the way the HTML tags are written *effects* the clarity.

    If you use <div style="font-size:200%;"> to mark up a heading, then it is
    not clear where the headings are when viewed in any non-CSS browser.

    --
    Toby A Inkster BSc (Hons) ARCS
    Contact Me - http://www.goddamn.co.uk/tobyink/?id=132
    Toby A Inkster, Oct 14, 2003
    #19
  20. lawrence

    Steve Pugh Guest

    (lawrence) wrote:

    >I think that about sums up my view. XML has semantics, HTML doesn't.


    LOL

    You're 100% wrong.

    HTML is nothing but semantics.

    >When dealing with HTML, as long as the page renders across all
    >platforms (we test IE and Netscape on PCs and Macs, and Netscape on
    >Linux) then that seems to be good enough, yes?


    What about Google? Lynx? Jaws? Home Page Reader?

    Steve

    --
    "My theories appal you, my heresies outrage you,
    I never answer letters and you don't like my tie." - The Doctor

    Steve Pugh <> <http://steve.pugh.net/>
    Steve Pugh, Oct 14, 2003
    #20
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