Thursday, March 8, 2012

In the light of events: BibSonomy's new design

Last week, we did the first step towards our new layout for BibSonomy. Coming up with changes in design had become a necessity over the last years: Change was desired by several of our users and we had noticed increasing difficulty for the integration of new features within the old design.
We have therefore started our redesign, focusing on the post lists and some general elements of the navigation. We plan to continue these efforts for the
  • blue header-section (elements like the links to the inbox, clipboard and help have already been moved),
  • the sidebar,
  • the main menu (for now we have simply restructured the entries)
  • and several other pages like the cv page, the posting dialogues or the discussion pages.
As usual, changes in design are of delicate nature. Next to some few general usability criteria, a lot depends on personal taste or on current trends. Two aspects usually come into play and often contradict each other:
  • A new design can make a system more open, more easy to use and more understandable for new users.
  • A new design always requires adjustments and new orientation from the current users.
For the new design we have received quite some feedback. While much of it was positive, there has also been some criticism. Rest assured that we always take your feedback very seriously; each contribution is carefully debated in our developer meetings.
We are very content about having such an active and dedicated user base and thank everyone who has let us know of their opinion and has provided helpful hints and recommendations.
One of the main aspects for criticism have been the large fixed elements of BibSonomy (like the header and footer section). While such a fixing has certain benefits (e.g., all navigation elements and all information about the visited page is always available) it has caused usability issues on smaller screens as they “eat space”.
Today we reacted by making all elements scrollable again for smaller screens (less than 900 pixel of inner height). Thus - especially on small screens – it will again be possible to use the full height of your screen for the main content. We hope that this will settle most of the screen real estate problems for now. We have made these space issues a priority in our consideration for future improvements. For example, we will squeeze the representation of single posts in one of the following releases (probably by the end of the month). An idea - currently under discussion - is to make the fixing of elements optional with a switch in the user settings.
Another subject of discussion has been the new set of icons. New icons have to be understood and learned. However, icons also have several advantages over textual representations when they are used as metaphors for often-used features:
  • Once they are understood, they are more easy to spot and to hit.
  • Icons can summarize long text elements using only little space.
  • Icons make the site more lively and are usually better received by new users.
  • Especially on a page that is long on text anyway, they are well suited to distinguish the content from the functionality.
We are confident that the new icons will be understood quickly and that much of the functionality is now better represented. All icons are labeled (just hover over them) to make the exploration of their function as easy as possible.
Several other issues regarding smaller details have been remarked by some of you. All of them will be considered and each of you who has sent us some hints, wishes or propositions will receive an answer during the next days.
We wish you lots of fun at using the system in its new layout and hope that some of you will even discover some functions they had not been aware of before. As always let us know what you think (blog, twitter, email) - we are always eager to hear your opinion!
Happy tagging
Your BibSonomyCrew

P.S.: As always, Shift-Ctrl-R helps to empty your browser's cache to savor the latest changes.

Popular Posts