Forum OpenACS Q&A: Unify ACS navigation scheme

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
There's something fundamentally wacky about the way navigation in ACS
currently works. In some ways, "Your Workspace" functions as a portal.
I can go from there to most anywhere on an ACS site (I think).
Furthermore, the automated navigation cues at the top of the pages
present it as a root directory. For example, right now I see "Your
Workspace: ACS/pg Development Discussion Forums: ACS/pg New Modules/
Functionality: Start New Thread".

All well and good. Except that when I go to, say, the "What is ACS/pg?"
page, instead of seeing "My Workspace" as root with a path to the
current page, I see "in ACS/pg Development". Suddenly we have a
different root. Yet we're on the same site.

I suspect that some of this may be the way you guys have configured
this particular site. I'm still just getting to know the ACS admin
system, so I don't know for sure. But I have similar problems on the site, so apparently this kind of navigational confusion is,
if not inevitable, at least easy to create in ACS.

Then we have the portals module, which apparently has not yet been
ported to ACS/pg. How does a portal differ from a workspace? And how do
both of these differ from the site's home page?

The way I see it, ACS ought to make it easy to keep a unified
navigation structure throughout the site. Root should be root.
Otherwise, it is way too easy for users to get lost. It would be nice
if you could combine the workspace with the portals module. It would be
even nicer if you made it easy to create two versions of a general
portal--one for those who are not yet logged on and one for those
individuals who are.

2: And one more thing... (response to 1)
Posted by Michael Feldstein on
And then there's the individual home pages thing (which I guess also is still being ported). How does that fit in?

It's fine to create many different entry points to a site, but the added functionality should work within some kind of overarching navigation metaphor or scheme.

Posted by Aaron (WRONG ACCOUNT) Swartz on

I agree, the ACS navigation seems to have become rather haphazard as aD has become so large. There are:

  • Front Page: the normal, plain old page that users are greeted with as they come in.
  • Your Workspace: the special "workspace" for logged-in users with (somewhat) added functionality.
  • Portals: a completely different ACS feature which allows people to effectively create a customized workspace, yet is completely cut off from the workspace and front page area and is provided as yet another ACS service.

Does aD have a bulletin board to discuss such issues? It seems to me that they should have an ACS demonstration site that (a) shows what an out-of-the-box set up of the ACS looks like and demonstrates all the freatures ( performs in this capacity somewhat) and (b) provides a form for disussion and community for users of the ACS to bring up issues like this. doesn't cut it -- it's just a download site. Am I missing this? Does this already exist? aD certainly has enough money to set up another ACS site. Hmm, maybe I should email them about it.

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
I'll run this up the flagpole at the discussion board and see what we get.
Posted by Michael Feldstein on
I got some interesting answers to my query, including one from Phil G. himself. He promises a partial fix in ACS 3.4 and a complete fix by ACS 4.0. There are some other interesting posts there as well:

BTW, a workaround I've been considering is to make a site map like the one described at and appending it to the footer of every page on the site. There have been a couple of usability studies that show this kind of a strategy can be very effective. Is this something that could be included in ACS/pg?

Posted by Don Baccus on
Slight correction, Michael - portals HAVE been ported to acs-pg.  It is just that in their pristine 3.1 unmodified form they're not quite as useful as one would like.  I look at the portals module as being something to rip apart for parts for my rewrite of navigation at, which hopefully happens in the next few weeks.

On the other hand, who knows what 3.2 has wrought?  The scriptics site  may be an indication of the portals module having been fleshed out, and perhaps we'll see an indication of this in 3.2?  We'll see when folks get crackin' on portin' the update.

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Thanks for the correction, Don.

Speaking of "Who knows what 3.2 hath wrought," does anybody know? Does aD actually tell anyone what's new in each update?


Posted by Michael Feldstein on
OK, the answer to the question I just asked is, "Yes, stupid, they publish a version history like anyone else."

Here it is:

Note that there is nothing said about an update to the portals module for 3.2, although it does have some other really cool things in it.

Posted by Ben Adida on
we have ACS 3.2.0 and we are starting the merging process as we speak. Approximately 240 files pose conflicts, which isn't too horrible.