Forum OpenACS Development: Response to Sub-package site nodes API thought
Interestingly, this paper suggests that verb-object is easier to use--for simple systems (define simple...)--and gives an example of a menu driven system like an ATM machine (When I heard 'menu' I immediately looked to the top of my screen and saw Actions -> Go To -> Next Message (Evolution email client); clearly verb-object).
Anyway, in the situation we're talking about a user has decided to apply some permission by clicking a link within a specific package such as bboard (object-verb!). The question is what does the context bar show on the following page, not whether we should support verb-object, object-verb or both to get there. But perhaps when you mention the totally useless nature of the permissions index page you don't mean the UI, which can be fixed; or the capabilities, which can be expanded upon; but the concept of verb-object, modal interaction, which should be dropped?
Assuming we make it somehow to the permission setting page, here's a couple of possible context bars:
Main Site : Subsite : Farm Forums : Pigs Forum : Permissions
Main Site : Subsite : Permissions : Pigs Forum
The first context bar is the proposed scheme, the second as it exists. This is what Nielsen has to say about the breadcrumb trail http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20000109.html :
Breadcrumb trails serve two purposes:
1) The context of the current page (how it is nested) allows users to interpret the page better (you don't just know that you are looking at product 354, you also know that it belongs to the widget product family).
2) The links allow users to go directly to a higher level of the site in case the current page is not what they wanted, but they do want something similar.
I would argue that the proposed new context bar does not allow the user to interpret the page (permissions) better. It shows only that the permissions page is logically higher in the hierarchy than the forum page, the forum page which the user just came from not more than a moment earlier. Useless!
The Nielsen article also says that user's ruthlessly click the back button. i.e. not only is the purpose of the context bar to illuminate a higher level of the site (quite different than Where You've Been) but if the context bar did show Where You've Been, users wouldn't click on it anyway because they instinctually reach for the back button and they don't look at navigation.
(Not that users don't look at navigation at all--or this discussion would be pointles--but backing out, cancelling, realising you've made a mistake, reasons for possibly clicking a link that takes you back to where you were, are much more instinctual and likely to induce a rapid response from the user than more explorative browsing where users are more likely to look at navigation to figure out site structure).
The second context bar--the way it's currently used--does offer some new information regarding context and discovery of new features. Specifically, it shows that not only can we set permissions for the Pigs Forum that we're interested in, but there's a whole class of permission setting which presumably can be applied to other objects; as Permissions are nested under Subsite it suggests that we'll be given one easy interface to manage permissions for a specific subset of objects; if we want to set the permissions of some other object in another subsite or within the Main Site we have a pretty good idea that we can either navigate to the object in question (as we did in this case) and apply permissions, or we can click down to the site of interest, then look for the newly discovered Permissions section.
(Navigation could be improved; if the Permissions section appeared under Admin or Utilities perhaps, users would discover even more of the tools available).
So, the new scheme provides no information we didn't already know; the exisiting scheme exposes new features and site structure. But is this 'jumping around' confusing? Moving from one part of a site to another (jumping around) is perfectly normal. I browsed the Google directory: Recreation, Autos, Makes and Models, Chevrolet, Corvette, where I'm presented with Parts And Accessories. These are parts and accessories for corvettes, but this title is not tacked on to the end of the current bredcrumb trail; clicking on Parts And Acessories I'm transported to Shopping, Vehicles, Parts and Accessories, Makes and Models, American, General Motors, Chevrolet, Corvette.
Is this not a simillar (jumping around) behaviour to the exisiting context bar? The 'rule' here seems to be that a page which could appear logically in two or more locations should instead appear in one, strong location, and should be linked to.
My remaining concern would be is there something special about Permissions? I can see that it's a little different than a simple textual page of information, but the fact that it's a specific type of interaction that's part of a more general class of interactions, along with the benefits of discovering those interactions, makes me think that it deserves a place in the navigation hierarchy. Anyway, we're not exclusivly concerned with Permissions, what about General Comments, a re-usable package with an even stronger claim to a place in the navigation hierarchy?