Forum .LRN Q&A: some initial usability feedback

Posted by Peter Marklund on

I was browsing through the dotLRN system yesterday evening and drafted a first list of issues that I came across. I understand that some of these issues you may already be aware of, some may already be fixed, and surely many of them are controversial. I am very pleased with what I have seen of dotLRN so far and I hope to be able to make a small contribution towards making dotLRN even better with this feedback:

  • Navigation.

    • The context bar is sometimes present and sometimes not. I would prefer if it were always present as I often find myself having to look at the url to understand where in the site-hierarchy the current page is. The context bar would benefit from using dotLRN terminology and being rooted in the MySpace page.
    • The MySpace link need not be duplicated in the two different permanent link sections (one section being the one at the top and bottom of the body of the page and the other one is located at the upper right corner). It is somewhat confusing to have two different permanent link sections and it is not quite clear how they differ.
    • The link to dotlrn/preferences is called "Control Panel". Should it maybe be called Preferences instead? If dotlrn/preferences is really a preferences page then the "Site Wide Administration" and "Help" links do not strictly belong there but should rather be links in the permanent navigation.
    • The Calendar link would be better aligned with the "MySpace" and "My Files" links if it were called My Calendar.
    • The dotlrn/configure page has a link called "Go Back" that takes the user to the MySpace page. This link is already present in the navigation bar. If the link is intended to take the user back to the preferences page then "Return to Preferences" or just "Preferences" would be more helpful link names.
  • Clicking on the minimize/maximize buttons on the Document portlet on the My Files page takes me back to the MySpace page. If the user mistakenly clicks on the close button on the My Files portlet - how does he get the portlet back?
  • Shouldn't the dotlrn/user-add page be in the dotlrn/admin directory?
  • The description for departments gets displayed on one line which is not very readable if the length of the description is about a paragraph long.
  • Shouldn't it be possible to delete departments?
Posted by Ben Adida on

Thanks for your feedback! Here are some answers:

- the context bar: something we're still working on fixing with a
generic OpenACS solution to override the default context bar.
Agreed that this should be more consistent and clearer.

- the top level nav bar is a Sloan UI choice (which may well
change in the near future). You don't need to use the same
global template. In some way, the existing UI is there to keep
users comfortable with what they already know (the SloanSpace
v1 bar). But feel free to override the default template!

- the page named "preferences" in the URL is just an old URL
that we really need to change. It should be control-panel. Thanks
for pointing this out.

- the default names of pages were chosen to fit existing
SloanSpace terminology. I agree that "My Calendar" would be
more consistent. You can actually change this via the dotLRN
parameters. If you do that, though, make sure to change your
dotlrn-calendar parameters so that it knows to add itself to "My
Calendar" and not  "Calendar".

- the "go back" on the configure page is generic because it's a
generic page with a generic return_url :) We'll work on adding a
"return_pretty_name". Thanks for point this out.

- that's a bug on the my files page sending you to the my space
page. Thanks for pointing this out.

- if you close a portlet, you get it back by going to the configure
page and readding it from there.

- the user-add page .... it would be in admin/ if only dotLRN
admins can add users. In the Sloan model, though, professors
can add new users, too, even if they are not dotLRN-wide
admins. We should probably add a parameter to allow/disallow

- description of departments: thanks for pointing this out

- deleting departments: thanks for pointing this out. Certainly if
there are no classes in a department, it should be deletable.


Posted by Caroline Meeks on
Hi Peter,

Thank you for taking the time to look so carefully. Many of the issues you've discussed are in Sloan's ticket tracker and we will be addressing them.  Probably more interesting is that many of the navigation issues are very customizable so if you don't like what we decide for Sloan you can easily change them for yourself.

For example:

- MySpace Link: the one in the main top banner is in the "dotlrn-default-master" probably the first file you will change when you customize your system.  Note that the "MySpace" at the top and bottom is not permanent its only there if you are in user scope it changes when you enter a group scoped area.  The user can also change the page names on the top/bottom to from the portal config page, though I doubt many of them do.

-Calendar/MyCalendar: Also easily changed and customizable on a user-by-user and a group-by-group basis.

-Minimize/Hide buttons: We will probably take these entirely out of the portal style template for our initial launch. Its a cool feature but maybe too confusing for our users at this time.  Sloan will probably also not allow users to change their portal themes.  Again its easy to make these decisions on a site by site basis based on the needs and sophistication of your users.

-Control-Panel vs Preferences:  Call it whatever you like that is also controlled from "dotlrn-default-master" and totally customizable.

Other issues you point out that I totally agree need work and our on our  ticket list for Sloan:

-Cookie crumbs
-The general UI of the portal config page

Sloan doesn't use the departments feature very much so its not high on our list but I do agree with your comments.


Posted by Emmanuelle Raffenne on
More about usability:

In class/community portal, when I go to the Control Panel and choose, e.g. "Manage membership", the "community/class home" item is not an active link. The only way to go back to the portal homepage is using the browser back button or My portal->The community/class.