About usability once again

Currently I’m testing Beta 3 of Liferay 6.1 release and despite many nice changes there are still couple of usability bugs.

New feature in Liferay 6.1 is that you can do almost anything with your site without using Control Panel. While it looks very nice and jazzy in my opinion it was bad thing to do as it often confuses users (especially if they know so much about CMS system as my mom does). They don’t know what is the difference between “Control Panel->Web Content->Add” web content and “Asset Publisher->Add new Basic Web Content” (as you may noticed there is inconsistency in those two labels). They just don’t know which of those two options they should use. Same goes for site settings and Edit Profile (this one opens layer even if you are in control panel already). IMHO most of those layers should be replaced by link that will redirect users to proper page in control panel. But lets forget for a moment about my feeling toward that and take a closer look at one aspect of those layers.

We have layers that do the same thing as Control Panel. After every change you will see Sucess message that will look like this:

Your request completed successfully. The page will be refreshed when you close this dialog. Alternatively you can hide this dialog.

As you may see “hide this dialog” is a nice link that will close your layer immediately. Now go to Control Panel, do the same thing. Ta daa, you will see the same message with the same link but this time it won’t do anything.

And now is the problem to solve. Should we remove that link? Should we duplicate messages for Layers and for Control Panel? Maybe we should leave it as it is and tell users that this is not a bug but a feature? Maybe we should replace layers with links to Control Panel and forget about such problems?

Well, I will leave that answer to you 🙂

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15 Responses to About usability once again

  1. wazdesign says:

    Well I used LR 6.1 Beta . and there is pop-up for every thing.. like manage page, change theme.

    We need Browser that can use GPU to make it faster and handle more complex js and pop-ups.

  2. Enjoyed reading this Szymon, and yes, it’s a bug 🙂 The drawing of a nicely-dressed bug is great 🙂

  3. my fault!! will be fixed in the following days… 🙂

  4. Bryan Cheung says:

    Please tell us more about these usability problems!! 🙂 We need all the feedback we can get.

    • hienamx says:

      Bryan,

      There are LPS-20159,LPS-20222, LPS-20223, LPS-22654 and that’s just for start. Every new feature in Liferay needs better understanding how will end users use it. It’s nice to have big features stack but way better is to have few features but with great usability. Just take a look at WordPress.

      My point is that it’s not the community that should point out obvious flaws in design but it’s a task for specialists in UX. Usability is not a one time work but it’s a never ending process of making your product better and better. So is it better to focus on feedback or maybe find out what is wrong with that process? 🙂

      • Bryan Cheung says:

        Point taken, and we are taking steps to fixing the process. First, Ed Chung has taken a new role heading up Product Management since June of this year. He will be working to organize the product around actual tasks and business goals. We hope this will make the product easier to use and more consistent overall.

        At the same time, Jorge Ferrer is modifying our engineering process to include more usability testing and user acceptance reviews during development.

      • hienamx says:

        Glad to hear that. Can’t wait to see first effects 🙂

  5. Nate Cavanaugh says:

    Totally agree about the link. It’s a bit of a design compromise, as many users don’t want leave context to perform an action (some have asked to have the control panel have the exact same theme as their home community, only to wonder why their users are seeing everything on a black or inappropriate background). The thing is, doing a direct interaction inline is far easier to grok than have to constantly leave focus. But apart from the text and speed, are there any specific aspects of it that you have an issue with?

    • hienamx says:

      Problem is that this simple link makes more new problems than it solves 🙂
      First thing users will use that link to fast-close layer. But they already have close icon in upper right corner of that layer. It’s not like they have to scroll window or something. It is already there, couple of pixels away from our “hide that dialog” link.
      Second one: this message is now changed for Control Panel so we can say this issue is fixed
      using this link will confuse users as this link only hides layer but it doesn’t refresh page. This means you won’t see most of changes made on that layer. For example do this:
      1. Login to fresh nightly build
      2. Click Manage->page layout
      3. Change layout to 3 Columns
      4. Save
      5. Use “hide that dialog” link
      Effect: Nothing has changed. I’ll bet that in this situation my customer will phone me to tell me he found bug in application 🙂
      6. Click Manage->page layout
      7. Change layout to 1 Column
      8. Save
      9. Use close icon
      Effect: Your page will reload with new layout.

      So the specific aspect of this is that one thing was solved but the rest of an iceberg is still there 😐 Who should watch for it? Community?

      • Nate Cavanaugh says:

        Hi Szymon,
        The main thing we were trying to avoid is someone losing all of their data without any chance to recover. For instance, someone is responding to a forum thread, then they decide to do some task in Manage Pages or go to get some information, like the friendly URL. Let’s say they go to close the window (and like users often do, they press save or press enter without understanding the implications).
        Now, in order to get back to the forum post they were responding to, they close the dialog, and boom, everything is gone.
        Now this contrived scenario is just one of many different ways a user could get to the state where they have information that hasn’t been saved, but with no option of returning.
        Personally, my gut feeling as that a user that has read the context of the link to hide the dialog should understand it, but many users use that success message as an indicator that something has happened. Chances are, the most conventional way to hide that dialog is the Close button, rather than a random link.
        But the main goal was giving users an out so that we don’t just force a reload simply because they have gotten into that state.

        Whether that link is the best way to solve it, I’m not sure. There could be a more elegant solution, but all of the ones we investigated all had usability or performance trade offs that argued against them.

        But we’re totally willing to admit if another idea is better, so if you have any ideas on that, I think it would be great 🙂
        Thanks Szymon,

      • hienamx says:

        Hi Nate,

        Lets try to find use cases when users might use this link

        Persona 1: my mom
        Case: my mom is writting post on message board. In case when she looses her focus on the post and wants to read / clik something else she:
        1. Just do this and forgets about her post (maybe it was not so important to her)
        2. Opens those intersting links in other Tabs (all browser has them and even my mom knows how to use them)

        Obvious thing: layers are *only for admins* and my mom is not one of them 🙂 But now we know that this feature can be only used by 30% of Liferay users (my guts tell me 30% are admins and 70% are editors and logged users).

        Persona 2: Kate, my analyst and portal administrator
        Case: She wants to write a MB post. She is in a middle of it when she receives email from our client that he needs something changed on the same page. In this case she will:
        1. Finish her post and than use Layers to reconfigure that page (it was not critical thing)
        2. She will use other browser tab to reconfigure that page and will go back to writing her post (it was critical thing but her post was also very important)
        3. She will use layer to reconfigure and then refresh page to be 100% everything is working fine (it was critical thing and her post was something trivial)

        Users are used to behavior that if they don’t save it or publish it it will be lost. Also and if they are not writing, posting or anything involved in data that might be lost why would they need to see their page in a state before their reconfiguration? Are there any other scenarios in which such behavior can be helpful?

        Also have in mind that this message is not self explanatory. Users will not know that this link will not reload their page. I’ll bet in most cases they will use only close button and they’ll be fine with the refresh page (if not they will start using browser tabs) 🙂

      • hienamx says:

        And just to be clear my comment was about that link in message. As for layers idea I’m not big fan of them for the reason I’ve mentioned in my post but we can easily correct that one thing just by limiting which user role will see buttons that open layer (add new web content, Manage Pages, etc.). In such case we will have layers for admins and control-panel-only for editors. Probably we can make quick fix for this using “Hide / show controls” options that exist in dockbar 🙂

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