First Impressions

I’m using my new blog to give feedback on the Blogs@Baruch instructor info and ways it might be tweaked to make it more user friendly.

Here are some notes I made on general usability:

Probably everything the instructor needs to know is there..somewhere…but I am going on my own somewhat A.D.D. response to user manuals in guessing that we need a lot more subheadings or indexing so that users spend the absolute minimum amount of time locating the specific info they need.  My first thought was that we should have each tidbit of info on a separate page, instead of using anchors to take readers to the section on the page where their info is located.  But, actually, I think Apple does this with their troubleshooting pages, and it’s a bit too pared down.  You have to keep going back to some FAQ page or search box to find even closely related info.

My second thought was to get rid of the Beginner/ Intermediate/ Advanced subsections, since that requires the user to know enough to guess what info falls under which subheading.  But actually I think those subgroupings can be useful, as long as there’s another way to find the info besides searching in that section or reading through a list of questions in an FAQ list.  So, I think actually a Beg./ Intermed./ Advanced grouping is fine, and should be cross-referenced with an FAQ list in very short bulleted phrases and with instructions given in both a logical chronology as well as in alphabetical order for the impatient user.  I think this could be accomplished by lots more “How do I _______?” FAQs that index every aspect of different tasks, as well as a list of keywords in alphabetical order with links to their relevant sections.

The screencasts are awesome, and shouldn’t be in a separate section, but incorporated into the Beg./ Intermed./ Advanced area as appropriate.  They are described as telling the user “how to get the most out of Blogs@Baruch,” whereas three of them are actually step by step instructions for the newbie, so I’d scatter them through the beginners’ section.  The Digital Storytelling screencast is great and maybe belongs in the Intermed./Advanced section as well as in a new area that could be more like Jim Groom’s Ten Ways to Use a UMW Blog.  A section like that should probably have links to some successful Baruch blogs, as well as including the links he gives for other scholarly examples.

Some language could be changed to avoid WordPress-specific lingo or to at least link it to an everyday translation.  For example, everywhere we use the word ‘subpanel’ in the Beginners section, we could change it to ‘tab.’  The screenshots that show the tabs all look ‘clickable’ but just take the person to a page that shows it’s a JPG plug-in, so maybe every time we give those pics we can clearly say something like ‘look for the tab at the top of your screen that looks like this:” followed by the screenshot.

Speaking of screenshots, I think they’re very useful, and we need more and can also tweak the ones we have.  For example, in the Intermed. section, the ‘Add Media’ screenshot needs arrows and/or a different size or color font to connect the text guides to each icon (where it says ‘add image,’ ‘add video,’ etc.), to make it more visually clear.

I’m a big fan of bullets and numbered lists to ease the way for the eye taking a quick scan of the page, so probably we should have text in short bursts (with screenshots in between?) and few long paragraphs.  Every short burst needs to be in plain English, though, so, for example, on the FAQ page where we talk about ‘static’ pages, we should give a quick explanation.  Same with how to create an ‘avatar’ in FAQs — this needs a screenshot of an avatar comment to show what we mean. Some ‘how to’ FAQs need a ‘why should I?’ to go with them, for example “how do I PW protect a page or post?”

This is just me, but I like links to open in a new tab.  I think most of them on the FAQ page that give background info take you away from that page and require the user to know to use the back browser button.  Do you think it would be a pain for the person who’s clicking on every link to have a lot of new tabs opening?  Maybe so.

We might be able to eliminate some of the ‘glitch’ FAQs at this point, or at least push them way down to a lower position on the page.  For example, the one that says “Why do I only see a code button?” talks about how Safari users may not get the Visual text editing by default, but I tried it and it works fine now in Safari.

These are just some preliminary thoughts.  Please let me know if this is the kind of feedback you wanted or not, and where you would like to go next.