Friday, April 07, 2006

redesigning the toolbox

The usability study

What was your initial impression of the toolbox?

Could you tell what it was all about? Did you find a good road map for navigating through the content?

Was navigating to the correct section effortless or did you get lost along the way (or, like some of us, find it hard to even start)?

Was it easy to find the information you were after? Did you use the search function? The main navigation and the links to more information? Where they all well labled and obvious, or did cutesy language get in the way of understanding what lay at the other end of the links?

I think we all had some trouble at one point or another. For me, I had to think too hard about how to use the toolbox, and it didn't leave me with enough free brainpower for using the content.

What we did about it

To start with, we went for the 'low hanging fruit' - those changes which would be easy to implement but which would give the most obvious results. For a start, we renamed the index.html file and took the frameset.html file from the shared_files directory and copied it into the root directory of the site as our new index.html.

So that the links work we had to edit the file (adding "shared_files/" to the beginning of all the URLs in it). If you don't want to code the html yourself, the updated files are available at
( if you're inside the firewall)

So now the first page we see when we start the toolbox is the welcome message from arachnoid web services. It's still not perfect, but a whole lot better than 2 spash screens and a popup window. I would have perferred to have more orientation, but the actual orientation page was so light on information it wasn't a candidate. We'll just have to add more content to the welcome message later.

Because the original spash pages had some links to credit, setup and teacher oriented pages on them we have to add them back into the program somehow. The obvious sopot was the left hand navigation frame, so we made a start on that.

Next we hope to complete the re-design of the main navigation, and do some tinkering with the CSS to change the look and feel of the whole site with a minimum of effort. To that end, please take a look at some of the CSS showcases out there and pick a likely looking design for analysis and imitation (The CSS Gallery, Layout Gala, CSS Beauty
, and css Zen Garden
could all be worth a visit)

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