Photo Credit: young kilroy by hangdog
|The design research object, a website, is progressing quickly toward completion. The final development panel meeting has occurred. Several existing elements have been enhanced and tuned based on this feedback as well as the feedback from Josh McCormack, pro Drupal developer, and colleagues with ‘fresh eyes’ toward the site. The development process will slow down with fewer features and refinements as I shift my focus toward writing the research paper associated with this site.
Yesterday I opened this site / blog and realized it is quite confusing. Hopefully the additional of headings in recent posts has made the information more understandable. These posts really are for myself during this design research process. However, instead of writing this journal in Word it is published here to hear feedback and learn together. A secondary benefit to this development journal is that there are too many screenshots and revisions to include in my research paper, so I will be able to provide a link to this development journal and the Flickr page of screenshots.
The tuning, revisions, and additions to the site are:
“Subject” Element Removed from Comments
An ongoing complaint of the development panel was confirmed by Josh McCormack. The ‘subject’ line didn’t fit and was confusing. Do we really title our comments on blogs, Facebook walls, etc.? Digging into the comment php code allowed me to locate the element and remove it.
Search Improvements- Cron Module, Help Text, Tabs
To enable the search function, the site must create an index of all the content that it holds. This indexing occurs when the ‘cron’ function in the site runs. To automatically schedule this indexing the Poormanscron module was installed. This module runs the cron function and the site indexes itself at regular intervals.
Now the search is working and the site is indexing it’s own content, the Search function was assisted through the addition of specific help text within the code of the Search module (included in Drupal’s core installation). Text was added to include changing search terms for cross cultural misunderstanding. The examples were also revised to be education centric instead of the default smurf text that was included.
|Another ongoing feedback concern was the ‘Search’ page contained two tabs, content and users. However the search results that were given showed both projects and users (teachers). These tabs gave options there were unnecessary. The code was searched and a code ‘snippet’ on the drupal.org forums was added to remove the tabs.|
Projects: Prompt to Sign Up, Not Required, Time Zones
Triggers and actions were combined to prompt authors to sign up for their own projects upon creating or editing it.
|The feedback from the development panel consistently stated that the ‘Additional information’ field within the project creation page should not be required. This required field is now optional.
Time zone handling has been adapted. The users will be from a variety of time zones around the world and the projects will need an accurate time zone label to be effective. Within the event module, the ‘Event time zone input” has been set to allow users to set the ‘event’ or project time zone.
About, Welcome, & User Profile Pages
Text has been revised in content and formating on several pages. The About page now sports a mailto: link for my email address and a revised first paragraph. The Welcome page now sports the option to ‘Browse Projects’ and formating has changed. Finally the help text on the ‘Editing Your User Profile Page’ has been changed to a higher contrasting colour, reformatted, and enlarged (slightly).
Photo credit: headache by Aaron Edwards
Visual elements and knowledge about the site have been enhanced. The following items have been improved:
- Adding the selectable user selectable avatars
- Page Revisiong: Front Page & About Page
Adding the selectable user selectable avatars
The Avatar Selection module was added. This allows for greater flexibility for users selecting or uploading their own photo or avatar. This module is dependent on the module jQuery Update. Now users have the option of selecting an avatar immediately upon registering. The avatar images are creative commons images and referenced fully in the ‘about’ page.
Page Revisiong: Front Page & About Page
The text on the welcome page of the website has been a challenge to effectively communicate to users. The work of Neilson & Loranger (2006) has been a guidance with advice such as “summarize key points and pare down” (p. 269). So the three headings now are more reflective of a summary of the site:
The About Page of the website has paragraphs of text, but it is demarcated by large left justified headings and white space as recommended by Neilson & Loranger (2006). An email address and phone number will be added to gain credibility.|
My design research is focusing on cross classroom collaboration projects. So my question is this:
What are the essential elements of a cross classroom collaboration project?
Below you will see the fields that I have deemed to be important (the date range was cut off).
What do you think? I welcome your comments.
The website is being tweaked and tuned. There are no plans for new features. Instead time is being spent investigating how to streamline the existing site and the user’s path to several different sections. There are several important improvements:
- Signup Module Adjusted
- One Step Login
- Me Alias
- Additional Help Text
Signup Module Adjusted
In the default settings, the Signup module asked for a user’s phone number. This didn’t seem appropriate on this site and this would be too much personal information. To remove that field the second section of the code below was removed from the module. The resulting displays the user’s name signing up and omits the phone number field.
The tab within an event allowed for the user to Sign up, view sign ups, and email everyone signed up for this project. Unfortunately ‘Signup broadcast’, which allowed the creator of the project to email everyone was misunderstood by many users in the development panel. For this adjustment, the code within the theme of the module was adjusted to say ‘Email All Signups’. This revision will be shared with the development panel for feedback.|
One Step Login
A common complaint of the development panel was that new users have to wait for a password to be mailed to them instead of getting access to the site immediately. Also users were given an obscure password instead of being able to select their own. The Login Toboggan module was installed and enables this functionality. Users are still sent a confirmation email to authenticate themselves.
TheMe Alias module allowed links to be embedded in the pages that are user specific and rely on their unique identifier but will work for everyone. The generic “me” is added to the section of the url with the number and now allows direct links to edit profile information.
Additional Help Text
The website that is the object of my design research affection is being developed. Soon (hopefully by the end of July) it will be public and able to be used by teachers. Currently only a selected ‘Development Panel’ have access are using the site to inform its development. This blog has lots of screen shots and updates on the development. I’ll let you know as soon as it is ready!
The development of the website continues. Issues addressed include adding visuals to user sorts, tools to narrow the number of results when sorted, and navigation links. These items are:
- Sorts – User pictures and user points added
- Sorts – Text at the top to explain the table
- Comforts Sort – Filtered by user points
- Logistics Sort – Filtered by connectivity, constructivism, and collaboration comforts
- Top Menu – “Find Projects” added
- Front Page – Now displays content
- Left Menu – About and help pages added
Sorts – User pictures and user points added
User pictures were added as the second column within each user sort. A field was added to the view that when to the database and displayed “User: Author Picture”. This should help improve the visual sorting through the site.
User points, which are given to users based on being active on the site, are now a column in the results table. This column is sortable (ascending or descending).
Sorts – Text at the top to explain the table
The following text was added to the finding a collaboration partner sorts:
Sort the table by clicking on a heading.
Click on a user name to view their profile,
add them as a buddy,
and send them a message.
Schedule a cross classroom collaboration project with your colleague
Below each table are links that allow you to navigate to different sorts. This is a response to Nielson & Loranger (2006) research that web users are more likely to use navigational links embedded in the main content area then the side or top navigation menus.
Comforts Sort – Filtered by user points
Finding a collaboration partner may become more difficult as the number of users increase on the website. To narrow the number of people available, users can type in a user points number in the comfort sort. This displays users who’s points are equal to are greater than that value.
Logistics Sort – Filtered by connectivity, constructivism, and collaboration comforts
Within the logistics sort pages, there are three separate pages to narrow the results to a manageable amount. There is a page with a filter for connectivity comfort (from a drop down menu) that is based on the user profile criteria. There is also a separate page for each of the following: connectivism comfort, and collaborative comfort filters.
Top Menu – “Find Projects” added
The upper navigation menu has been adapted. “My” has been removed from the “Buddies” and “Inbox” items, these changes were made due to limited space in the top menu. “Find Project” has been added. So across the top of the page there you can access the essential elements of the site: editing your profile, making buddies, sending messages, finding users, finding projects, and searching based on keywords through content, profiles, and usernames.
Front Page – Now displays content
New users and visitors to the site have gotten the ‘Access Denied’ screen currently. This is due to keeping content locked to only authorized (logged in) members. Each individual content element is now restricted to authorized users except for selected page views. Within the user permissions sections, content has been authorized for anonymous viewers (which allows the selected page views to be seen).
Left Menu – About and help pages added
The ‘About’ and ‘Help’ pages have been added to the left hand navigation. They are blank now and will be added with information about the site, video tutorials, and usage guides. These two pages will follow the suggestions from Nielson & Loranger (2006) about creating credibility and effective users.
The Development panel provided several suggestions about features that should be added to the site.
- remembering users when returning to site,
- emailing inactive users,
- search improvements,
- addition of buddies photos to the buddy list,
- project sign up streamlined.
Remembering Returning Users
Users are now given the ‘remember me’ check box as option when they sign in. This allows users to return to the site and not be forced to enter their username and password each time. This feature was requested by the Development Panel during the second meeting. It is was accomplished by installing the Remember Me module. There were no problems with this installation.
Emailing Inactive Users
Users that have not logged into the site within three months will be emailed a reminder automatically by the site. This feature was suggested by the Development Panel during their second meeting. It was accomplished by installing the Inactive User module. The inactive user will receive the following message:
- Hello %username,
We haven’t seen you at %sitename since %lastaccess, and we miss you! It is important to review your profile and update your information. Please come back and visit us soon at %siteurl.
Search was improved by running the ‘Cron’ function (a php useful task). This will be run automatically each day and will index the content of the site. Now content is searchable as are users. The ‘content’ and ‘users’ tabs remain separate.
Addition of User Photos to the Buddy List
This is not possible at this time (a low priority and not easily implemented).
Project Sign Up Streamlined
The sign up function for a project has been given it’s own tab within the project page. This is a response to feedback from the Development Panel that the project page was too busy and cluttered with information. This was achieved by going into the Sign Up Module settings (see screenshot) and selecting the separate sign up tab option.