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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot Raphaelle's Avatar
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    Lightbulb time for a new forum maybe?

    Hello,

    I've spent the last 5 minutes trying to figure out where I should post this... apologies if there was a better place.

    Basically, I was wondering whether there could be a new forum or maybe more than one new forum about UI and web applications. I feel like it's missing from this great website.

    I'd like to discuss things such as best practices for forms like error prevention.

    I feel like this Accessibility and Usability forum is trying to be a bit too general because Accessibility is one small (yet complex) part of usability, and usability means a lot of things - it's a bit vague. Now people tend to talk about UX and UI, user-centred design... stuff like that.

    At the end of the day it's all about usability but puttin Accessibility AND usability in the same forum seems ambitious. And I'm often surprised it's not a more popular forum.

    What are your thoughts?

  2. #2
    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    I feel like this Accessibility and Usability forum is trying to be a bit too general because Accessibility is one small (yet complex) part of usability, and usability means a lot of things - it's a bit vague. Now people tend to talk about UX and UI, user-centred design... stuff like that.
    If I had any questions or comments on UI I'd certainly put it in that overall Accessibility subforum, yes. Though the Javascript forum often gets similar questions, if Javascript is the technology being used for an interface.

    At the end of the day it's all about usability but puttin Accessibility AND usability in the same forum seems ambitious.
    On the other hand, separating the two is notoriously difficult... and without a large number of experts in any of those areas floating around here, I think it would be difficult to steer questions, threads, conversations about those things into the correct areas if there were separate subforums. Certainly there are regular posts in the HTML/CSS/Web Design area that maybe belong in the Accessibility forum already. Of course there is the regular quibble about how much "accessibility" as a term means.. I'm one of those hippies who extends it to device, software, connection speeds. I see no point in limiting it arbitrarily to physical disabilities... the end result is the same as far as I'm concerned (as a developer). Other people are very firm in their limitation of the term "Accessibility" and do not let it stretch very far into Usability or hardware.

    And I'm often surprised it's not a more popular forum.
    I waver... sometimes I feel surprised, but then when I visit regular web sites and see the poor quality, I'm not surprised at all. The number of devs who just don't know, is large, and the number who just don't care, is sad. There are plenty of regulars even on this forum who regularly state how little they care and that it's on the onus of the users to "get with the program". Sigh.

    Possibly the average SitePoint visitor who does something with Front End knows more than the "average" web developer out in the wild does re good coding practices and UI design... maybe not.

    If you take a look at the Perl, Python and Other Languages forum, and the Ruby one, you can see how diluting unpopular topics can cause a problem of fewer eyeballs and less attention to particular topics. A regular-expression question for Python that could be answered by someone who knows PHP gets less chance of getting answered simply because it's in a slow forum.

    I think UI design can be so very interesting, but I don't know that a forum that only dealt in that would get much traffic : ( Posting about things like form error prevention usually ends up in the forum belonging to the medium being used (PHP, Javascript) rather than in the Web Design area.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Zealot Raphaelle's Avatar
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    Thank you Stomme poes for your input. I understand your points, but I guess the thing is that the Sitepoint forum might not be the best place to discuss UX and UI in depth. Maybe it's more of a developer's forum? Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Sitepoint for all the resources they provide. That's where I go when I want to figure out HTML or CSS related stuff (I'm a web designer and front-end dev), but when it comes to UI I think it's not happening here.

    I might have not found the best UI and UX resources yet, or maybe it is a fairly new field about which not many have written articles yet.

    I've been working on a web application's UI lately and at one point I was struggling to decide what type(s) of notification system(s) I would use and what was on offer. I'm talking about error messages, but also confirmation, warning and information messages. I didn't find a lot of resources about that, so I wrote an article with what I thought were the 5 options I had and my views on them (it's in French).

    The 5 methods I'm talking about, without going into details are :
    - a unique area in which to displays all messages like here
    - contextual messages kinda like this
    - modal windows
    - dialog box
    - Growl-like notice

    And then it occured to me that at least for the error messages, what if they weren't needed at all? What if the interface was so well conceived that it was impossible to make a mistake? I'm not talking about system or server errors of course because they are unpredictable.

    I didn't find a lot of resources on error prevention. I was in search for best practices but I don't think anyone has defined those yet, which is why I'd love to discuss that with others.

    One way of preventing an error after a form submission for instance is to disable the submit button until all the conditions for a successful submission are met. That's great but how do you tell your user what are the conditions and why the button is disabled?

    I find all these questions very interesting. Do you think the Sitepoint forum is the right place to discuss them? Are Sitepoint users interested in these topics?

    cheers

  4. #4
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    guido2004's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raphaelle View Post
    I find all these questions very interesting. Do you think the Sitepoint forum is the right place to discuss them? Are Sitepoint users interested in these topics?
    Yes they are interesting. And yes I think SP users would be interested, at least some of them
    How many, and if a discussion about them here on the SP forums would be a success, I don't know. Why don't you give it a try, and start a thread. You already talked about it here, I don't think it'll cost you much effort exposing your theories and questions there. And then we'll see what the response is

  5. #5
    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    but I guess the thing is that the Sitepoint forum might not be the best place to discuss UX and UI in depth. Maybe it's more of a developer's forum? Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Sitepoint for all the resources they provide. That's where I go when I want to figure out HTML or CSS related stuff (I'm a web designer and front-end dev), but when it comes to UI I think it's not happening here.
    I'd say the same for Perl, actually. Everyone around here seems to use ASP/.NET or PHP for everything. For some reason there's still a forum for it though.

    - a unique area in which to displays all messages like here
    Amazon does that, I was answering their forms asking how my experience was with the marketplace 3rd-party vendors. Either it did not say that comments were required, or I missed it, and it was several tries before I saw their message that I needed to actually put something in the textarea.

    Why did I miss it? Because I scrolled down the page to fill in the form and hit Submit and was not brought back up to the top of the page, where I might have seen it. Instead, I scrolled further to fill in the next form. Bad design. Likely they rely on Javascript, which I don't have enabled and they cannot expect that I do.

    contextual messages kinda like this
    My husband's company uses these. They have the advantage of being clearly associated with whatever section is wrong, and on a white form they stand out. I only really like them when they tell me WHY my input was wrong... sometimes I can see it was a really stupid fat-finger but other times, I put in a truly valid email address and I keep getting "fill in a valid email address"... turns out, the company has too strong a regex that filters out allowable email address characters.
    - modal windows
    They are annoying, which is good if you must get the user's attention.
    dialog box
    Wait, is this different from a modal window? I thought they were the same.

    Growl-like notice
    if these are the things that show up at the bottom of the screen, I'd miss most of them. My browsers sometimes put notices there, like that a download is finished... I only notice them because I see movement out of the corner of my eye, and I'm pretty sure I don't see the majority of them. This is not a good way to get someone's attention, which might be the point of a growl (not grab attention so much).
    Now imagine you're using a screen magnifyer. You never saw it at all, and you don't know what's wrong with the form.

    We bring back the form page, with everything still filled in, and a list of errors at the top. User can (if they want) click on an error and get their focus brought right to the bad field. The link text states what's wrong with the input. I would maybe call it similar to contextual errors.
    http://stommepoes.nl/Autoverzekeren/...rekenfout.html
    There are problems with it, such as the middle error (you haven't filled in your damage-free years)... mostly because it's not obvious that if you have zero damage-free years, we request an explicit zero (just to prevent people from sending that input empty and claiming later they did have damage-free years, which is very important). I put error text outside forms because the Big 2 Windows screenreaders don't read non-form-controls if they are in a form in Forms Mode. Not all readers have a Forms Mode, but if they do, and if like JAWS10 it's automatic unless you turn it off, then the users won't read your error messages at all.


    And then it occured to me that at least for the error messages, what if they weren't needed at all? What if the interface was so well conceived that it was impossible to make a mistake? I'm not talking about system or server errors of course because they are unpredictable.
    That's the goal, but users can break anything.

    You can reduce a lot of errors by reading usability studies. My future forms are going to be done quite differently based on the Eyetracking Web Usability report I got at the bookstore (Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice). But, you cannot remove all of them. People make mistakes, they mistype, they let their cats walk on the keyboards.

  6. #6
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Unfortunately I have to agree with Stomme. As much as it would be wonderful to have an entire section of the forum dedicated to UX (User-experience), UCD and it's many facets like usability, accessibility, information architecture, UI Design, Interaction Design, Information Design, Psychology, Sociology, Ethnology, Readability, Findability (et al)... we just don't have the audience here for the subject. Too many people are entirely focused on the code of a site and what they think looks good - barely anyone really seems to appreciate (in the holistic sense) the end user's needs. Apart from myself, Stomme and Tommy (and perhaps a couple of others with an interest in such issues), there isn't the interest, discussion or expertise around here for the forum which frustrates me to no end as I really enjoy the subjects.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Zealot Raphaelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stomme poes View Post
    Wait, is this different from a modal window? I thought they were the same.
    To me, a dialog box is that annoying browser pop-up which goes on top of everyting and disables the rest of the page, while a modal window can be customised by the designer/developer and done with css and javascript. Do you know what I mean? To me, modal windows can be a very good thing if used wisely, while browser dialog boxes piss me off every single time.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlexDawson
    Apart from myself, Stomme and Tommy (and perhaps a couple of others with an interest in such issues), there isn't the interest, discussion or expertise around here for the forum which frustrates me to no end as I really enjoy the subjects.
    I really enjoy those subjects too! Do you know of any other forum that's more focused on the topics you mentioned? Do you think we could somehow create more interest amongst Sitepoint users?

  8. #8
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Oh I've tried already but alas it seems like a lost cause at the moment and I'm not really sure of any other forums which are that UX focused either.

  9. #9
    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    while a modal window can be customised by the designer/developer and done with css and javascript.
    Oh, I surf with JS off, so I usually don't see those... but what you mean is used often in Lightboxes.


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