One of the biggest changes for all Notes users of the Hannover release will be that the bookmark bar has been replaced by a "Launcher" button.
Just in case you are not sure what the bookmark bar is (since we don't label it), it's the yellowish vertical bar that runs down the left-hand side of the Notes window. In the picture below, the first item is the Contacts (Personal Address Book), but I think for most people it's Mail, Calendar, and then Contacts
There were only a few issues with the bookmark bar that we're trying to address with the Launcher.
The first is that some users just don' t seem to see it or understand that it's clickable. The second is that it does not scale well. After Samantha has added a few more icons over there, she runs out of space and we give her some arrows to scroll.
So, take a look at one of our initial designs for a Launcher instead. Samantha now clicks the "Launch" button and down comes a menu, complete with pull-rights for nested items. We're not finished with this yet; we plan to do some usability testing over the summer.
The plan was to have the first level of items be exactly the same items that are on your bookmark bar. Now that we're also adding support for three IBM producitivity tools (Spreadhseet, word processor and presentation tool), we'll have to put those choices on there somewhere as well.
Samantha should be able to drag and drop them to re-order them. And she'll have a context menu on each, with choices such as
Open Replica ->
Open in New Window
Always Open in New Window
Change Icon (we hope AA's liek this so they can change the icon of the 6 different mail files they manage)
Set as Home page
If you look carefully at the picture above, you see 3 dots next to the selected item "Favorite Bookmarks". That is supposed to be the visual to tell you you can float that pull-right, as shown in the following picture. I think the floating is a really cool feature, especially if we succeed in being able to let users dock such a thing in the toolbar. But I am worried that the dots might not be enough to let users know they can float it. We're trying very hard to use that consistent visual throughout the UI to let users know they can float something. Opinions?
The replies to my previous posting about the Launcher have been excellent to read, please keep them coming.
Yes, I'll have several future postings about the re-designed workspace.
And in general, I wholeheartedly agree with Nathan that it's too complicated. But Notes is a victim of its own success. With 125 million users, there are bound to be people who use those items on the bookmark bar. I do admit that I'm very concerned with the "new user" experience for the Hannover release-- since everyone will be a new user. I don't want people to freak out because they can't find ANYTHING.
If Samantha had 25 items in her " More bookmarks" we'd have to put them someplace. I bet most of you are workspace-only users (I can say this because the results of a survey we did indicated that most of our users still are.) It would be much eaiser to design a product from scratch (oh, wait, that's what I was doing until my management asked me to work on Notes...).
The design team could produce something that is light-years better-- just like research indicates that the Dvorak keyboard is better.... but who uses that? So, we're focusing on more of a "stepping stone" model... nothing too radical... but an improvement, we hope.
Having said that, though, I am very interested in some of the other comments made.. and in potentially exploring them, like the "Work Centres" from Colin. ... On the one hand, the new Composite applications might be considered work centres. I'll post more on composite apps another day.
Feel free to give me more opinions about what to remove from the bookmark bar/Launcher. I'd like to be able to detect if Samantha ever clicks on any of them, and if not, just remove them. The several of you who said to remove things like IE favorites and More Bookmarks-- you never use them? If people did use them, what do you recommend that we do with the items in them? One giant flat list?
John Goldt asked if this new Launcher design means that we are requiring 2-click access to mail instead of one click.
In some cases, yes, it might. However, what we're trying to build is a server-managed client that will allow an admin to specify which applications get launched at startup so that tabs for them already appear-- thus allowing 1-click access to important things. We plan to allow Samantha or Ted or Betty to do this as well by putting things in their startup folder. Now, Notes has a startup folder today-- do you think anybody uses it? Why or why not?
A while ago I posted about the sort order. Our Mail designer Margo would like feedback on our proposal for "what to do when Samantha clicks the column header the second time."
Notes 7 Sorting Behavior
In Notes 7 (and before), Samantha clicked on a column header to sort the Inbox on that column. Most columns can only be sorted one way (i.e. ascending). When Samantha clicked on the column again, sorting on that column would 'turn off' and revert back to the default sort column (which is 'Date') in Mail. To further complicate the experience, when Samantha sorted on a column other than date, then when she clicked on the Date column, the Inbox would re-sort according to the Date, in an ascending order. If she clicked on the Date again, the code did a 'no sort' on the 'default' sort column, which is basically a descending sort order on the Date column. This funky implementation is manifest in the various up, down, up/down, and solid arrow combinations on the column headers today.
Proposal for Hannover Sorting Behavior
There are multiple changes recommended for Hannover.
1. Highlight only the currently sorted column.
This is done with the gradation (246, 249, 254) to (203, 223, 249) on the currently selected column. The default sort column for a Mail db is the 'Date' column.
2. Only show the sort indicator on the currently sorted column, not on any other column headers,
unless Samantha mouses over another column, in which case, display a sort indicator on the hovered-over column. The sort indicator is right-justified.
3. The sort indicator will either be a solid up triangle (for descending) or solid down triangle (for ascending).
4. If the column is sortable (or is the currently selected column and has additional sort orders - i.e. if date can be ascending or descending) then when Samantha hovers over the column header, we will show the sort indicator and the hover color. Otherwise, nothing will change when Sam hovers over it.
5. When Sam clicks on a column that can be sorted, the column is rendered with the gradient (215, 214, 214) to (245, 245, 245).f the column is NOT sortable (or is the currently selected column and doesn't have additional sort orders), then nothing will change when the user clicks on it.
6. Sam will no longer be able to click on the currently selected sort column to return to the default sort column (i.e. if they're sorted on Name, then they can't click on Name again to return to a Date sort).
She'll have to click on "Date" to do that.
I think this is an important, but potentially confusing (at least initially) change. We can hardly wait for your thoughts on this.
FIRST: I will look into why my blog page is so wide.Then I will investigate seeing if we can fix/make possible going back to the main page once you've viewed comments. The irony of this blog about design is that I don't own this blog UI. (Ya, I know... EXTREMELY ironic, since Notes now has a blog template.)
SECOND: Regarding the sorting, we will not take away the toggle to return to the default sort. We are hoping, however, that by shading the default column header on that toggle operation, that more people will figure it out. We'll improve the sort indicator graphics. Margo and I are still on the fence about whether to have the "sortable" indication appear only on hover.
THIRD: Our Personal Name and Address Book designer (Noy Wanderski) is thinking of changing the Notes delete action for the Address Book. Here's the background information:
Currently in Notes 7, Samantha selects a few contact names and clicks 'Delete' in the action bar. This marks the contacts for deletion (an 'X' appears in the gutter). Samantha has to click the refresh icon or exit her NAB in order for the real "Delete" to occur (a confirmation message opens and she has to confirm it). The Notes devs are calling this whole thing a soft delete.
The Hannover Contacts views have no gutter for an X to appear. If a user selects a name or names and clicks 'Delete' then a confirmation message appears. Once Samantha has confirmed the delete then the contacts are officially deleted.
Keep in mind that Mail has a Trash folder. Contacts does not have such a thing. Should we introduce that? (Hum... mail is to trash as a person is to.... Limbo? a waiting room? )
I have been remiss in blogging about the "other half" of the title of this blog: Sametime. My baby. I joined Iris in 1997 as the second person on a new team to take a research project called "Praire Dog" and make it into an Instant Messaging product. The hiring manager/director of the project was sufficiently influenced by Irene Greif (Group manager for the Cambridge -- then Lotus-- Research group) to pay attention to user experience from the outset, and thus hire a user experience designer early on.
Of course, Sametime has had is user experience challenges. Soon after I joined, the plan changed, and IBM purchased 2 companies at the same time (heh heh, get it??) Ubique in Rehovot, Israel provided the instant messaging portion of the product and Databeam in Lexington, Kentucky, provided the application sharing/web conferenging portion. So I didn't get to design a product from the ground up. I got to shove 2 very differnet products together.
After working on Sametime for about 5 years, I was ready for a change, and I think, Sametime was ready for some fresh design blood. So please, allow me to introduce the new Sametime user Experience Team to you.
Amy Travis is the designer for the web conferencing portion. She sits in Westford, MA, and comes to us with design experience on a variety of products, including portal team spaces. Amy hs an amazing attention to detail, and terrific usability testing stamina-- at our annual Lotusphere conference in January this year, she personally conducted something like 30 usability tests in 4 days. She didn't even get up for lunch--we'd have to bring her food. She was mobbed with people who wanted to test Sametime and she wanted to give everybody a chance!
Josef Scherpa is the designer for the instant messaging portion. He sits in some room in his house in Colorado (with a fabulous view, I suppose, but I can't be sure). He used to sit in Westford, MA, but he fell in love and got married and somehow that took him to Colorado. He's also a great skier. Before he moved to Colorado we were on a racing team together. We had a lot of fun, and, thanks to him (the only actual fast skier), our team did not come in last. (I, however, won free wax because I had the slowest racing times of anybody!)
The new Sametime 7.5 Connect client, which is in beta right now, was heavily influenced by an internal instant messaging project. Joe had the opportunity to start with that design and refine and improve it.
Michelle MCdevitt is the designer for the real-time gateway/administration for Sametime. I think this is Michelle's first admin design project. She is, however, an installation design guru, because she also works on both server and client install. She can quote you chapter and verse from the IBM install guidelines. (Pity that Lotus doesn't follow more of them, like the install directory.)
I hope to be able to introduce you to the visual designers and user researchers in another post.
In a previous posting: From Bookmark Bar to Launcher, I discussed the move from a bookmark bar to a Launcher. We also have plans to improve the Workspace as well. There are 2 ways in which we're re-designing the Workspace.
1. Making the items on your workspace more findable in the Launcher (the subject of this posting).
2. Re-designing the traditional "spatially-oriented" workspace tabs. I'll cover that in future postings, but don 't worry, you'll still have "chicklets" (little squares)
The following picture illustrates how we plan to continue to use the "Databases" item from the bookmark bar, and put a folder for each of the Workspace tabs-- and actually grab the color of your workspace tab and make the folder that color. In Notes 5,6, and 7, we do have folders to correspond to each Workspace tab, but we lost the color, and we know that cognitive research tells us that the eye is attracted to color more than anything else except movement). (And yes, I'm painfully aware that the folders and databases from the bookmark bar do not stay in synch with things that get added to the workspace-- I believe that's the biggest usability problem. And we plan to fix that.)
Would it be more useful to you if I had a Wiki rather than a Blog?
A lot of the information I've been posting on my blog has been useful as reference material.
However, the blog format does not lend itself well to organizing such reference information and making it available. A blog is organized chronologically, which shows when the information was documented and shows how the documentation evolves. But it makes it difficult to find all postings on a particular topic, and to browse through all postings on that topic. It makes revisions difficult, in part because a blog is supposed to be something of a historical record, and in part because the format focuses readers on the latest postings at the expense of earlier postings. When an old posting on a topic is updated with a new posting, the new one can point to the old one but the old one cannot easily post to the new one. A reader who finds the old one has no idea there's a newer one with additional information.
A wiki organizes information around topics instead of chronologically. It doesn't show as easily when information was documented or in what order, but it does show what information is related and make it easy to browse. Wiki pages can be more easily updated with newer information, so that as readers find information in the wiki, they can be confident that it's the latest the author has made available. Many/most wikis are collaborative efforts of many people gathering together the information they know, whereas blogs are usually written by a solitary author. Perhaps with a wiki I can get more of the design team-- and even the developers-- to contribute information.
(Many thanks to Bobby Woolf for this concise comparison of blog and wiki)
According to our blog Admins, trackbacks were initially enabled when the blogs were deployed on Roller. However, since trackbacks were open to anonymous postings, they soon became a spam magnet. Therefore, they are currently disabled. Once the development team has time to work on it, they will customize the code so we can re-enable it.
Here are the 4 main problems we're trying to address in the re-design of the Workspace:
Databases only – no other types of content
Single level of tabs not very scalable
§Can't find stuff – no search
§Stuff is added automatically -- can be good, but contributes to the "can't find stuff" problem
This is what we aim to do:
Allow any type of content to be represented on the workspace
§Provide for multiple levels of tab hierarchy
§Make it possible to find stuff on the workspace
Offer more control over when and where things are added to the workspace
Hannover will have theWorkspace accept the same variety of objects that the bookmarks bar does--NOT JUST DATABASES--and allow Samantha to just switch between the cascading list model to the 2-d model. (Nathan Freeman summed it up nicely in a response to the "Workspace Part 1" blog entry. I am using almost his exact words. )
That means that there are a LOT of things we need to make sure we get right. We tried to do this with "gridded bookmarks" and failed for 2 main reasons (in my opinion): 1. we did not provide all of the features that were in the workspace, and 2. We did not really provide a usable way to nest more than 1 tab deep.
Here are your top requests; I cannot promise that we'll dliver on these, but we are investigating
§Allow the use of image resources for database icons
§Proactively alert users to non-existent databases
§Allow admins to remotely manage/lock down the workspace
When you see the picture below, you'll see that we've "turned" the tabs so that they get listed down the left-hand side. The "launcher" (which is currently selected) is a "tab" of sorts and it lists everything that is on the top level of the Launcher pull-down control. You'll be able to rearrange the chicklets; they do not all have to be grouped over to the left like I show in the picture. Putting the tabs over on the left and treating them like folders allows for multiple levels of nesting.
Unread marks: in red in the upper right.
Stacked replicas: On the bottom, with a dropdown arrow (all the examples say local)
Question: I do not yet know if we can show the file name (as in, Notes 7 if you do the magic keystorke you get the filename) I want to give users a real menu item that will place the file name properly on the chicklet. But, since I must admit that I did not know about the magic keystroke until I read Alan's blog the other day, I didn't put it in the list of requirements.... so how important is that??)
You'll also see that we gave it an action bar with: Search Database Catalog, and Browse for a Database.
And you'll see the Quick Find feature (see the second picture below).
I am very grateful for the 26 reponses that I have recieved regarding the workspace.
However, if indeed there are 124 MILLION Lotus Notes users out there, then 26 measly responses about the thing folks use to get al all their stuff, is an abysmal response rate. A general survey gets a 3% response rate. If we apply that to the number of Lotus Notes users, I should get AT LEAST 3 MILLION replies!!!! So where are the end users??? the tired, the poor, the huddled cubicle dwellers, yearning to breathe free??? (apologies to Emma Lazarus and her poem about the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor).
Please... cross-post my posting about the workspace. We had over 1000 responses to our survey.... where are all those people now??
Now is the time to comment on our new Workspace design.
First, please see my previous posts about the overview of the new Workspace. We have just a few changes to the context menus that you'll get on a "chicklet" (a little square). These changes are mainly because in the new Workspace you'll be able to have not only Notes databases, but also other things like installed applications, URLs, and so on.
And here's our proposed context menus for the "chicklets" in the Hannover release. Mainly, we added the ideas of "Add to favorite bookmarks" and "add to startup" . Being in the startup would mean that that tab gets "launched" when Samantha launches the Notes Client. Would users notice these choices?
In Notes, when Samantha opens a database that isn't already on her workspace, the database is added automatically to the current workspace page. In Hannover, there can be no notion of "current location" for the launch list. In addition, users are not unanimous in their appreciation of this feature -- many users don't want databases to be added to the workspace automatically. Nonetheless, existing Notes Workspace users will have an expectation that databases will be added automatically, and we need to respect this expectation.
Preferred solution: Ask Samantha if she wants to add new databases (a dialog plus a preference setting)
When Samantha opens a database (by clicking a doc, view, or database link, by selecting File - Database - Open, or in any other way), we should detect whether that database already exists on her launch list/workspace. If it doesn't, then when she closes the database, open a variation of the "Add Bookmark" dialog giving her the opportunity to bookmark it. We should do this on close and not on open, because when Sam is first opening a database, she may not have a clue whether she wants to bookmark it or not -- she hasn't seen it yet!
And here's the related preference:
So.. what do you think? our Chief engineer (Jeff Eisen) is not so keen on this-- only because the "right" thing to do might be to eliminate this annoying dialog and instead implement a really good search, but I am on the fence about this-- it would be a domain search-- does Samantha know what that means? and even if she did, would she remember file names correctly?
OK, so, it's pretty clear that this "ask Samantha if she wants to add a database" is a really unpopular idea. To be fair (to us designers) the mental model we'd been using was that of things like a document-- when you go to close it, you get asked if you want to save it. But OK, fine. Browser mental model it is.
Unlike browsers, however, I am recommending that the Window menu be turned on by default in Hannover (for those of you who don't know-- there IS a window menu in Notes 7, it is turned OFF by default and you have to search some archane preference to turn it ON), and that we have a "History" menu item off the window menu. (I also thought it might be cool to have a "history" tab that's always visible across the top... but the devs gave me "yucky faces" looks when I floated the idea...so I dropped it).