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Detailing the overall interface

The first version of a complete interface sketch for interaction functionality and flow was made in early December. It covers pre-selection and a main interface state focusing on the topic list, from which the main user functions are available:

  • faceting
  • searching
  • sorting
  • viewing
  • annotating

The image below shows the main state with a topic selected in the topic list. Facets are to the left of the topic list, global collections of topics are to the right.


(Click the image for a version at readable size.)

Compared to previous sketches, the most notable differences are that text search has been moved to operate on the current topic list, thus placing it on equal footing with faceting (since we expect searching to be a quite common strategy). Further, the whole idea of tagging has been lifted out of this version. We are concerned that tags may be too similar to facets in terms of what they do, and that users may be confused rather than benefit from them.

The emphasis in terms of user participation is rather placed on annotations — the following picture shows an interaction state where the user has read an annotation in a topic, then started adding a reply.


(Click the image for a version at readable size.)

Another important change is that there is no longer any notion of a pre-defined table of contents, since it becomes an illogical restraint in faceting. A similar, and probably more effective structure can be achieved by working with facet values corresponding to general groups of topics.

The current version is elaborated enough to form the basis for a prototype specification, as well as for user testing if that should be deemed important. The whole task of visual look and feel remains to be done, but we expect to be able to do it in parallel with functional/structural prototyping.

Finally, an interesting property of the current version (which corresponds to a bare-bones version of concept “Flickr” in terms of user participation) can be expanded in the direction of concept “Community” by integrating editing tools into the same overall interaction paradigm.

What we would get then is a WYSIWYG production system where the amount of editing functionality available to a specific user is determined strictly by that user’s privileges within the system. This is an approach that we believe has serious advantages over developing a separate production module using different interaction concepts and forms of representation, and we would like to explore it further.