I posted about the site design in the chat-box on the side. I think I might have been a bit too critical there, but... has anyone thought of giving this site a design overhaul? There is tons of great content here, but the layout is impenetrable. There is so much going on on the front page that it can be hard to find anything. It is all very, very unintuitive.
It looks like a "portal" site circa 1999 before Google came along and shamed everyone into getting rid of that design trope.
I think that is the challenge of using this site. I compare it to gold mining. There is a lot of material that you might not be interested in but if you keep at it you strike gold. Keep looking for that diamond lesson plan in the rough.
I think that I understand what you are saying about the layout, but maybe the comments would be more clear if you could give a link to another site or community that you feel has a layout that is more user-friendly.
I like Thaddeus's idea... could you link to a site that holds a lot of resources and is more intuitive and easier to use?
I can't think of any off the bat... for example, I find most museum sites almost impossible to decipher, and they're not even dealing with the social networking aspect.
We have a library of resources here, in addition to all the conversations that have been added around those materials over time. I wish our search function could be just like google- I could remember a phrase I used a year ago (I can do that sometimes) and pull up the conversation- that would be great. But I don't think ning let's it work that way.
Also, sometimes it takes awhile to realize, but the resources part of this site is, conservatively, 90% the work of one person (I'd say closer to 95%, but he'd probably start to argue about that.)
It is an incredible feat. But how to make easy access to ALL of it? I know one thing I forget to do is look through the drop-down menus. I'd learn a lot about the site that way! And maybe those categories need to be updated, I really don't know... There is just so much here, I think no matter what the system, it is going to take some effort on the user's end to access it.
I think the "busyness" of the main page is an effort to highlight the best or most useful elements of the site. But maybe all the buttons keep people from accessing the site more systematically? Then again, maybe it helps people find resources they never would if a button wasn't put in front of them. My guess is the later, because from what I have noticed, many people aren't willing to put any effort into searching, not even to type a term in the search box.
So what would be more intuitive?
I just have to put in this last part, I don't mean any offense by it, but it is so easy to forget this reality... this site is ALWAYS FREE, ALWAYS NEW, and just one man, basically, is serving 10,000 members.. in his spare time, for no compensation. Just to keep in mind : )
I really love this kind of stuff.... and I often think about how to make the material more accessible, but I just can't get my mind quite around it... I should be quiet now, I don't want to jinx anything :D
I've a hobbyist interest in website UI and ease of use. And I'm also a crank who liked the internet when it was simple and plain.
Also, I'm an ESL teacher. So there's that.
I've looked over the content here geared towards techers. It seems like it all falls into one of three categories: lesson plans, powerpoint downloads, worksheet downloads and video files. But why are all these things buried under approximately 26 menu options? Why not just have the four menu options? Have a big header that says "For Teachers" and then four little headers underneath that say "lesson plans," "powerpoint," "video" and "worksheets." Even more troublesome is that many of the available menu options lead to off-site, third party hosting services. Why not upload everything to one site and therefore make everything easier to find?
I spent a couple hours tonight banging out a design for this site. I'm not sure what the point is, since I think the operators of this site can't just up and change over to something else. It's just that as an ESL teacher I would LOVE to have a great resource site that is easy to use. I just want to show that such a thing is possible.
I'll post what I've done when I finish. Next week, maybe...
I appreciate "being critical" and if in the right spirit (as your thoughts are), even appreciate it more.
I've been meaning to reply but just had one looooooong day in the trenches. Got home, packed in some pasta and fell asleep. Typical teacher :)
Yes, you are right. The main page does need overhauling. Things are constantly changing and one unique thing about our site is that people look after it and it DOES change. But input from others even makes those changes better.
As Ellen said, also the drop down categories could be better sorted/simplified.
However, there is more to the site than just those categories you've outlined (but I agree , some simple seperation could/should work). Basically, the ning search sucks but Ning in general we are stuck with and that inhibits a lot of design features unless I want to get the source code from them. I've thought of doing that but that would entail hiring a developer to look after things and then that would entail $$$ and then that would lead to some kind of revenue stream and well -- you get the point. I don't want this community to become a place to look for $$$ , however softly done. That said, there is still a lot that can be done to make things better.
The power that we have yet to harness are the tags. If you look above at this conversation and hit "community" you'll be directed to an old but similar conversation to this. Tags are great but Ning doesn't provide a capacity to search with them. So I'm just about to launch something I've paid for and got a developer to design. It will be here in a week or so. But the key is to educate users about the tags. Also to properly tag so that if for example the Clue game someone uploaded is labeled CLUE and others can find it. If not labeled, yeah, it is hit or miss. The search will be dynamic so that you just begin to type something and options will appear.
But you are wrong about not wishing to change things. I do and in fact would not hesitate for a moment to get others to administer the site, redesign etc... Right from the beginning , this site was modeled on the cooperative model. Nobody "owns" it and it is for the benefit of all who participate (for example - I made it so that if you leave - your content does to.) Poof, it all disappears. You are what you contribute and where you are. This site is only the sum of who is here and participating. But if you can come up with a great alternative or even just minor changes - please provide and so long as it maintains the integrity of the site - let's do it.
I return to my main point - we change. That is a necessity and hope this site keeps changing. Of course, with so many users it can't change ever freakin' moment but enough to move with the times....
But as was inferred by Tommy, it is like gold mining or a good woman. At first, difficult . But that is what makes it your own and maybe a way towards life - the difficulty. And after time it becomes easier.
Not saying this as a cop out but just that there is some "reality" to it.
Cheers and look forward to more criticism and ideas (both flip sides of the same coin).
Ellen -- yes, I do a lot here but it isn't that much. I keep telling myself - hell, I don't work in a tin min in Bolivia. I live well, get paid well and in that dress - I can use myself to help others. It isn't a lot of work because it is just something I do - not something I think about. Kind of like cooking. We don't detest cooking because the eating is so good.....
...like a good woman :D Made me laugh out loud, David. Funny, we never think of men in quite the same way.
I can describe a good man in three words--
Easy-to-please, hardworking, generous.
Ok, now for the woman-
Creative, kind, and free from serious addictions.
(The addiction part is important for both, but especially so for the woman because of pregnancy).
This is the kind of advice my kids get all the time (they seem to like it, they keep asking what I think!) They always want to add "hot" to the top of the list. I say ok, but it has to go at the bottom : )
I think it's very generous for you to spend time on this, Michael. Even if the plan doesn't work out as a whole, there might be good ideas we could incorporate.
As someone here is fond of saying, no effort is ever wasted. Sometimes I think he is just being an optimist, then a posting I made ten months ago will come back up, and I'll think, huh, look at that. It was useful.