Sunday, July 1, 2007

UI and Other Fun Stuff

Sara and I spent about an hour yesterday talking about the Renan System's UI on our drive to Houston. For someone who is frightened and confused by user interface design, this turned out to be surprisingly pleasant. She's recommended a two-column design, since the transcription page is necessarily broken into one column for the transcription form and one column for the manuscript page image. In coding things like article links, I find that this layout is generalizable given the structure of most of my data: ordinarily, text (the "important" stuff) lives in the leftmost pane, while images, links, and status panels live in the right.

Forcing myself to think about what to put in the right pane turned into a brainstorming session. When a user views an article, it seems obvious that a list of pages that link to that article should be visible. But thinking "what else goes in the article's 'fun stuff' pane?" made me realize that there were all sorts of ways to slice the data. For example, I could display a list of articles mentioned most frequently in pages that mentioned the viewed article. Rank this by number of occurrences, or rank it by percentage of occurances, and you get very different results: "What does it mean if 'Franklin' only occurs with 'Edna', but never in any other context?" I could also display timelines of article links, or which scribe had contributed the most to the article.

Going through the same process for the work page, the page list page, the scribe or viewer dashboards and such has generated a month's worth of feature ideas. Maybe there's something to this UI design after all!

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