Ed Tech UI Guy

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Navigation on edit pages

In Stellar there are two kinds of pages - "display" pages and "edit" pages. Display pages are the pages anyone sees when browsing the site - the homepage, the materials list, the class roster, etc. The display pages look the same to students and instructors, but if you are an instructor you see little red links that give you options for modifying the page - "add document" edit intro text" etc. Clicking one of those links takes you to an edit page - generally a form you fill in to add something or edit something. Submitting the form takes you back the display page you came from.

Way back when we started Stellar in 2000, we decided that the edit pages wouldn't have a navigation bar. The fear was that people would fill out the form, then rather than clicking the submit button, they would click something in the nav bar. For example someone might fill out the form to add a new reading, then click "materials" in the nav bar expecting they would see the new reading there. Nothing has been saved because they haven't clicked "submit." This is similar to the way Amazon hided most of the navigation as soon you start the checkout process - they want to push you in the right direction.

But now I wonder if we should just have all of the pages have the same navigation. People seem to understand the need to hit a submit button better than they were 5 years ago. I actually find it annoying to have the navigation missing on certain pages. We did a user test a couple years back with the nav bar always there, and didn't trip up any of the testers. It's time we make all of the pages work the same and see what happens.

We're planning user teting on the impact on user comprehension of saving navigation state in Sakai. I'm hoping the results will support my theses that most people understand and expect that clicking a link in the navigation while filloing out a form cancels that form.