story of this redesign is a familiar one for software product
development. The KnowledgePlanet user interface had grown up over a
number of versions, with the increasing complexity requested by
customers being added to the interface in stages, so the application had
outgrown its initial design concepts. The amount and types of data being
presented needed more room to be displayed, calling for a different
approach to navigation. More roles were being introduced, demanding a
new mechanism for selecting and managing responsibilities. Additionally,
some technical changes needed to be made across all pages in the learner
interface, the most significant of which was removing the three-frame
architecture and navigation, so the navigation had to be intrinsic to
previous version of the application used a tab metaphor for gaining
access to different areas of information, and this was carried over into
the redesign. However, the earlier tabs were based on specific features
that were in the application, and so often presented different types of
information and navigation when clicked, leading to a sense of
Feature-oriented tabs (prior version)
features were available via a traditional left-hand navigation column.
This necessitated the use of very short phrases with no supporting
explanation. Also, because these functions were associated with
individual tabs, the items available would change constantly, requiring
the user to remember where a particular feature was if they wanted to
find it again.
Left navigation (prior version)
search facilities for such things as courses and assessments were
sufficiently rich in the range of search options, but because of this
they appeared daunting and did not help the user think about how best to
seek the information they required.
Unstructured search fields (prior version)
complex activities (like learners planning their annual personal
development goals) had a lack of instructional and navigational support.
This put the burden of understanding how to perform these tasks onto the
learners themselves, or onto implementation staff who had to train
users in carrying out these tasks.
Planning activities needed further support (prior version)
was a lack of “signposting” regarding the role an individual was
performing (managing their own learning, acting as a mentor for others,
performing approvals of other people’s learning requests). Switching
modes did not necessarily create distinct differences in what the
interface looked like, which created confusion (particularly in
distracting environments). Additionally, when looking after someone
else’s learning, it was not always clear which person was the focus of
attention – the application relied on the individual mentor to
remember which learner was being viewed, or to read the name when it was
buried in the midst of other types of information.
Mentor navigation, with Learner name embedded (prior version)
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KP2000: Learner Interface Redesign
the users prior state solution