Discussion of user-centric navigation issues.

Last Meeting: Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at:  10am PST/ 1pm EST 

Navigation Definition

Navigation is the process by which the user traverses the content of the service.


The user must have at all times a sense of location and status. These should be manifest, but often they are not.

Questions we need to answer on behalf of the user

  1. What is the shape of the space in which I'm traveling?
  2. Where am I now?
  3. How did I get here?
  4. Where can I go? Where can I get to from where I am?
  5. Where should I go, to achieve my current objective (complete my current task)?
  6. How do I get there most effectively? Most efficiently?

Note: The answer to the last question may vary, depending on the experience of the user. Is the user a newcomer, a novice or occasional user, or an expert?

Note: A special case of navigation is the transition from the unauthenticated to the logged-in state. The landscape may change a great deal, as the user departs the public space, and enters the personalized space.


Question 1: The user may be asking: "Is there an overview of the space? Something that indicates its structure, and the features that populate it? I'd like to understand both the contours of the landscape, and its content. A map might help, or some sort of high-level depiction."

Question 2: The user may want to know where she is initially, when she enters the space (at the root of a tree perhaps?). As she moves through the space, she will want to know her location relative to her starting point and other reference locations.

Once logged in to a portal, the user perceives two portlet-inhabited spaces:

  1. The space of all the portlets to which she is subscribed, represented by portlet windows arranged in columns under tabs, in a folder hierarchy, or some other arrangement.
  2. The space of all portlets to which she has not subscribed, most like likely presented as a list or indexed catalog.

These two spaces are presented rather differently, but the user must navigate through both of them, identify positions in both, and have a mechanism for moving portlets from one to the other.

Summit Component Ideas

Note: Some of these ideas may have interesting accessibility implications. Waypoints and personal beacons may be contrived to be easily perceivable by all potential users.


In each of the following scenarios, the focus should be how the user knows where she is, how she got there, and where she can go to.  These questions should also be addressed with the assumption that the user is employing an AT device or software product.

1. Logging in

  1. User enters the login (home?) page for the service.
  2. User clicks "login" and is catapulted into the Authentication service, where she is invited to supply her credentials. Important status information for her to understand includes:
  3. User enters credentials and clicks submit.
  4. User is dropped into the service

2. Interacting with Weakly-integrated Applications in uPortal

  1. User logs in to the portal and decides to interact with a application through a portlet window that presents a single clickpoint.
  2. The user clicks on the clickpoint.
  3. An application is launched in a new browser window, obscuring the current display. At this point, a number of things are unclear to the user:

3. Entering and Leaving Portlet Focus Mode

In focus mode, the framework hands over control of (most of) the display to a portlet.

  1. The user logs in to the portal and activates a clickpoint in a portlet window header. She observes the following:
  2. Desiring to go to another tab, the user clicks on "Return to Portal"
  3. The user clicks on a tab to go to the portlets under the other tab.

4. Detached Windows Launched from Portlet

  1. The user logs in and commences interaction with a specific portlet.
  2. The user initiates a process that involves the entry of text.
  3. The user initiates another process involving the entry of text
  4. The user navigates to another tab and commences interaction with another portlet.
  5. The user returns to the first detached window and enters some text.
  6. The user signals to the portlet that she is finished with her interactions.

This can play out in all sorts of ways. There are all sorts of ways the user can depart from the interactions. In all cases she should be protected from losing work, or leaving the application in an ambiguous state.

5. Navigating by Tagged Beacons

  1. The user logs in to the service, intending to visit a portlet she used the week before to perform a Feng Shui analysis of her office space. She can't remember where the portlet is located or its title - it's one of several hundred in her extended layout. But anticipating a revisit, she dropped a blue beacon on it, labeled with a tag "Office Feng Shui".
  2. She activates the "Show My Beacons" clickpoint.
  3. She selects the most likely blue beacon. It displays the tag text "Office Feng Shui"
  4. She activates (clicks on) the beacon image.
  5. She is taken layout fragment containing the Feng Shui portlet.

Blue Sky Vision

We are considering a complex and heavily populated space for the user to travel through. She may be using an enterprise portal with hundreds of applications (portlets) to choose from. Her layout may be represented as a tree (much like a folder tree) with multiple layers containing scores of portlet windows. An application may manifest itself through a single portlet window, or multiple cooperating windows. In addition to displaying content in layout-embedded windows, portlets may launch multiple detached windows.

Also to be considered, is that the user may be using a device with limited resolution or display size, and yet may be traversing a complex hierarchy of pages.

Navigation Component Ideas

Summit Post-it Page

At the Fluid Summit, pain points represented on post-it notes were grouped into problem spaces (such as Feedback), then into (usually very high level) potential components such as the ones below. Each problem area was then rated as to whether it affected 1, 2, or 3/All of the Fluid applications (Sakai, uPortal, Moodle). Each potential component was then rated on the following matrix, which indicated how severe the pain point it helped solve was for users, as well as how frequently the pain point was encountered. It helped us determine how high a priority it was, with 1 being the highest priority and 3 being the lowest.

high severity



low severity




high frequency

low frequency

Navigation &  My Status/Where am I

Multi-window Management


Distinguishing Personal vs. Shared or other Categorization (mutable vs. unmutable)






Cameo/Synoptic View or More Detail Window (related to Dashboard):


System wide links (high-level bookmarking - on every page)




Dashboard / What's New / What's Important




Who I am determines what I see/Personalization/Concierge:


Leaving System in Unexpected Way/Opening New Window:


Inconsistent Navigation:


Saving State (not losing work):