March 2009

Mar 29, 2009

I had short, but interesting dialog with sun on groups.drupal.org regarding how to go about getting a better menu interface into core. Sun maintains the Administrator Menu project and it sounds like the module might be earmarked for core inclusion in Drupal 7. The discussion got me thinking about what it would take to unify the efforts of module creators and maintainers and develop really solid api and tool set for getting around in Drupal. I maintain the Navigate module, which is a proof of concept for the kinds of tools I'd like to see, and I've been trying to decide if I should continue improving the module, or see if I can combine efforts with other like-minded folks in the community to can get something good enough for core.

Leisa, the usability professional working with Mark Boulton on the new Drupal 7 design, mentioned that what Drupal really needs is a genuine interfacelift (get it, interface + facelift? </whimsy>), not just small incremental changes. To this end, they set up a booth at Drupalcon soliciting ideas for improving Drupal's administration system, and have recently posted the videos. This 'facelift' might be a perfect opportunity for getting the infrastructure required for new - more usable - tools into core.

It's premature for me to assume that this kind of effort would be welcomed in the community or that I will have the resources to head up the process, but - at least in my head - it seems like it could have a much more lasting impact than releasing an updated version of a single administration module among many.

Mar 29, 2009

I made a decision a while back to starting working through the established cannon of usability / user interface design books. The first book I picked up was Designing Visual Interfaces by Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano. In the book, they break down the different aspects and components of design and offer examples both in software interface design as well as other disciplines like poster and map design. Many of the poster examples were (forgive me if I use the name to broadly) fairly modernist. Probably the most remarkable feature of these pieces was the use of restraint and subtle proportioning.

Restraint is an aspect of design (and life) I've wanted to improve the execution of for quite some time. The irony with restraint, however, is that it can be distracting in excess. Remove too much of the cruft people are used to and they start to miss it. The trick - I assume - will always be in the blending the correct pinch of attractive cruft on a highly focused interface.

The theme of this site is a demonstration of restraint. I attempted to imply divisions and containment rather than make them explicit with lines and boxes. I also attempted to remove any elements that didn't serve the primary purpose of the site, which is helping visitors figure out who the heck this bozo Chris Shattuck is. I think it's reasonably attractive, but I know from experience that I think so only because of overexposure. Bad design is like coffee - it's crap at first, but force it down long enough and you actually start to like the stuff.

So, is this design a decent example of restraint, or has it totally missed the mark?