As the newly titled User Experience Designer for the Commons I’ve been asked to write a few words about the user experience (UX for short). While the title is new, UX is something we’ve been thinking about and working on since the start of the Commons. One of the first big efforts was to get a single sign-on between the wiki and the rest of the Commons (a pain that thankfully only a few remember).
But wait, what exactly is UX anyway? The simplest way to think of it is as a broad category that touches on anything that effects your ability to use the site. That could mean the user interface (UI), how information is organized across the pages (information architecture – IA), processes to do things like create a group or write a blog post and more.
It’s worth noting that much of the effort involves extending and modifying existing interfaces and experiences. The Commons is built on three open source projects and each of them come with built-in functionality. The three building blocks are WordPress, BuddyPress and MediaWiki. As we move to new versions of these projects (we recently upgraded WordPress and BuddyPress) the interface will change and the Commons team is right on top of it to make sure the changes don’t negatively affect your experience. There is lots of behind the scenes work that goes on (most of which is actually visible on the tracking site) and we also write posts and help pages to keep you informed.
Some examples of UX improvements that were made are:
- Login Redirection for private pages (tracking page): This is an example of fixing the built-in functionality. It used to be that if someone sent you a link that required a login to the Commons (say a forum in a private groups) and you were not logged in you would be redirected to the home page. You would have to log in and then click on the link again. Now, you’ll simply be asked to log in and then automatically taken to the correct page.
- BP Docs: This is an example of brand new functionality created by the Commons Team. In groups you now have the ability to make documents that can be collaboratively edited by all of the group members. After it premiered it was further modified to allow editing of comments on the docs.
- Social Media Icons: Another example of tweaking the built-in UI. Now in your profile if you list social media sites the links will appear as icons.
- Help (visit): Our help blog was updated and expanded to be more usable and fit in better with the design of the rest of the Commons. This is a great example of an on going project where we will keep adding and making improvements to it.
We welcome exchanges in the other direction as well. If you have any ideas, feature requests, bugs to report or questions in general don’t hesitate to send me a message, use the “Give Us Feedback” button on the right of the window for all main Commons pages, or send an email to the team.
Speaking of which some credit is due to our amazing team members. Matt Gold, @admin, as Project Director is kind of our Steve Jobs (minus the attitude), setting the tone and general direction, looking at all things big and small to make sure the project is excellent. Boone Gorges, @boonebgorges, is our Lead Developer and responsible for much of our custom functionality like BP Docs and the Social Media Icons. In fact he is so good that he was invited to be part of the core BuddyPress team, a wonderful development for him and the Commons. Raymond Hoh contributes code as well, including the very helpful login redirection mentioned above. Michael Smith (@msmith), Brian Foote(@brianfoote), Sarah Morgano (@Sarah_Morgano) and Scott Voth(@scottvoth) are the Community Team. They are the glue that holds it all together. All of the new functionality is tested by them before it is released; they field all of your help questions, write blog posts about the Commons; they give presentations, tweet, make Facebook pages, track statistics and generally make the Commons easier to use and more enjoyable.
You can look forward to more from this dynamic team in the future. We have some things cooking we think you will love.