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MODERNIZE THE UE

AJAX

Enchance the current UE by adding an AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) framework into the rendering tier. This will help boost performance by reducing hits to the server as well as provide exciting UE solutions such as drag and drop.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Will experience richer and more exciting product interactions with faster refresh rates.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Can take advantage of the "buzzword" factor and demo the benefits of AJAX to decision makers. Plus, with a reduction in required server hits, IT may benefit from some performance gains.

May need to learn new technolgies if they plan to modify or develop AJAX enabled applications.

Executives

Better performance = lower maintenance costs. Additionally, the "buzzword" factor will give executives something to brag about.

None

Users with Disabilities

Uncertain

These users may be hindered if screen reading technology does not support the latest advances in AJAX UIs.

Drag and Drop

Drag and drop GUI objects will allow for a more exciting and intuitive user interface.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Will now have a more up-to-date, fun, and intuitive experience with the product.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will also benefit from the intuitive nature of drag and drop, but more importantly, they will feel proud to showcase uPortal to decision makers.

May need to learn new technolgies if they plan to modify or develop drag and drop enabled applications.

Executives

Will appreciate this as a "bells and whistle" feature when performaing a cost/benefit analysis.

None

Users with Disabilities

Uncertain

These users may be hindered if screen reading technology does not support dynamic content changes via JavaScript. Motor impaired users may also have difficulty manipulating elements in a drag and drop environment.




LAYOUT CUSTOMIZATION

Institution Configuration

This feature gives portal administrators direct access to portal user interface configuration options, possibly via a web interface, which would allow them to modify options such as:

  • User welcome/identification
  • Globally allowing/locking down user customization
  • Portal framework links (help, configuration, etc.)
  • Quicklinks (persistent navigation to high profile content)
  • Link lists (header and footer)
  • Legal and copyright information
  • Labels


User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

No direct advantage, but are impacted by the configrations made by portal administrators.

May be impacted in a negative way depending on the configurations made by the portal administrator.

Portal Administrator

Will have greater control over the portal UE without needing to modify code.

None

IT

Will empower non-technical administrators to make user interface configuration changes without needing a technical resource.

None

Executives

Will allow the institution flexibility in reflecting their brand and servicing students.

None

Customized Presentation of Individual Portlets

Portal administrators will have the ability to assign custom presentation options such as: borderless, highlight, callout, with or without icon, etc., to any portlet presented in the layout. More savvy admins will have even greater control over the way a portlet looks by assigning custom/specific CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater customization of their interface.

May be impacted in a negative way depending on the configurations made by the portal administrator.

Portal Administrator

Will have greater control over the portal UE without needing to modify code.

None

IT

Will empower non-technical administrators to make user interface configuration changes without needing a technical resource.

None

Preference State Always On

Allowing the preferences state to remain "on" at all times enables the user to make changes to their layout, such as repositioning portlets, without fear of reverting to a previous layout on exit. This feature would also allow users to modify their layout without being forced to go into a specific "preferences mode."

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater freedom and comfort in customizing the interface.

None

IT

Reduced technical support/helpdesk calls about layout customization.

None

Executives

Fewer frustrated users equals greater adoption and a greater success story.

None




IMPROVE USABILITY

Professional Presentation

The out-of-the-box "look and feel" of the portal will represent a high-quality, professional product. Using the right combination of colors, icons, type, and layout, the GUI will reflect elements of "good design" by incorporating a clean, interesting, and relevant presentation. Additionally, the portal will allow institutions to easily change key elements of the design in order to customize a look and feel that represents their unique brand.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Much easier to understand what is tradtionally an overwhelming amount of content. The design of the UI will be more conventional, and thereby easier to relate with, by meeting the same standards of "good design" seen in top web portals/sites on the Internet.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Look and feel of the portal will be easier to understand, cleaner and more professional in appearance, and thereby easier work with and present to others.

None

Executives

Will feel the portal is a legitimate and professional product to be taken seriously.

None

Visual Grid System

As part of the Professional Presentation, defining an aesthetically organized grid system will enhance the look and feel of the portal by making it easier to understand and pleasing to look at. In addition to giving the portal a polished appearance, this modification will draw some distinctions between portlets presented in narrow or wide columns.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Much easier to understand what is tradtionally an overwhelming amount of content. The design of the UI will be more conventional, and thereby easier to relate with, by meeting the same standards of "good design" seen in top web portals/sites on the Internet.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Look and feel of the portal will be easier to understand, cleaner and more professional in appearance, and thereby easier work with and present to others.

None

Executives

Will feel the portal is a legitimate and professional product to be taken seriously.

None

Navigational Hierarchy

The portal will support a hierarchy of organization greater than one level (tabs-within-tabs). Further research is needed to understand how institutions would prefer to organize their portal content.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

No direct advantage, but are impacted by the configrations made by portal administrators.

May be impacted in a negative way depending on the configurations made by the portal administrator.

Portal Administrator

Will have greater power and felxibility in organizing portal content.

None

Executives

Will allow the institution flexibility in reflecting their brand and servicing students.

None

Modal Interaction Patterns

The portal will provide interaction patterns that are on par with best-of-breed web applications. Patterns may include Bob Baxley's hub, wizard, and guide modal principles, along with fleshing out better methods for dealing with focused and unfocused portlet states.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Much easier to understand what is tradtionally an overwhelming amount of content. The design of the UI will be more conventional, and thereby easier to relate with, by meeting the same standards of "good design" seen in top web portals/sites on the Internet.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Look and feel of the portal will be easier to understand, cleaner and more professional in appearance, and thereby easier work with and present to others.

None

Executives

Will feel the portal is a legitimate and professional product to be taken seriously.

None

Supporting the Browser Back Button

As the "second-most used navigation feature" on any website, the back button working properly is critical to good usability. Currently, the back button does not always behave in an expected way. Fixing this problem will require analyzing the existing technical issue, identifying the correct/expected behavior for the button, and implementing a solution.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater comfort and satisfaction with the portal as it supports their #2 navigation feature and operates consistently with other Web expereinces.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Reduced technical support/helpdesk calls.

None

Executives

Fewer frustrated users equals greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Error Reporting and Recovery

The portal will provide better error reporting to help users understand and resolve problems. Error messages need to be well described, written in language that a user understands, and be relevant. Perhaps error messages can provide feedback appropriate to user types. For example: Administrators will be presented with technical details to assist them in trouble-shooting and resolving the problem, while non-administrators will be presented with contact information to assist them in obtaining technical support.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater comfort and satisfaction with the portal by increasing their ability to successfully recover from errors.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Reduced technical support/helpdesk calls.

None

Executives

Fewer frustrated users equals greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

First-Time User Setup

When a new user enters the portal, they will be offered a "setup wizard" to select default settings (theme, skin, language, content, etc.). During this process, the system will setup the user's environment as well as learn about his or her level of expertise – which will then be used to offer suggestions and/or behind-the-scenes support. The system will also point out where to go in order to modify settings after the initial setup or if the user chose to by-pass the setup wizard.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater comfort with and acclimation to a personalized portal.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Reduced technical support/helpdesk calls.

None

Executives

Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Users with Disabilities

Ability to select an accessible presentation of the portal that meets their needs from the start.

None

User Settings

The portal will deepen and simplify customization and personalization by providing individual user settings that tailor the user experience. Various configurable features could be selected or toggled on or off by the user through a single point of access to the full collection of user settings. Settings available to individual users (via group membership) should be managed globally by the portal administrator. Examples of possible user settings could be theme/skin selection, mobile device access, alert preferences, help preferences, expertise selection, accessibilty options, and others.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater customization and personalization of the portal.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Management of user settings from the institution level down to the per group level.

Will probably add managment repsonsiblity to the portal administrator role.

Executives

Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Users with Disabilities

Able to configure a presentation of the portal that meets their needs.

None

Contextual Help

The portal will provide context specific help for users as they navigate features in the product. This feature could be toggled on and off by the user as well as the portal admin. The contents of the contextual help could be controlled by a content management system to allow for easy customization by individual institutions.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Quicker and greater acclimation to the portal.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Reduced technical support/helpdesk calls.

Probably will increase the responsibility of the portal stakeholders to customize, support, translate, and potentially author contextual help

Executives

Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Portal Administration

As a traditionally undervalued part of the portal, the administration tools are pivotal to the overall impression the portal makes in the marketplace. More over, intuitive and feature rich administration tools make the portal administrator's job easier and hassle-free – therefore increase institutional adoption. The first step in fixing the existing issues with the administration tools is to develop a dashboard-esque view of the tools so that administrators have one central place to access them. Step two would require an in-depth analysis and redesign of UI's and flows to reduce the learning curve and make completion of tasks quicker and easier.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Better user experience due to well-administered portal.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will experience more useful and efficient portal administration with rapid acclimation to intuitive tools.

None

Executives

Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Web Standards

Web standards are technologies and the guidelines and specifications for technologies, established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and other standards bodies, which are used to create and interpret Web-based content.

Web Standards that apply to the portal are:

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Faster download and rendering of Web pages. Less HTML results in smaller file sizes and quicker downloads. Modern Web browsers render pages faster when they are in their standards mode than when they are in their backwards-compatible mode.

Variance of interpretation of and compliance to Web Standards by Web browsers can result in inconsistent user experience.

IT, Portal Administrator

Simpler development and maintenance. Using more semantic and structured HTML makes it easier and quicker to understand code created by somebody else. Compatibility with future Web browsers. Using defined standards and valid code future-proofs your documents by reducing the risk of future Web browsers not being able to understand the code you have used. Simpler adaptation. A semantically marked up document can be easily adapted to print and alternative browsing devices, like handheld computers and cellular phones, just by linking to a different CSS file. You can also make site-wide changes to presentation by editing a single file.

Variance of interpretation of and compliance to Web Standards by Web browsers may necessitate additional knowledge and skill to develop Web Standard solutions for multiple brands and versions of Web browsers.

Executives

Able to declare Web Standards compliance and the positive associations that come with it (currency, best practices, good citizenship, etc.). Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Users with Disabilities

Better accessibility because semantic markup makes it easier for screen readers and alternative browsing devices to interpret the content.

None

Accessibility Law Compliance

In the context of the Web, accessibility is the concept that any user can access all the content of a Web document. Accessible Web content is an important goal for the portal because of:

  • Government laws that apply to higher education institutions (ADA Section 508, for example)
  • Diversity of user agent (browser), language, and culture of the portal users.
  • Users with disabilities

In addition to the American Disabilities Act Section 508 of the United States, disability laws of Canada and Europe (and possibly other countries) should be considered in the development.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater access and usability.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will be able to check off accessibility law compliance when pitching the portal to stakeholders.

Not really a disadvantage, but will necessitate knowledge and application of Accessiblity Law as it applies to Higher Education and the Web.

Executives

Able to declare accessibility law compliance and the positive associations that come with it (the right thing to do, servicing all persons of their instiution, good citizenship, etc.). Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Users with Disabilities

Greater access and usability with consideration for their special needs.

None

WCAG 2.0 priority 1 compliance

The portal should meet WCAG 2.0 Priority 1 Guidelines as a means of accessibility law compliance and to ensure a good user experience for users with disabilities.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater access and usability.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will be able to check off WCAG 2.0 Priority 1 Guidelines when pitching the portal to stakeholders.

Not really a disadvantage, but will necessitate knowledge and application of WCAG 2.0 Priority 1 Guidelines.

Executives

Able to declare WCAG 2.0 Priority 1 Guidelines compliance and the positive associations that come with it (the right thing to do, best practices, good citizenship, etc.). Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Users with Disabilities

Greater access and usability with consideration for their special needs.

None

Text-only rendering

By inplementing an AJAX rendering model, the portal will likely become inaccessible to users with disabilities. According to accessibility laws and guidelines, such a condition necessitates and alternate, accessible version of the same content. Providing a "text-only" version of the content allow users with disabilities to access the content with current assistive and screen reader technology.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

An optional, more simplistic rendering of the presentation that some users may prefer over the default.

Will have to accomodate means of accessing the text-only rendering in the default, rich interface.

IT, Portal Administrator

Will be able to check off accessibility when pitching the portal to stakeholders. A possiblity of the text-only rendering also being used for mobile devices.

Will have to maintain (and possibly develop on) an additional presentation layer.

Executives

Able to declare accessibility compliance and the positive associations that come with it (the right thing to do, best practices, good citizenship, etc.). Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Users with Disabilities

Greater access and usability with consideration for their special needs.

None

Access keys

Access keys are keyboard short-cuts to navigate to specified links that enhance both usability and accessibility.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Greater usability and efficiency.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will be able to check off accessibility when pitching the portal to stakeholders.

None

Executives

Able to declare accessibility compliance and the positive associations that come with it (the right thing to do, best practices, good citizenship, etc.). Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Users with Disabilities

Greater access and usability with consideration for their special needs.

None

RSS and WebProxy Content Addition

Portal users without access to portlet management should be given access to add RSS and WebProxy content to their layout. This kind of personalization is vital to end-user portal adoption. A tool needs to be provided to allow users to add personalized RSS and WebProxy content apart from administration-level portlet management. Additionally, this feature would also need to be enabled or disabled at the institution level.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Able to pull in content of personal interest. Will change the portal to be a place they want to go as opposed to a place they have to go.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will be able to demonstrate personalization and aggregation of content when pitching the portal to stakeholders.

None

Executives

Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

Bookmarking and Deep-linking

The portal will provide page bookmarking and deep-linking from within the portal as well as from external websites. Additionally, it would be worth exploring bookmarklets as a means to pull bookmarks into the portal when surfing the Web.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Able to link to and share with others content inside and outside the portal.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will be able to demonstrate bookmarking and deep-linking of content when pitching the portal to stakeholders.

None

Executives

Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None

The portal should allow portal administrators to add external, non-portal links to link lists and navigation menus to better connect the portal with other institution Web properties.

User Type

Advantage

Disadvantage

Students, Faculty, Staff

Ability to access other institution Web properties from within the portal.

None

IT, Portal Administrator

Will be able to demonstrate linking to other institution Web properties when pitching the portal to stakeholders.

None

Executives

Increased institution cohesion. Greater adoption and a greater success story.

None