We thank our Mentors for their very helpful comments and based on their suggestions tried our best to correct and improve our site ^-^
Based on our research on the use of bookmarks, we decided to revise the concept of how users organize and structure them. In interviews with other students who are quite experienced in browsing and friends and family members who only casually move through the internet, we came to the conclusion, based on our results, that most users only utilize the very basic functions provided by the bookmark system as it is today. They set a bookmark and then forget about it or have to search through all the accumulated bookmarks. Only a few people manage their bookmarks in folders. Websites that are not visited regularly often don't even deserve a bookmark and some users even prefer to search the internet again for a specific link, rather than to search through all of their bookmarks. We tried to find a way, to make the organizing and re-finding of bookmarks easier for the user.
The current bookmark system of the Mozilla Browser is unable to handle this problem because it is to elaborate for most users. Even if it is easy to structure something with the folder hierarchy, it just takes too much effort. Not to forget how easily and quickly a bookmark can slip through the cracks, never to be seen again in a 10+ folder structure. Creation of a new folder and the editing of a bookmark itself take time. Users want the creation process and general managing of the bookmark system to be fast and simple, without much editing or maintenance on their side.
Through our research we found out that our test-persons use their bookmarks only for sites they visit regularly and then the bookmarks would most likely be placed in the toolbar, where their position and icon helps to rapidly recognize and open the desired page. That shows us that the positioning and appearance- even as an icon- of a bookmark means more to users than a name or some Meta information they have to laboriously edit and supply.
Our goal is to make organizing bookmarks easier and more effective by introducing a visual, desktop-like display, using drag & drop for grouping/positioning.
We want to use a visual, desktop-like display that users are already familiar with. Everyone that works with a computer knows how to organize and move folders and other things on their desktop around. The creation of a bookmark doesn’t really change that much, the user merely saves the bookmark to the Bookmark Wall and can, if he wants to, choose a folder to save it in. To position it on the Wall he can simply drag it around or drop it into a folder. Through the use of a zoom-function inside of the folders we try to give the user more space so they don’t need to limit themselves to just 100 bookmarks or so. If the space capacity of a folder is maxed out but the user still wants to add more bookmarks, the previews will become smaller and more list-like to accommodate the new bookmarks.
Our solution is more efficient and useful for users because our concept works mainly with visual representations of bookmarks which users are able to identify and recognize effortlessly and swiftly. They can find bookmarks more efficiently through their position and appearance than just through a name, edited or not. We try to motivate and encourage even the users, who don't fanatically organize and maintain their stuff because it is to slow and arduous a task, to use the bookmark system. It is easier for them to organize their bookmarks using their own system and structure with a more visual and graphical representation of the whole bookmark system.
We tested our design using paper prototypes, as it is a fast, simple and reliable method of testing. One can instantly note where a test user struggles or has no problem at all and changing a mistake in the prototype is a matter of mere minutes. We sat three everyday tasks for our users: (a) to create bookmark for the page they were on, (b) to find their way to the Bookmark Wall and to arrange the existing bookmarks as they saw fit and (c) to create a new folder on the Wall and fill it with bookmarks. We tested our prototypes on 5 persons, each with a time limit of 10 minutes but in every case the tested users only needed 5-7 minutes. Our test-persons were media art and media system students.
Overall, the tested users coped very well with the tasks and had no problems with the creation of new bookmarks or new folders on the Bookmark Wall. They intuitively used the bookmark symbol in the toolbar/adressbar to set the bookmark and created new folders by right-clicking on the Wall and choosing the “New Folder” option in the following menu. The most problems occurred in the second task: arranging the bookmarks. Every tested user had trouble to identify the bar that popped up on a mouse-over as the haptic surface on the bookmark. Instead of gripping the bar to drag and drop a bookmark around the Wall, the users always clicked directly on the bookmark, therefore opening it in a new tab. It also emerged the issue of how to mark multiple bookmarks at once and drag them into a folder or around.
We changed the drag & drop process slightly and instead of using a bar as haptic surface to drag the bookmarks around with, they can now be dragged with a click, like folders on a desktop. To mark multiple bookmarks at once the user can now use the same method as on a desktop as well. Additionally, expanding folders and therefore having more space available is controlled through zooming into the folder.
Again, we want to use a desktop-like surface that users are familiar with. Unlike our first concept, you save your bookmarks to an area you built before and can’t drag your bookmarks around the whole surface, only in the chosen area. To set a bookmark the user just drags their tab into the little marked area on the bottom of their site, which can also be hidden. This marked area is also the access point for the user to zoom directly into the bookmark area. To prevent a never ending search for specific bookmarks in the system, we use the browser search bar and modify it so that you can search your bookmarks and not only search engines. Additionally, there is an icon bar to the side, where the most used bookmarks are set with only an icon. To avoid an overwhelmingly cluttered display, area names and the number of subareas are only displayed shortly while hovering the mouse over an area. The zoom is controlled with "+" and "-" which is familiar and easily comprehensible for the user.
We like change, so we used an Illustrator prototype this tme.
As with our first concept, we gave the test users everyday tasks: a) to create and name a new area and b) to save the current page as a bookmark in that area and to open that bookmark. There were some problems with the first task but not with the second. Instead of using the right-click right away to create a new area, they tried to find a button or draw a frame for it, as right-clicking in a browser was already occupied with other things in their mind. Some of the test users also found the aero-like effect bothersome and distracting because it covers, even if only for a short time, a whole area. We tested our prototypes on 5 persons, each with a time limit of 10 minutes but in every case the tested users only needed 5-7 minutes. Our test-persons were media art and media system students.
Overall, it's clear you put a lot of thought into this. You've reacted to user feedback appropriately in your revisions. The immediacy of the visual approach to organizing bookmarks is a good thing and something to explore, but it also brings with it potential problems, such as accessibility or users' preference for an alternative ways to organize them.
I think there are some good concepts here and the changes you've made are well-considered responses to your findings. You identify a couple of major points in your research, namely that current approaches are too complex and managing folders is painstaking. The problem with this astute analysis is now you have to be sure your solution demonstrably solves those problems! I'm not sure it does yet, although with more iteration I'm sure you'd find further efficiencies.
Drag and drop is definitely a familiar and direct interaction, but Jim is right to point out that there are some accessibility concerns, related to both visual and motor skills. Would your solution work well with different input devices? e.g. a trackpad or even a keyboard, as opposed to a mouse?
Visual/spatial metaphors sometimes don't scale well. Your zoom control is obviously an attempt to counter this problem, but do you think there would come a point (eg zoom level, total number of bookmarks or folders) at which the system would have to change more significantly to work at large numbers? For instance, how might you help users to lay out large numbers of bookmarks in order to sift through them?
Your testing methods seem very sensible, and I absolutely applaud your choice of two different prototyping methods. I think your decision to drop the 'grab bar' was sensible, although I can absolutely understand why you added it. I think it's one of those cases where convention (the OSOperating System – for instance Apple's OS X stands for the tenth version of the OS and desktop, in this case) has to rule over a "more correct" solution.
In practical terms, I think Cennydd and Jim have summarized the issues related to this project very well. That said, I don't think you folks have received enough praise for having done more detailed research at all. I think you DID uncover the key problems and made great strides to improve the process, even though your interview methodology and other background information regarding your research is lacking.
Although I agree with Jim when he says that you take for granted that the reader of your proposal understands various terms and techniques, I generally understood what you meant (although a venture capitalist would probably not). And Cennydd is right in pointing out the scalability issues, which I think may be the most serious drawback; I'd like to see if this system can scale to 500+ bookmarks.
But despite these shortcomings, let me be honest, this was one of the projects I liked best. Well done!