Options, choices, preferences, settings

I’ve recently re-read an old post by Joel. It’s more of a book really .. a book on UI design. Chapter 3 is about choices, and especially how the user doesn’t care much about making choices.. he cares about doing his task.

So I got thinking about SemNotes, and the choices I ask my users to make. Some are easy choices, like how often, if at all, the notes should be saved automatically. This one I think is good to have, but if you think otherwise let me know…

There is however another part of SemNotes’ settings dialog. It asks the user to decide what kind of resources to link the notes to. This will make sense to the very few people that have a clue about resources and linking but it is highly unlikely that the average user will know what goes on there, and what am I asking of him to decide on.

I knew from the very moment when I built the damn thing that it was a bad idea, but I really had more important things on my mind then – like how to make the query run faster, how to stop it from getting all people when I typed “person”, and so on .. And like all things that are meant to be temporary, it became permanent.. I’m afraid I was actually getting used to having it there..but I know it has to go..

Currently the situation stands like this:

  • The dialog has 2 tabs: the “General” tab and the “Linked resources” tab. – Now, it’s quite clear what general means, but not exactly so for the “linked resources”. So the first thing i have to do is find a more human name for it… See .. I assumed just there that the tab will still be in place.
  • The “Linked resources” tab contains in turn 2 more tabs .. Crazy, I know 🙂 The tabs are called “Types” and “Ontologies”. This again is quite wrong, because the users should not care or would not know of types or ontologies.
  • The “Ontologies” tab has a selectable list of ontologies available in the system. Only the classes defined in the selected ontologies will be available in the “Types” tab. I thought this complication is needed because of the huge number of classes available in the system, and having them grouped by ontology sort of made sense 🙂 It might not make that much sense for the average user.semnotes-settings1
  • In the “Types” tab, the user can choose which types of existing resources should be linked from the notes. Here another problem becomes apparent: there is a Person type, but also a PersonContact type. I can bet nobody cares about the distinction, other than the developers (and not even them sometimes). So what should be here is probably a list of generic terms like People, Projects and Events. When the user selects one of these categories, the application should know which actual types should be used.semnotes-settings2

What I imagine would make more sense for the users of SemNotes is something like this:semnotes-settings_mockup

or even something nicer, like this:


What do you think?