AVH and EWS Interface Design

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At the 2006 HISCOM meeting, Ben Richardson proposed that a new design be made for the AVH and EWS. This document represents the outcome of Action 25 from that meeting: "Form a short-term subcommittee to look at the AVH and EWS interface design and report at the next HISCOM Teleconference." The new design presented to HISCOM is available for interest but it represents a basis for this document, not a completed design.

The new design was intended:

  • To provoke comment
  • To illustrate the use of modern HTML and CSS design
  • To fix many of the inadequacies in the current AVH page layout

The new design was never intended to be a completed design, especially in terms of colour and the more minor considerations in a design such as spacing. The focus of this document is the current AVH design, particularly the Simple Query and AVH Map Display pages. It is hoped that the general ideas presented here might inform a redesign of the current EWS.

Simple Query

Compare the current Simple Query and the new design.

There is a navigation bar (moved from the bottom of the page in the current design) that permits the user to determine where they are in relation to the rest of the site's content. The page title and the top-level page heading have been made similar to prevent confusion. The page layout is clearer because whitespace and subheadings have been used to separate the different parts of the page. The page is thus grouped into sections that are self-explanatory. The form is set to output a map to screen by default, as this is the most common method by which users visualise the information. Javascript has been used in some instances to make it easier to fill in the form. If the user selects "ABCD" from the "File Format" section of the form, the "Output to Data File" radio button is automatically selected. Additionally, the checkbox and radio button form elements can now be toggled by clicking on the text next to the box or button because the HTML uses <label> elements.

AVH Map Display

Compare the current AVH Map Display and the new map display design.

The query terms are formatted properly as taxon names, e.g. Acacia paradoxa, not as plain text query terms, e.g. 'Query: acacia paradoxa;'. The scale bar is closer to the thing being scaled, namely the map. The layers and other options that cause the map to be redrawn are on the same side of the map to avoid making the user criss-cross the map to complete a task. Informational content is on the other side of the map from those elements that cause the map to be redrawn. Layers and herbaria are given their official english names, not acronyms. The number of records retrieved is displayed in a table style to make it easier to see that the results make sense. Those things that matter least or will be used least often, such as the small map of the region are displayed below those things that matter most or will be used most often.

Other Considerations

  • The colour of the map could be better. Those by the Bureau of Meteorology are nicely done.
  • Whether the taxon names are formatted vertically or horizontally is not a high priority, however it is easier to understand something if it is formatted in a way that the information is commonly formatted.
  • Page HTML should validate with only warnings against the W3C HTML Validator.
  • Page CSS should validate with only warnings against the W3C CSS Validator.
  • Page design should in general follow the principles noted in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Many Australian jurisdictions now have this as a requirement for content published by government departments.
  • Pages should be designed to work best in those browsers that best implement the W3C standards, and to deform gracefully in older or less conformant browsers. At present this means designing for Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 7. The pages should work acceptably in IE 6.
  • Use of proprietary object embedding methodologies, such as ActiveX should be avoided as this prevents the site from working on operating systems that don't have ActiveX-enabled browsers.
  • Pages should be tested on all target browsers.

Subcommittee Members

The following subcommittee members have reviewed this document prior to presentation to HISCOM: