Ask me anything about: The site building study!

As you may remember, back in December a small group of curious-minded people embarked on a research study with the aim to learn more about how end users think about site building.

Since the results have been out for a little while now, @jarahsames and I are going to be hosting a walkthrough of the results as well as a Q&A session, live on video! Join us at 19:00 UTC, Monday, 18 March to learn more and ask all your burning questions.

The session will cover:

  • The goals and aims of the study
  • How the research was planned and performed
  • Findings and insights
  • How you can get involved with future research efforts
  • Answers to all your burning questions!

The session will be recorded and shared here, so if you can’t make it live, you can always catch up later. It should take around an hour, depending on how many questions there are. If you can’t make the session or would like to pre-share your question(s), please drop them in the comments below, and Sarah and I will be sure to answer them during the Q&A portion.

The Zoom link for the session is here, and will also be shared to #research just prior to the session. See you Monday!

#gutenberg, #research

Open invitation: Become a WordPress researcher!

User research is key to ensuring that software meets users’ needs. With user research efforts ramping up across the project, now is a great time to get involved!

You don’t need to be a designer (or a developer, or a tester!) to become a researcher. All you need is a curious mind and a desire to help improve products for users.

Upcoming studies

With the site building study wrapped up, the next research efforts will be focussing on usability testing of new features. Coming up this month:

Get involved!

Anyone can become a researcher! You can start as a silent observer. This is the easiest way to get involved. You join the call as a silent, invisible participant to see how it works, and you can share your observations with us in Slack after the session.

If you’re ready for the next step, you can help by taking notes or even running a session. You can also help by contributing your observations after the fact, watching video recordings, or compiling results. There are guides and support available for all of these tasks, as well as lots of friendly faces in the #research channel in Slack to answer any questions you may have.

If you’d like to be involved in one of the research studies listed above, please comment here or ping myself, @sarahmonster in Slack, and I’ll get you set up and ready to go.

#gutenberg, #research

Video: Accessibility walkthrough of navigation menu block designs

Yesterday, @lukepettway was kind enough to sit down with me and walk through my and @melchoyce‘s initial ideas for a menu block design, in order to catch any areas that could be problematic from an accessibility standpoint.

Video recording and transcript

#gutenberg, #menus

Proposal: Navigation menu block design

After collecting feedback and discussing areas of the problem individually, @melchoyce and I have circled back to a proposed combined direction for the navigation menu block.

What problem are we trying to solve?

Building navigation menus for a website is a fragmented process that’s difficult to understand and visualise. It relies on a pre-existing understanding of the model WordPress uses to organise menus and doesn’t map to users’ understanding of how navigation menus should work. There are multiple different ways to create a menu (Customizer, Appearance > Menus, widgets) that all offer slightly different experiences, increasing confusion. Creating a link to certain parts of the site often requires manual work.

Principles

The core principles followed here:

  1. Any interactions that are required by a majority (over 50%) of users exist in the block interface itself.
  2. Advanced controls are moved to the block inspector in order to progressively reveal complexity.
  3. Switching between advanced and basic interactions is made simpler by links.
  4. The editing state of the block itself should mimic as closely as possible the front-end output.
  5. Use technology and data to make smart decisions for the user so as to limit the number of decisions they need to make.
  6. Users should be able to create pages from the menu interface if these pages don’t already exist on their site.

There’s a great deal of complexity that goes into a navigation menu (multiple levels of nesting, mega menus, social links, etc), but the majority of users require a very simple menu—a collection of links to the main sections of their site.

After a productive discussion in the #design meeting of 13 February, Mel and I decided to create slightly different experiences for core interactions and advanced interactions. For the majority of users, everything they’ll need to build a simple menu will be available in the block interface itself. Smart defaults help users get up and running as quickly as possible, so they may only need to make a few small adjustments to the out-of-the-box configuration of the block. For advanced users who want fine-grained control of complicated menus, a suite of advanced tools is available in the Inspector.

You can see how these interactions are classified in this diagram:

Diagram of core and advanced interactions.
Core interactions are blue, advanced interactions are pink.

Proposed Solution

The core (in-block) UX flow.
The core (in-block) UX flow.

When you first add the navigation menu block, Gutenberg will use some underlying code-magic to try to automatically generate a menu for you, based on a number of different factors including any pre-existing saved menus, where you’re inserting the menu on your site, and what content you already have set up. 

What your default menu might look like.

Once you’ve created a menu, you can delete items quickly using the delete on your keyboard, or you can delete them using the traditional block settings ellipsis menu.

To rearrange elements in your menu, select the menu item you’d like to move and either use the drag handle or the “move left” and “move right” buttons to shift it. Advanced options and hierarchy management exists in the inspector. 

Navigation item settings.

One level of hierarchy is visible in the block itself. By default, sub-menus are hidden in the block interface, but they can be toggled on and off using the drop-down icon. For more complex hierarchical structures, an inspector panel opens and allows for legacy-style reordering and nesting of navigation items. 

A sub-menu displayed.

To add an item to your menu, start typing or use the “+” button. The placement of the “+” button shifts depending on which item is currently selected, so you don’t need to add new items at the end and then move them up.

Adding a new item to a navigation menu.

Adding a new menu item pulls up a search interface, similar to adding an inline link or a button. The search returns all relevant content across your site, regardless of what content type it may be. Icons are used to provide additional context as to what type of content is being returned. From here, you can also opt to create a new page or enter the advanced mode to browse your content and bulk-add items.

If you’d like to dive more deeply into the finer points of discussion, there are a series of Github issues for discussing different parts of the interaction:

There’s also a Figma prototype that you can play with or leave comments on directly. Note that it’s under construction, so not everything works perfectly yet.

Get involved

At this stage, broad feedback would be extremely useful. 

  1. Overall, does this feel like a sensible direction? 
  2. Is there another approach that might work better?
  3. What’s the most elegant way to handle nested menus?
  4. How can advanced reordering be made as simple and user-friendly as possible?

If you have feedback on a specific element or interaction, it’s best to leave that in Github or Figma. If you’d like to remix or improve this work, please feel free to create a new page in Figma, or duplicate the whole document itself, and share here in the comments.

Next steps

These designs are a work in progress and will be iterated on based on your feedback as well as usability testing results. 

@lukepettaway and I will be meeting up later this week to do a walkthrough of the proposal and identify any potential accessibility problems in this design.

Mel and I will be working on a plan for usability testing of this prototype. If you’d like to be involved or sit in, please join us in #research at 18:00 UTC tomorrow, Tuesday 26 February for a text chat. More details will be posted here once those details have been hammered out. If you’re interested in helping with usability testing, there will be lots of opportunities to get involved!

#gutenberg, #menus

Learning about site builders (Site building study #4)

These are the results of a user research study investigating mental models related to building and customising a website. Results are split across five posts:

Background | Segments: Bloggers · Small Businesses · Site Builders | Conclusions

The research group sorted participants into three segments, based on their current understanding of how people use WordPress. These segments are based on a handful of data points and warrant further study to confirm the categories. For now, these segments allow researchers to group WordPress’ extensive userbase into behavioural categories and learn characteristics specific to each group.

For this study, we focussed on three segments: bloggers, small businesses, and site builders (people who build sites for others). Today we’re going to learn more about site builders.

Site builders are people who make sites for others. Site builders often start as bloggers or small businesses. Having taught themselves to build websites, they are now progressively leveraging their skills to earn additional income. They tend to work for friends, acquaintances, or people in their professional networks and often barter or don’t charge much for the websites they build.

Let’s learn more about site builders!

#gutenberg, #research

Learning about small businesses (Site building study #3)

These are the results of a user research study investigating mental models related to building and customising a website. Results are split across five posts:

Background | Segments: Bloggers · Small Businesses · Site Builders | Conclusions

The research group sorted participants into three segments, based on their current understanding of how people use WordPress. These segments are based on a handful of data points and warrant further study to confirm the categories. For now, these segments allow researchers to group WordPress’ extensive userbase into behavioural categories and learn characteristics specific to each group.

For this study, we focussed on three segments: bloggers, small businesses, and site builders (people who build sites for others). Let’s learn about small businesses next.

Small businesses are the most varied group since businesses range widely depending on their nature. This is a difficult group to generalise about and researchers observed a diverse range of experiences.

Let’s learn more about small businesses!

#gutenberg, #research

Learning about bloggers (Site building study #2)

These are the results of a user research study investigating mental models related to building and customising a website. Results are split across five posts:

Background | Segments: Bloggers · Small Businesses · Site Builders | Conclusions

The research group grouped participants into three segments, based on their current understanding of how people use WordPress. These segments are based on a handful of data points and warrant further study to confirm the categories. For now, these segments allow researchers to group WordPress’ extensive userbase into behavioural categories and learn characteristics specific to each group.

For this study, we focussed on three segments: bloggers, small businesses, and site builders (people who build sites for others). Let’s learn about bloggers first. (Hat-tip to @jarahsames who studied this segment!)

Bloggers wear many different hats: they are the writers, admins, and IT for their websites.

Learn more about bloggers

#gutenberg, #research

Background (Site building study #1)

These are the results of a user research study investigating mental models related to building and customising a website. Results are split across five posts:

Background | Segments: Bloggers · Small Businesses · Site Builders | Conclusions

Results have been compiled from the sitebuilding research conducted at the end of December, and a report is ready. Make a cup of tea, it’s a long one! 🍵

Huge thanks to @jarahsames, @alexislloyd, @bengrace, @benrearick, @bph, @cathibosco, @chrisvanpatten, @designsimply, @evawong, @johngough, @joshuawold, @karmatosed, @lilibet, @lonelyvegan, @mapk, @melchoyce, @mkaz, @msdesign21, @nao, @paaljoachim, @pento, @thedezzie, @tmmbecker, @tobiasziegler, @xarisgn, and Melissa Vander Wilt for helping to make this happen. Research like this takes a village, and it was fantastic to have so many people jumping in to lead sessions, take notes, share insights, and sift through all the data. Thank you for all your hard work! 🌟

If you have any questions about these results or would like to conduct your own research, please drop into the #research channel in Slack and say hello.

With that said, let’s dive into the full report! There’s a lot of information to digest, so this will be split into five sections (see discussion), to be shared here over this week and next.

Background information

#gutenberg, #research

Discussion: where do we publish and store research results?

The research group has a report ready to share as part of the sitebuilding research. Since it’s quite long, the group would like to choose the best place to publish it.

This report should be stored with other research results in the future, since these are likely to build upon and enhance one another. It’s best if these resources are easy to find and access. They should be something that everyone contributing to WordPress can refer back to in coming months and years.

This was discussed in Slack, but let’s open the conversation to more people.

Where should this type of content live?

  1. In a series of posts on make/design
  2. On a static page on make/design, announced with a post on make/design
  3. In a static Google document linked to make/design post
  4. Somewhere else?

This research is ready to publish, so please share your preference by leaving a comment on this post no later than Thursday, 31 January 2019. Thank you!

#gutenberg, #research

Sitebuilding research: what’s next?

Happy new year, everyone! In December, a team of intrepid designers, developers, and WordPress people banded together to learn more about WordPress’ end users. In total, the team chatted with seventeen different people over seven days. Huge thank-yous to everyone who joined in—you’re all 🌟s!

Now it’s time to sift through the data and pull out some insights. This will happen over the next two weeks. Here’s the current plan:

Timeline

Deliverables

  • Key takeways (no more than ten)
  • Recommendations (to inform product decisions)
  • A mental model of sitebuilding for each identified segment
  • A customer journey for each identified segment

These artefacts will be used to guide the product direction of Gutenberg Phase 2—and possibly beyond!

Want to get involved?

Many hands make for light work, and many brains make for more insights and less bias. You don’t need to be a designer, and no prior research experience is necessary. Pop into the #research channel in Slack, ping @tinkerbelly or @jarahsames, or comment here if you’d like to join in on any of the stages.

#gutenberg, #research, #site-building