• User Interface Brief

last modified April 20, 2016 by strypey

Detailed User Interface Design Brief


General Thoughts About Word Choice

Perhaps, where possible, instead of geeky words like "login", "blog", and "wiki", it would be good to use words that are more welcoming and familiar to permies (think gardeners, earth builders, farmers, design teachers etc). Imagine the website as a community garden, where members visit and plant things, and the general public can visit and see what's been planted, maybe even have a nibble on what's growing there. 

  • Instead of "login", how about "enter" or "introduce yourself"? (NANDOR: I think log-in is ok as people are used to that - although 'sign in' might be better as it is reminiscent of entering a club
  • Instead of "submit", how about or "publish" or "finish" or "plant"? (N: I think publish - the others are a little ambiguous)
  • Instead of "blog", how about "news"?   (N; Agree)


Separation of Functions Using Login 

Site Visitor
The home page that a first-time user sees needs to be a window into permaculture in general, and PiNZ as an organisation. The information on that first page should be aimed at the general public, and particularly users like researchers, journalists, students doing assignments on sustainable design etc. The front page should either provide (or a provide easy-to-identify links to) answers to general questions like (in a rough order of priority):

  • what is permaculture? 
  • what does PiNZ do? 
  • where can I do a PDC course? 
  • what other permaculture-related activities are going on, especially where I live? 
  • who can I contact for more info about activities going on where I live? 
  • where can I find more info about the organisation (current Council + other officers, governance records etc)? 
  • how do I become a member of the organisation and how much does it cost? 
The tag cloud is one way to see at a glance where to find information (of various kinds) about specific things. 

Site User
Once a user has created a user account and logged in, we can presume they don't need the introductory information. The home page they see needs to answer more specific questions like:

  • where can I do a PDC course? 
  • what other permaculture-related activities are going on, especially where I live? 
  • who can I contact for more info about activities going on where I live? 
  • where can I find more info about the organisation (contacts for current Council/ other officers/ staff; governance records etc)? 
  • how do I become a member of the organisation and how much does it cost?

PiNZ Member

One a user has become a financial member of PiNZ, they don't need any information about how to become a PiNZ member, but the rest of the questions in the section above are still relevant. The same part of the page that supplied info about how to become a member, could now be used to supply information about:

  • how long they have been a member for
  • when they next need to pay membership dues
  • governance info (links to Council/ other officers/staff contacts, last AGM minutes, Council meeting minutes etc)

Part of the intention here is to encourage people to get into the habit of logging in whenever they visit the site. That way, there's not an extra process barrier to contributing content (comments, events etc).


User/ Group Profiles

Users can contribute content to the site either as individuals, or as members of a group or organisation. Any user-generated content is accompanied by the username and profile picture of the user who published it. Each user has a profile page visible only to other users who are logged in, containing a record of content they've published on the site (comments, events, news pieces etc). Profiles may also contain user-selected personal information (eg bioregion, interests) to facilitate networking and collaboration among users.

Respect for Privacy/ Pseudonymity 

Users can easily control what (if any) personal information is displayed on their profile. Users will be encouraged but *not* forced, to use the same name they would write on a name label at a Hui as their username, and to use a profile picture that would allow someone who met them at a Hui to recognise them when they post on the site. The site should only provides settings that offer differing levels of privacy if we are confident we can maintain them consistently during upgrades and future rebuilds of the site. It would be better to say "all information on your profile is visible to anyone other user of the site", and let people add only info they want visible, than to say "click here to display this to other users" only to find that other users can see it whether they do or not.  

User stories

  •  A logged in user wants to edit the information about them held on the site (eg update their bioregion, change their profile picture). Clicking 'edit profile' opens a web form/ pop-up where they can make their changes, and clicking 'save changes' takes them back to their read-only profile page, as it appears to any logged in user.
  • A logged in user wants to learn more about the person or group who has published an event or made a comment. Clicking on their username or profile picture takes the users to that person/group profile page. 

Events and Bioregions

These two are intertwined, as one of the main purposes of the bioregions system will to help people find events/ contacts in the area they live in, or will be visiting.

Events - Background

We want to re-implement events pages (currently divided into PDC Courses, Short Courses, Other Events), using the CiviCRM events back-end, so that events are listed beginning with the most imminent, and they disappear automatically into a searchable archive when they are finished.

PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) Courses and other multi-day events have been implemented separately from one-day events, as it's difficult to visualise both on the same calendar display. Medium-to-long term, we'd like to integrate the course listings with the payment system, so our teaching members can run registrations and payments for their courses through our CiviCRM instance. This also helps PiNZ give each PDC graduate their first year of PiNZ membership gratis.

Events - Guiding Questions 

  • is 'Courses' limited to PDC courses by accredited teachers?  (NANDOR; yes) If so, how do we make sure that's what shows up? Do we get people to add their courses as general events first, then make it someone's regular task (PEG convenor?) to promote them to 'Courses' as appropriate? (N: IMO - Say very clearly that only affiliated teachers can advertise. Have a link to how to get affiliated for those not. Rely on people complaining if non-affiliated courses are being advertised. Ultimately it would be nice if only people whose profile shows that they are an affiliated teacher can access the function, but I think a complaints based process is fine. Double handling sounds like a recipe for problems)
Events - user stories:
  • a person new to permaculture wants to find out what events are on in their area. They go to the homepage, and see the events and courses boxes collating data from the whole country. They can limit results to a specific bioregion by selecting from a (drop-down menu? map of the country with clickable bioregions?)
  • a regular user of the site, using from home, wants to find out what permaculture events are on in their area. They login to the site, and it automatically applies the filter for their home bioregion (using the compulsory bioregion info they gave when they created their account). 
  • a regular user of the site is travelling, or intending to travel, and wants to find out what permaculture events are on in the area(s) they will be in. They login to the site. They click a 'travelling' button and select the bioregion they intend to visit from a (drop-down menu? map of the country with clickable bioregions?) (N: Rather than 'travelling' I'd have a button that says 'see what is happening in other regions'. More idiot proof.
  • a PiNZ member wants to add an event to the site. When logged in, they see an 'add event' button. They click this button, fill in the web form/ pop-up with the information about their event. They have to choose a bioregion where the event is happening. They can click 'preview' to see a preview of their event as it will look to another member who is logged in, or just click 'publish' and go the their newly-created event page. (N: What happens is they don't choose a bioregion? How do they select if the event is not region specific eg a web seminar - will it come up in bioregions as well as national? Maybe there needs to be a 'select all' option)
  • a PiNZ member wants to edit an event they have published. When logged in, they browse to the event page they created. Clicking 'edit' brings up the same web form/ pop-up they used to publish the event. When they have made their changes, they click 'publish changes'.

Bioregions -Background

 The aim is to establish a series of subsites on permaculture.org.nz for various bioregions, eg taranaki.permaculture.org.nz or nelson.permaculture.org.nz. these will have an introduction to the region (geographic/ecological description), regional events list, regional blogs and discussions, contacts and directory. A regional moderator user will be created for each section, with elevated privileges (the log-in to this may be shared among several people looking after this).

What we need Fuzion to help us with is the mechanics of bioregionally tagging elements on the site (eg event listings), perhaps using the tag engine we installed to power our tag cloud. Also, integrating with CiviCRM, so that when a user logs in, it supplies their bioregion (if they have given one), allowing the site to serve the appropriate bioregional subsite. Users also need to be able to easily click through to the main site, or to other bioregional subsites if they are travelling, and easily change their bioregion settings in case they move areas.

Bioregions - Guiding questions:

  • Where does bioregion-specific information fit in the site map?
  • Do the bioregion-specific interfaces act as subsites with substantially difference properties from the main page, or are they just a bioregional filter applied to the main page (events, news etc)? Are there two different page designs and back-end functions here? (N: filter sounds easiest to me, not that i'd know - either way,  lets not make unnecessary work)
  • If our intention is for members to mostly interact with the site through their bioregional subsite/ bioregionally-filtered page

User stories for bioregions:
  • newcomer to PiNZ browses to permaculture.org.nz, there is a prominent button/ link at the top of the page that says something like 'what's happening in your bioregion?', user clicks it and choose a bioregion by selecting from a (drop-down menu? map of the country with clickable bioregions?)
  • user logs in using the normal method, the default behaviour is to take them to their bioregion subpage 
  • a logged in user wants to go back to the national page, they click the prominent button at the top of the page that says 'Return to Main Page', which takes them there.
  • a logged in user has clicked the link that takes them to the national page, and wants to go back to their bioregion page. They click the button in the same location that says 'return to your bioregion'.
  •  a bioregional editor sees content (eg events, news) on the main site about something happening their bioregion, but it's not coming up in their bioregion page. They can click on a bioregion tag and set the bioregion appropriately.


Blogs/ Forums

Guiding questions:

  • who is the target audience for user-generated content? If there is more than one (eg general public, members), which is the most important one for the site to serve well? (N: BOth but IMO this is the public face first and foremost. It is the portal into permaculture, once in people can more easily access the resources they need)
  • what do we want to achieve by encouraging members to post content to the site? (N: build a sense of community, share inspiration and stories and info) (btw are there ways we can encourage people even just to give feedback to posts? An equivalent of a like button or something?)
  • which is more welcoming and user-friendly for our members, the forum or the blogs? 

It seems pretty clear to me that having both of these functions on the site is confusing to users, as they are essentially duplicating the same thing; a block of text submitted by any user, that any other user can comment on. There are a few things we could do: 

  • get rid of blogs and actively encourage members to regularly use the forum. Upsides: less confusion about where members should post their contributions. Downsides: people have just started getting used to posting blogs instead of creating forum topics, and such a change would confuse them all over again. 
  • get rid of forum and actively encourage members to regularly use the blogs. Upsides: less confusion about where members should post their contributions, people are getting used to using the blogs. Downsides: where do we archive the forum content for historical reference? 
  • encourage members to use the forum for asking questions and networking. Limit the scope of blogs to reporting the activities and accomplishments of PiNZ as an organisation (eg meeting minutes, reports from officers etc), and limit posting rights to Council members and other officers (eg PEG convenor?), and perhaps paid staff and others involved in day-to-day management (while allowing any user to comment). Upsides: there is a space specifically for members to learn what the organisation is doing. Downsides: people have just started getting used to posting blogs instead of creating forum topics, and such a change would confuse them all over again. 
  • replace both with a Loomio group, or a Discourse forum and integrate into the site. Upsides: modern tools designed for user-friendly community engagement. Downsides: more work to set up and maintain separate software.

    (Nandor: I think there are two different functions - people sharing ideas, news, having a brag is best on a blog IMO. People asking questions is best on a forum. Can we have an 'ask a permie' thing where people can ask technical questions instead of a full blown forum? A follow on question - how do we archive and make retrievable news snips and answers to questions? I guess through tags or something?



When Council members have wanted to survey the members about things, such as the 10 year strategy, and PiNZ members have carried out surveys as part of Diploma research or other permaculture-related activity, the tool used in most of these cases was the web-based survey tool SurveyMonkey. If SurveyMonkey can offer this service on their website, it's reasonable to think that we can create a system on our website where members can set up surveys, and other members can login and fill them out (anonymously if desired), with all the resulting information stored safely in our CiviCRM database in Aotearoa, instead of some server somewhere run by the US company that runs SurveyMonkey.