Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Introduction to the Building Blocks

An introduction to the building block system ...

"Part 1 of this series “The Challenge of Dashboards and Portals” discussed the difficulties of creating effective information architectures for portals, dashboards, and tile-based information environments using only flat portlets, and introduced the idea of a system of standardized building blocks that can effectively support growth in content, functionality, and users over time. In enterprise and other large scale social settings, using standardized components allows for the creation of a library of tiles that can be shared across communities of users.

Part two now outlines the design principles underlying the building block system, and the simple guidelines for combining blocks together to create any type of tile-based environment.

Overview

The building block system is a packaged toolkit that offers standardization across several layers of an information environment, including the information architecture, the user experience, the functionality, and the metadata. As a potential framework for standardization, it is most important to understand that the building blocks are inclusive rather than exclusive, and that they are neutral with regard to any specific software solution, vendor, package, programming language, system architecture, development platform, business rules, enterprise environment, or user experience design guidelines.
Consequently, adopting the building block system and approach – at the right level of formality for a particular set of business, technology, and information architecture needs – can help resolve some of the many problems inherent in flat portlet-only design approaches (the box of chocolates model) regardless of the context. Potential applications or contexts of use for the building blocks include:

• Any experience defined by stock portlets
• Any environment assembled from custom built or customized off the shelf [COTS] tiles
• Intranets and extranets
• Content aggregators
• Collaboration environments and solutions such as SharePoint, eRooms, etc.
• Personal publishing platforms and group authoring solutions
• Wikis and other collaboratively authored knowledge organization structures
• Web-based personal desktop services such as Google and Netvibes
• Mashups services and platforms such as Yahoo Pipes and Google Gears
• Social networking platforms such as Facebook, Myspace, etc.
• The rapidly expanding collections of public domain widgets

The building block system defines two types of information architecture components in detail – building blocks (or Containers), and navigation components (or Connectors) – as well as the supporting rules and guidelines that make it possible to assemble complex user experience architectures quickly and effectively. The block system is not a pre-packaged dashboard or portal design. Instead, it offers modular components you can rely on to work together and grow coherently as the pieces making up a finished dashboard or enterprise portal. Using the blocks will help focus design efforts on the important questions of what content to provide, how to present it to users, and how to manage it effectively.
The complete package includes:

1. Basic principles and assumptions underlying the block system, and how it can complement other design approaches.
2. Assembly guidelines and stacking hierarchy which shows how to combine blocks into larger units while ensuring a sound and consistent information architecture.
3. Modular building blocks of all sizes (Containers)
4. Modular navigation components (Connectors)
5. Standardized Convenience Functionality for blocks, which recommends a baseline set of common capabilities such as export of building block content, printing Tiles, etc.
6. Common Utility Functionality which captures common productivity enhancements and capabilities linking the block-based system to other enterprise systems such as calendars and document repositories.
7. Suggested metadata attributes for blocks that support administration and management needs, as well as important classes of utility functionality including alerting, syndication, searching, collaboration, and system administration."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows)    [Usability Resources]

Openess Principle - Usability, User Interface Design

Openess Principle

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