Thursday, February 07, 2008

Building Block Definitions (Containers)

In-depth review of containers ...

"... The building block system includes seven types of Containers, beginning with the Tile, and increasing size and complexity to include a collection of interconnected Dashboards or Portals, called a Dashboard or Portal Suite. From smallest to largest, the Container blocks are:

* Tile
* Tile Group
* View
* Page
* Section
* Dashboard or Portal
* Dashboard or Portal Suite

The different kinds of Container blocks in the system play different roles, based on their relative size, in the overall effort to construct dashboards or portals. The smaller blocks—Tiles, Tile Groups, and Views–-enable the display of content, and support users’ interactions with content. Sections, Dashboards or Portals, and Dashboard or Portal Suites–-the larger blocks—enable the navigation, organization, and management of collections of content. Pages straddle the middle of the size continuum; they are the largest block whose role is primarily to provide a framework for display of dashboard or portal content, and the smallest building block which plays an important navigational / organization role in the system. The different kinds of blocks work in concert to enable the creation of a scalable, navigable, and maintainable information architectures that support high-quality user experiences.

The Connectors (described in part four of the series, the next installment) ‘hold things together’; thereby creating navigation paths amongst destinations, establishing a tangible architecture or structure, providing referential cues for orientation with the environment, and allowing movement into and out of the environment. The different kinds of Containers work in concert with Connectors to enable the creation of scalable, navigable, and easily maintainable information architectures that support high-quality user experiences.

Container definitions

Each Container block definition includes:

* Mandatory components
* Optional components
* Stacking size
* Detailed description
* Example rendering (for illustrative purposes only)
* Rendering description

Tile definition

Mandatory components: Tile Header, Tile Body
Optional components: Tile Footer
Stacking size: 1

Tile description:

Tiles are the fundamental building block of the dashboard or portal framework. Tiles locate content and functionality within the coherent information and navigation hierarchy of the larger dashboard or portal environment, while clearly identifying the sources and broader contexts of the information or tools they contain, and offering consistent access to convenience functionality such as printing and e-mailing the Tile contents for use outside the dashboard.

Tiles consist of two required components–-a Tile Header and Tile Body–-and one optional component—the Tile Footer. Tiles may include multiple Control Bars (note: adding multiple Control Bars can quickly increase development complexity and lower usability levels). The Tile Header contains a mandatory Title, optional Subtitle, mandatory source indicator identifying the origins of the content, and may include buttons or links for Convenience Functionality (described in detail in a subsequent part of this series).

The mandatory Tile Body can contain nearly any form of content. Tiles commonly contain text, charts, tables, interactive maps, scrolling news feeds, RSS consoles, video, slideshows, syndicated XML structured documents, links to documents and resources, and complex transactional functionality. Of course, this is only a small subset of the tremendous diversity of Tile-delivered content available in the rapidly growing libraries of widgets published for Apple’s OSX desktop, Yahoo’s widget platform, Google Gadgets, web desktops such as NetVibes, and the many social networking platforms including FaceBook and MySpace. In the end, the range of content that can appear within a Tile is limited only by imagination and ingenuity.

The optional Tile Footer is a structurally consistent location for contextual links, pointers to related destinations and content. The Tile Footer commonly offers links to additional resources or source data in another format (tab delimited, .pdf, etc.), links to other Tiles, Pages or areas of the Dashboard that provide related content or functionality, links to other applications and environments offering comprehensive functionality or information out of scope for the Tile, etc.

The sizes and internal layouts of individual Tiles will vary depending upon several factors including, but not limited to their content, priority vs. neighboring Tiles or blocks, and expectations for reuse.

Many of these interaction behaviors and design best practices are now offered as standard functionality—making them ‘free’ or ‘low-cost’ in design and development terms—by leading business intelligence and portal platform vendors. Additionally, these capabilities are also becoming standard in many general purpose presentation frameworks, including RUBY and AJAX libraries, and the various for-purchase (Adobe AIR, etc.) and open-source development toolkits.

Stacking note: Tiles stacked inside larger building blocks retain their individual Tile Header, Tile Body, and any optional components."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows, Joe Lamantia)    [Usability Resources]

Tile Components and Structure - Usability, User Interface Design

Tile Components and Structure

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