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Improving the Nucleus GUI

I’ve been using Nucleus for a year or two now. I chose Nucleus for rakaz.nl based on some positive previous experiences. I was already used to it, so it was a natural choice. Despite all the positive aspects of Nucleus, I’ve always felt there was room for improvement. The reason I started developing plug-ins for Nucleus was born out of this feeling.

Roel, one of the developers, invited me to join the discussion about how to improve the user interface of the administration console. The goal is to improve the usability and get rid of clutter.

My take is that the internal Nucleus navigation should be better focussed on tasks users undertake. Common tasks should be available imediatelly, while functionality that is only used once a year can be hidden from day-to-day use. For example, the navigation menu provides a link to the ‘Action log’ (to admins) that I hardly use. And I cannot imagine the skin import/export functionality is often used.

I wholeheartedly agree with Roel. The 90/10 rule dictates that 10% of the features is used 90% of the time. Making those features more prominent in the new user interface and ‘hiding’ the other 90% will certainly help make the interface less cluttered and easier to understand.

There is one other aspect I want to bring to the table. The basic feature set of Nucleus and plug-ins. Plug-ins are currently a usability horror, because they are limited in how they integrate in the already existing user interface.

One main example is the Trackback plugin, for which I am working on an administration interface. Ideally the Trackback plugin would insert an extra item, called ‘Trackbacks’ between ‘Comments’ and ‘Bookmarklet’ into the ‘Your weblogs’ list on the main admin page. Clicking on the ‘Trackbacks’ button would show all trackbacks for that particular weblog. Similarly if you click on ‘Edit/Delete’ and view the list of stories you would have an extra button called ‘Trackbacks’ inserted in the ‘Actions’ column.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. The only way is to create an administration interface completely separate from the already existing interface. Sure, you can use a convenient ‘Quicklink’ to reach that interface, but it is still completely separate.

How can this be solved? If you are going to redesign the user interface I would love to see a reliable method for plug-ins to insert extra functionality into the already existing interface.

A completely different discussion is whether or not Trackback functionality should be build right into the core of Nucleus. If it is part of the core, just like comments, it could be far better integrated into the user interface. There are a couple of other plug-ins that provide ‘core’ functionality, which could or should be integrated right into the core.

5 Responses to “Improving the Nucleus GUI”

  1. drboblog wrote on February 1st, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    I have just read an interesting article on Rakaz’s blog about how Nucleus CMS could be improved.

  2. DrBob wrote on February 1st, 2005 at 10:26 pm

    Is it just me, or is the templating/themeing interface a little confusing to use??

  3. Roel wrote on February 2nd, 2005 at 8:31 pm

    Great to read your analysis of Nucleus, and the possible improvements. You are definitely echoing some of my thoughts.

    The problem here: the idea behind Nucleus is that it is a small core, that is easily extendable through a powerful plugin architecture. The architecture is there, but the integration with the UI is lacking.

    If we want to improve that, we need to extend the Nucleus functionality so plugins can subscribe/connect to certain area’s of the user interface. This is still only possible though blo goptions and member options.

    A good example are the Trackback, Blacklist and CommentControl plugins. These should appear with individual items, and on seperate pages (Latest comments/Blacklisted comments/Trackbacks for a blog, and for the entire Nucleus install). One of the issues you run into when implementing that: Where in the interface should they appear? before certain options? after certain other functionality?
    How will cross-linking the different parts of the UI affect the system as a whole?

    Hmm, I need to think further on this. But first I’ll link to this item on the Nucleus Dev mailing list. Thanks again for the feedback!

  4. Verbal Jam wrote on February 2nd, 2005 at 10:32 pm

    This one of the best designed Nucleus sites I’ve ever seen! Maybe even the best! So it’s very promising that you take part in the discussion about Nucleus’ user-interface. ;-)

    I’m looking with envy at the way you designed this comment box. At my own blog I’m struggling with that for a long time already… ;-)

  5. Nico wrote on February 8th, 2005 at 10:22 am

    First experience comment:

    One thing I had difficulties with was the "Settings" in the admin GUI. There are three (3) different settings pages. The Global settings, settings and settings. This could be more user friendly. Global settings is ok, but the two other settings could be combined or somehow put more close to each other. As an example same values are asked for in both settings – URL and Website Address (URL). Would be preferable to use the same namings everywhere.

    Otherwise I think the admin GUI is quite user friendly and easy to use.