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Monday, January 28, 2008

Furl Beta

I was very happy to be included in the Furl beta test group. But I was very sad when I saw the product they've come up with. Maybe over time I'll come to be OK with it, but for right now I just want the "classic" view back. Seems to me they've gone straight from beta to full production release. I wonder if they even got my feedback or read it or whatever. I wasn't very flattering.

For posterity and full disclosure I'll publish my comments here, as is (i.e they're rough). And you can glean from that what is required of a beta tester (if you're not familiar with the idea):

Beta.Furl.net User Questions:

1) General impressions:

a. What do you like about the new user interface?

I haven't seen anything I like so far. I haven't seen anything that makes me say "wow, it's about time" or "hey, this is great"

b. What do you dislike?

The word that comes to mind is "thick". There seems to be a lot of graphical sludge in the way of functionality. And the idoms used are not more clear than they used to be. The furl logo next to each link? unclear what that's for. Why not a tick-box to select multiple items (as used to be there)? Why have a drop-down menu? In my case it drops down off the page when the link is low in the screen. This isn't helpful.

(Sorry, just found "enter bulk edit mode". But why do I have to enter a mode? doesn't seem right to me. Not an improvement on an interface that had both bulk and single edit mode available at any time.)

c. Is there any UI element that you miss from the current production Furl?

I miss the tick-box in the list of links to do mass changes. I must be missing this functionality in the current UI if it's there - which isn't a good sign either. (as above, written before I found the mode change button, but included so you can see my process)

d. Is there any new UI element not currently on Beta.Furl.net that you'd like to see?

2) Getting around the site:

a. What do you think of the new site navigation? (The links at the top of each page and occasionally at the bottom of the page.)

There are too many different colours I think. And the text colour doesn't pop on some of the backgrounds. Specifically the myFurl and Tools bars. They're some sort of grey fade, and the text Tools and myFurl is lt grey. What's up with that?
b. Is it easy to find the Furl content you are looking for?


c. Are you confused about how to get to any page?

Yes. I was confused on how to edit my links. I was using the silent furl button. Then visit my archive and update the comments. I do this a lot. I furl something, then clean up the "general" tags at my leisure.

I wanted to move three or four links from "general" to "science". couldn't figure out how. So I did them one at a time. At the time, I guess, I was in the wrong view, so the only option I was given in the drop-down was to "link to this link" or something like this. Then got a warning that I was putting in a duplicate. Then was passed into a form I could use to update the link details.

after that I realized that I was in the wrong mode or wrong view. But once I switched to the correct view I wasn't a lot more pleased. I like the economy in the previous interface. The little icons towards the right were never clear, but at least once I learned what they were I could click once and get taken where I wanted to go. In the new interface I've got to click on the furl icon and then select the menu item I want. Not a big deal, but not more economical than it used to be. It's not an improvement.

And when I went to move from one label to another (from general to science) got a pop-up warning. Is that really necessary? I'm not deleting it. I'm just moving it. Surely I can be trusted to do that.

3) My Archive page:

a. Can you easily find your "My Archive" page?

I didn't easily find it, so no. Now that I know what I need to do, it'll be much easier. But I would think it would be better to make the myArchive screen look dramatically different to the public view. I want the myArchive view to look like a VT100 terminal or a green-white tractor feed page, and my public page to look like the one provided. They should be different.

b. What do you think of the "filters"? Filters towards the top of the page in the grey area. Are they self-explanatory?

i. Are they simple and straightforward to use?
No. I use filters a lot in excel. These work well. They apply to the data they manipulate. The filters floating above the data are not too helpful. Not very clear. And once you filter, can you "select all" and manipulate things like in gmail?
The drop-downs on the filters are twitchy. I keep losing them while trying to select. Annoying.

And how to reverse the sort?

c. What do you think of the new archive layout?

i. Do you like the ability to see expanded and collapsed views of your archive?
Don't care. I don't see this as valuable. I can have a collapsed RSS. I always/only want to see expanded archive when in furl. But I would like to be able to tell furl how long a page I can see.
ii. Do you like the presentation and choice of meta data shown?

1. (meta data examples: title, link, timestamp, ratings, etc.,)

d. What are your thoughts on the Furl Item Menu? (The orange F icon with a dropdown option next to each item in your archive?)

i. Is it clear that it is an actionable icon?
It was not at first glance. But it took up so much real estate and there didn't seem to be any other palce to go, so I clicked it. But I have to say, not a common interface idiom, so why?
ii. Is the menu easy to use?
Fairly easy to use. I don't like that it'll drop off the bottom of the screen if the link is low on the page.
iii. Do you like the choices in the menu?
No complaints.
iv. General comments?

e. What do you think of the new short URL feature?

I won't use it. I'd rather a human readable URL - i.e. grab the non domain bits of the original URL and use that. But I think there might be legal issues there.

f. What do you think of the sorting options?

i. Are they self-explanatory?
ii. Are they simple and straightforward to use?

g. What are your thoughts of the "Bulk Edit Mode"

i. Is the feature easy to use? no no no. Using a gif or whatever makes for a lag where there wasn't one with tick-box. So I click once, nothing happens I click again, the tick shows up (from the first click) then goes away from the second. That's crap. If it's not instant, I get no feedback, I don't like it.

ii. Is this functionality an improvement over the current Furl bulk editing? No.

iii. Do you use this functionality? Yes. Often.

4) Home page:

a. What do you think of the "centerpiece" (the new Furl logo, the "find, save, share" snapshots)?

Logo is good, but I didn't notice that it was new. I don't know what the ""find, save, share" snapshots" are, so I guess they aren't clear.

b. Is there anything you would add or remove from the Home page?

The big green bar with the smile. What is that? Why?

5) Save dialog box:

a. What do you think of the new Save dialog box?

Same as old, but orange?

b. Is it easy to use?


c. Would you change anything or add any new functionality?

Most popular and most recent links would be nice if we could have a blacklist. There's starting to be some noise on furl. When it first started it was all smart people. But the spammers, pr0n mongers and nuts have found it now too.

d. Do you like the design of the new save dialog box? (Use a beta-version bookmarklet to see it)
sorry didn't do this. I used the silent bookmark button.

6) Most Popular & Latest Headlines

a. What do you think of the new layout for Most Popular & Latest Headlines pages?

As mentioned above, a blacklist, and being able to tell furl how long I want it.

b. Do you like the display elements?

c. Are the menus next to each item self explanatory and convenient to use?

d. Do you use Most Popular or Latest Headlines? If so, how often? Daily.

7) Furl Tools

a. Did you find installation of the Furl bookmarklets straightforward?


b. Did you encounter any issues when installing the bookmarklets?


8) Other feedback?
Not sure what prompted this "upgrade", but I'm not looking forward to it. Will we be able to opt for a "classic" view? Would be nice.

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