So now I am trying to come up with ideas for the new UI for JoVE and it dawned on me that we need to enable people to skim content.  What does that mean?  Let’s define skimming as:

Skimming – quickly looking over content with the possibility of slowing down for things that are identified as interesting.

What does this mean?  This means we need to know:

How we skim: From personal experience, skimming for me is when I relax the eye and simply move it over the page.  A bit like being on the train and letting the surroundings fly by you.  This means that the “modality” of whatever you are looking at is important.  That is:

  • If you skim text and images, the content may be mixed without hurting the skimming process (provided distraction is not taken into account
  • Images might have lower energy of activation as they are easier to ingest

Arrangement: It is easier to skim structured content than unstructured.  That is – tabular presentation is better then freeform.

It is easier to skim content that is concentrated in the same area than spread out.  For example: consider you are looking for salt and you have 100 spices.  How would you rather perform your selection?  By:

  1. Spreading them on the table in random form
  2. arranging them in one line or
  3. by grouping them into a 10×10 grid

Frankly, I am not sure whether 1) random placement or 3) grouping into grid would be better, but I suspect 3 would perform best as the eye quickly becomes accustomed to the structure of items on the page.

Next Step: when skimming, it is good to have an ability to see an elaboration on the content that may seem interesting.  That is, you might want to see an abstract.

Another aspect is that, when skimming, we want to be able to define what we would like to skim.  Are we looking to skim titles, keywords, authors, comments, etc.?

So, conclusions:

  • Need to include pictures (they can shift to videos when the mouse is over them)
  • Items need to be grouped into a grid
  • No need to show abstracts when presenting for skimming (although option should remain available)
  • Best to limit amount of information per item and make it customizable

Now I should run some mock-ups to see what works and what doesn’t…

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Filed under Musings, Theory

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