Topic: More design problems
One of the commonest tasks I do on the Gateway is to call up the page e.g. https://data.nbn.org.uk/Taxa/NHMSYS0000875083, which shows the taxonomy, synonyms, designations, contributing datasets, and OSGR grid map. For the majority of purposes that gives me all the information I need on one page.
I can get there from https://data.nbn.org.uk/Taxa - my normal entry point to G5 - by typing (usually) 3 characters, a space, and another three characters, followed by one click. In this example ‘and ruf’ gives me my target at the top of the list.
In ALS to get the same information it takes, starting from http://species.als.scot/:
- type an unpredictable string – after a lot of experimentation, the corresponding result is gained most simply by ‘and* ruf*’;
- click on the species name (that gets me also an incomplete list of designations – it is IUCN listed but only SBL appears, and that in so much detail that while it might be useful sometimes, here is not the place to dump it; for other species – try http://species.als.scot/species/NHMSYS0000875953 and scroll to the bottom of the page - the display is even less helpful);
- click on ‘View interactive map’ (that gets me the map);
- to see the datasets needs another click on ‘Data partners’;
- click ‘Names’ and I get synonyms;
- click ‘Classification’ and I get the higher taxa but no synonyms.
So to get the same information as takes 7 keystrokes and a click in G5 to display on one page, ALS needs 8 keystrokes and 4 clicks to view 4 screens – and I still have not seen a complete list of designations.
In passing, while I was trying out the search function, when I got no returns, I was informed that my locality was Plaça del Call, 17520 Puigcerdà, Girona, Spain which links to http://records.als.scot/explore/your-ar … L_SPECIES. This came as a bit of a surprise as I am sitting some 1750 km away in N Scotland. Point 1 – I don’t need ALS to tell me where I am; point 2 – if you are going to tell us where we are, please get it right. (I have been unable to replicate this, but it happened several times as I was exploring the site – and of course that inconsistency is another cause for concern about the robustness of the software.)
Also, most people typing a string into a search box headed ‘Search for taxa’ will be interested in seeing species names returned, not locations. ALS is unselective – type ‘cal ura’ into the box and you get 1 species (Calamagrostis stricta) and 9 localities, but no sign of ‘Calliphora uralensis’.
The navigation is clumsy as well: because calling up the screens adds references to the tabs to the URL, using ‘Back’ does not take you to the previous page, but to the previous tab. If I want to go to the previous tab I can click on its label. If I click ‘Back’ I want to go the previous page (e.g. direct from http://species.als.scot/species/NHMSYS0 … a-partners without revisiting the intermediate tabs).
We are in a position now where G5 is at best unpredictable in performance, and as was told to us yesterday on the forum ‘The technical team have advised that there are general ongoing background rumbles, but nothing that they can actually action as a fix’. We are being told that ALS is the way forward, and we are invited to comment on its current state.
If ALS is to be an improvement over G5, it must be easier and more efficient to use, not the opposite, which is what we have at present. Please listen to the people who provide NBN with the data, and who actually use the data, and implement the changes we ask for.
1 – redesign the search routine on http://species.als.scot/ to work correctly, relevantly and efficiently, and to the same design as search boxes elsewhere on the site (see post above for a similar request);
2 – on accessing e.g. http://species.als.scot/species/NHMSYS0000875953 give us all the summary information that is available on e.g. https://data.nbn.org.uk/Taxa/NHMSYS0000875953 on one screen in a sensible format with the minimum of scrolling;
3 – do not include anything beyond that summary information on this page – if you want to include all the detail of designations put it somewhere else;
4 – throughout the site, redesign pages so that information is easily readable – there is far too much white space, over-large fonts, displays of related information vertical rather than horizontal, etc. which does nothing to aid reading and enforces far too much scrolling;
5 – remove the locality detector routine, or at the very least make it work correctly;
6 – throughout the site, redesign the navigation so that ‘Back’ takes us back to the previous page in one click;
7 – before these changes (indeed any changes) are implemented, ask key users specifically for their opinions;
8 – respond with an assurance that all these points have been logged for action.
To put these comments in context, HBRG supplies G5 with high-quality data at full resolution (except for Badger), for around 1/3 of the land area of Scotland. Currently we have over 200,000 records there, from a large number of highly skilled voluntary naturalists, many of whom submit their records primarily to see them published on the Gateway. We ALL have an interest in seeing an interface that meets the needs of these recorders and the data managers.