Public Lab Research note

GSoC!proposal: UX/UI QoL Improvements

by eightballocto | April 13, 2021 19:03 13 Apr 19:03 | #26225 | #26225

About me

My name is Michelle; I'm located in a quaint small town in South Dakota. I'm currently a student at Lake Area Technical Institute majoring in Computer Information Systems as a Programming Specialist. My specific interest in the field of programming/development is web development, both back-end and front-end.

Project description

This project is mainly aimed towards the plots2 repository, and aims to improve the site's performance and overall accessibility for all users.


  • Re-organization of the navigation bar
    • Align some items/links to the left, others to the right, depending on their purpose
    • Merge "Store" and "Donate" into a drop-down menu titled "Support Us"
      • Alternatively, have them be in a visible "group" aligned accordingly in the navigation bar.
    • The "search" bar should be moved to the far right and be toggled as either a tooltip or a drop-down via an icon
  • The "Public Lab" header text should link to the home page, not the dashboard.
    • Hovering over Topics should reveal a menu that is similar in style to the other drop-down menus
      • General, high-profile topics will be listed, with the last item being "All Topics" separated by a divider.
      • Alternatively, animate it to be a sliding-toggle animation
        • Clicking outside of the area should close this menu
  • Hovering over "Dashboard" should bring up the drop-down menu instead of just having it be triggered by the user's icon


  • Projects
    • Change it to be an overview of the most high-profile projects, similar to how "activities" are listed on the dashboard, instead of just a list.
    • Limit the amount of "projects" shown to 12 at once and paginate
  • People
    • Limit amount of "people" displayed at once to 8; paginate
  • Events
    • Three options could be considered to make the page easier to navigate:
      • 1. Separate large sections into subpages
      • 2. Move table of contents to top of page
      • 3. "Hide" content until the user scrolls down, only then will it be loaded
    • Limit amount of "events" displayed at once to 12; paginate
  • Dashboard
    • Limit amount of "activities" shown at once to 24 with existing pagination
    • "Issue brief" should be moved to the "Share Your Work" drop-down menu
    • "Questions" tab should show the most recent questions within the past day, hour, or week.
      • Limit to 5 at once; do not paginate, instead, link to the full "Questions" page
    • Add a search component to "Activity" to search for posts or comments by tag names
      • Possibly make it collapsible like the header search bar


  • If a special event is being held, announce it via a dismissable fixed message located at the top of the site (globally)
  • Messages such as those indicating login success or failure should be floating, not fixed.
    • Alternatively, automatically dismiss these "flash" messages after a period of time.


This project aims to make the user experience more enjoyable by fixing or tweaking aspects of the user interface. These changes could also be helpful for users exclusively using a keyboard because of the reduced item count and UX changes.


The most prominent issue that would be addressed here would be issues with the UX being overall unintuitive and clumsy for the average user; feedback from my peers indicates that this is the most common complaint, along with the site being slow---that of which can be solved by limiting the items as per the ideas presented above.


  • Week 1 & 2 --- complete navigation fixes and tweaks
    • Alignment/rearrangement
    • Movement of "Store" and "Donate" to separate drop-down
    • Link header text to home page instead of dashboard
    • Add additional trigger for dashboard drop-down menu
    • Implement collapsible search bar
  • Week 3 & 4 --- Modify "Projects" page + "People" page
    • Projects
      • Re-organization of content in preparation
      • Create area of component(s) displaying high profile projects, taking into account the item limit
    • People
      • Limit the amount of items displayed on the "People" page to speed up rendering
  • Week 5 --- Modify "Events" page
    • Re-organize, remove, or truncate content on the "Events" page depending on group/community consensus
    • Limit the amount of items displayed on the "Events" page to speed up rendering
  • Week 6 & 7 --- Modify "Dashboard" page
    • Move "Issue Brief" to "Share your Work" drop-down menu
    • Show most recent questions under "Questions" tab while providing links to the questions, as well as a link to the "Questions" page itself
    • Add (collapsible) search menu that allows the user to choose between three options for searching: activity name, user, or tag name.
  • Week 8 & 9 --- Implementing miscellaneous features
    • Implement "special event" banner
      • Make sure that administrators are able to assign/create these via some kind of dashboard
    • Modify behavior of some "flash" messages such as log-in success, failure, etc.
      • Log-in --- floating, fade
      • "Welcome" messages and other similar pop-ups --- fade when dismissed, or dismiss automatically after a period of time

Note: New implementations will have tests associated with them, as well as existing features being modified, so more or less time might be required. This is just a roadmap of how things are *expected* to go, feature-wise.


For this project to be successful, I'll need sample data to fill the database (to test the item limiting) and a little guidance on writing tests, as well as the Rails framework --- I do know Ruby, and I am familiar with ORM frameworks, but I have never worked with Rails before in-depth. I'll also need community input on whether some design choices are appropriate or not

(see roadmap above)



I'm currently working on a project (on hold right now) that entails a Discord bot with a gacha-like trading card game that seeks to improve participation in a server's community. I've been working to learn web frameworks like Angular, Vue, and React. My strongest languages right now are PHP, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, and Python. Some other languages that I have knowledge of are Java, C#, Ruby, SQL (MySQL and MSSQL). I have knowledge with a few frameworks such as CakePHP, ASP.NET, JQuery, and Windows forms/.NET. I haven't had a lot of opportunities to contribute to open-source code; a lot of my work has been within the context of schoolwork.

Angular Demo w/routing:

This is incomplete, styling and other features are yet to be added.


Recently, I was involved in a major semester project for my college. We were able to work together to create an application for a fictional publishing company, and we were able to communicate among one another through messages, reminders, and calls. Even now, I talk with my peers about programming and I help them occasionally with their debugging affairs.


I am a web developer; it's always been my passion since I was a young teen. Designing something pleasing to the eyes and wiring up the internals has always been a rewarding experience to me. However, environmental justice is also my passion; I'm a strong supporter of wildlife reservations for wildlife and flora. In my state, South Dakota, where industrialization and economy are the biggest priorities among the loudest voices, I want to be the voice of dissent against the aggressive destruction of habitat and pollution/overharvesting of natural resources in the name of dollars.


My work is aimed at the general user base, making the experience more enjoyable and intuitive for all that use it. Everyone who has a passion for environmental justice should be able to use this site without having any hassle, and I believe my changes will help improve the user experience


I understand that this is a major commitment; luckily, for most of my summer, I haven't much of anything to do. On a typical day, I will do a morning routine and then work on whatever is most priority, or entertain myself with some of my hobbies. If accepted, I will dedicate my mornings and afternoons to this project (about 9AM CDT --- 4PM CDT)


Hi @eithballocto, thank you so much for your proposal. I appreciate the time and work you've put in here and I think the ideas you're proposing are very interesting! However, I think that if you apply again with us, I suggest that you try to focus more narrowly on one or more of the ideas in our Ideas Page:

Different communities work differently, but for us the ideas page is where we highlight the projects we are most interested in for this session, and this comes from our Communities team's input balancing urgency, importance, and other factors.

However I'd like to appreciate your thoroughness and creativity in the proposal you submitted, both of which we value highly, and to overall thank you for your good energy and interest in our projects!

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