Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rethinking the Architecture of Webmaker

A few weeks back a bunch of us at Mozilla  had a design sprint to begin thinking through what it would mean for someone to come to and experience it as user-not a visitor. We started to come up with a few ideas that push forward our thinking on Webmaker as a product. Some of this thinking is building off our work on Designing the Platform to teach the next generation of webmakers. Here are some takeaways from our latest conversations:

In order for us to convert visitors to users, a few things need to happen:

1. The information architecture of the overall site needs to be revisited
We can't think of as a regular website: we need to develop a strategy for people to immediately engage with making something on the web. This will require us to significantly rethink how we are framing our tools and content. The broad strokes view of this here is that overall, there needs to be less of a focus on tools and more movement towards the opportunity to make something.

The current architecture:

The drafty future sitemap:

click for a legible view!

So the key takeaways here are 1) we are moving away from challenging the user to choose between tool and project- they are at webmaker to make cool stuff- and learn while they are doing that- so let's make it easy for them and 2) overall this is a more personalized experience- there are user profiles, dashboards, content that is unique to the user based on their webmaking history, etc.  You can check out the etherpad where we are working through the details here.

2. Single sign on needs to be implemented 
In order to implement a lot of our vision for Webmaker, we need a single sign on- and a built in value for that sign on. Right now the singular value proposition for signing in to Thimble is badges. Yeah, it's more than just a gaming point, it's embedded assessment- but we could be doing so much more - users could get analytics on their webmaking-what are their trends? The kinds of things that they make on a regular basis-only Popcorn projects?, what kind of code do they prefer? JS, pure HTML? How many remixes have they made? The sign on can happen at several different touchpoints- the landing page- or via a button in the universal navigation.

So the landing page might end up looking more like this:

 or this:
This will affect users in several ways, the least of which---they can actually be "users" of save and share their work, but it also takes me directly to #3:

3. The universal navigation needs to be implemented across all properties

We currently have a version of what could become the universal navigation implemented in Thimble:

Eventually, this is going to live across all webmaker properties and  transform into a more dynamic navigation/dashboard/ toolbar. So for example, instead of just linking to "Projects" it can link to "My Projects"

4. More user- centric content needs to be prioritized 

User centric content will live across Webmaker, so that it becomes a more social platform- and importantly, taps into the social platforms and places that people are already inhabiting on the web outside of webmaker.

One thought is to make a dashboard- that offers users a conceirge to help them figure out what they want to do, but also provides them data about their work, suggestions of things to make based on their usage habits.

Another thought it to build out the gallery to be more social and user friendly- so that might mean that a user can follow other users, or recommend peers for badges, create working groups or collaborative hacking sessions. But for starters---we need a gallery, one that integrates user generated content and mozilla starter projects. It will need to be curated but this can also be done dynamically based on user preferences and interactive filters.

There will also be places for people to store their work, collect assets from across the web and initiate collaborative webmaking.

5. Identify touchpoints for "teaching" or peer mentoring.
This one is a little bit less defined than the others, mainly because we need to work with the Learning/ Hacktivators/Hive/ Community teams to identify the need and opportunity here. In general since we see webmaker as a self directed, online experience similar to physical events like the Mozilla Festival-we want people to be able to share lessons learned easily with their peers.  This probably won't mean one section roped off for educators, but an embedded experience, perhaps when a user makes something-they can share a video documenting their process with a friend--- maybe on publish you are giving a hacktivity kit - there is a lot of interest here, and a chance to be innovative.

So that's the general direction of our thoughts over from the UX camp. It's a lot and it's messy but it's all good. Would love feedback. This week I will be working on building out the Webmaker Product vision. Much of this might morph into something else- but I want to document it so we can trace our thinking. I will post on the vision next week.

Lot's of good thinking is happening all around, however, I recommend reading these posts by Chris Appleton that focus on how we might approach Projects, and User Accounts: