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Possible UI Designs for the Moderators Toolset

Created By: Joe Morel
Date: August 14, 2006


This is a short document to describe the different UI paradigms that are possible with the toolset and the pros and cons of each. If you are a contributor or developer on the project, please feel free to add your comments inline with this wiki page.

IE Toolbar

Using an Internet Explorer toolbar, we would create a platform from which searching, tagging, question assignment, and other moderation could easily happen, while creating other buttons that could launch complimentary pieces of the toolset. An IE toolbar can not be written in pure .NET, so necessary expertise in creating COM plug-ins for IE would be beneficial.

ritchiep: I'm pretty sure a pure .NET plug-in could be written for IE; but, not without consequences.
  • Familiar paradigm
  • Functionality could be easily integrated once the toolbar was created
  • Native code, possibly difficult
  • Requires Internet Explorer
  • Possible compatibility issues with IE 7?

ritchiep: I'm not using IE 7 yet anyway :-). I like the idea of an IE toolbar. It has the following over yet-another-application (YAA):
  • Extensible: could work with other IE toolbars (like Google toolbar, community toolbar/pane).
  • Compatible: Works with existing configurations, when I get email notifications of forum posts the link opens by browser. I get the IE favourites, Save As, OLE drag/drop, etc.
  • links to outside website stay in browser not in YAA.
  • don't have to run YAA (browser, outlook, newsreader, etc.)

AndreasJohansson: How many users of the toolset can not or do not want to use IE? We should separate presentation from functionality, then the core functionality can be implemented in alternative UIs like a firefox toolbar. Is is really a big issue that IE is required if the UI was a toolbar/browser addin? If core functionality is separated firefox addin skilled developers can always make a toolbar for it.

ritchiep: I think a composite technology solution is feasible, a native shell that integrates directly with IE that communicates across application instances to a .NET background application in some way. Technically challenging yes, but I think it's the best bet. I doubt toolbars in IE7 will be completely broken.

WinForms App w/ Embedded Browser Control

Using WinForms, a simple "moderators browser" could be created. The application would contain buttons that performed the different pieces of functionality. (Joe Morel: I'm personally voting for this one. Most of our options require IE anyway, and I feel like this offers the greatest power and extensibility in the future.)

ritchiep: I think just properly embedding the browser in the application is going to cause a lot of grief in the long term. There's countless threads discussing problems people have had embedding the browser control in their application. Plus, I wouldn't get the other toolbars I'm used to with IE--loosing a lot of functionality that I don't think we're prepared to re-write.
  • .NET Application (should be easier)
  • Easier integration with other applications (e.g., Knowledge Navigator)
  • Firefox users still out in the dark
  • Might require writing custom caching and cookie handling

Rich-Client Application

Using forums web services, a rich-client could be created that doesn't require a browser. Any moderation activities (which do not have available web services) would need to be performed by launching a browser window.
  • Presentation is very configurable
  • Integration with enhanced metadata (question assignment, tagging) would be trivial
  • Moderation must be performed from another area
  • Hampered by weak forums web services
  • Need approval to use web services externally (might not be possible)

AndreasJohansson: I don't think a rich client must be 100% supported by web services. It is not a very difficult task to have a hidden WebBrowser control inside a rich client and do everything that is possible on the current web pages by interacting with the HtmlDocument from the WebBrowser control.
Cons (for HtmlDocument interaction)
  • Sensitive to changes in the forum HTML

IE Buttons that Execute Javascript

Commandbar buttons, context menus, and explorer panes can all be written in script. Using these instead of a toolbar, functionality could be written that extends IE without diddling with toolbars and COM.
  • Potentially easy
  • Could augment current forum pages with javascript
  • Internet Explorer dependency again
  • Security warnings and pop-ups
  • IE 7 and Windows Vista compatibility is an unknown variable

Last edited Aug 15, 2006 at 10:46 PM by AndreasJohansson, version 6


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