Done with Jury duty

That was a long and tiring experience, but now I’m not able to be called in again for it for 6 years.

I’ve been helping out with Patternfly. I started by helping to fix easy bugs in an effort to get a good understanding of their processes. I’m now helping to edit their accessibility document and working with one of the developers on a UX research project.

Navigation Bar User Dropdown

The UX research project in question is to determine how user friendly the common pattern of the user (profile? settings?) dropdown actually is. For example, see this upper-right dropdown:

Before click:

After opening the menu:

Under ‘More options’:

The developer I’m working with had concerns about the extra clicks required to get to items in the menu, the extra processing time to read and interpret those items, the speed with which the menus actually open, and the quality of the animations for the menus.

This dropdown is very common for tools within RedHat, since they are generally based on patternfly’s pattern library.

Has anyone already researched this?

My first goal was to get an idea of what, if anything, online research says about this. Curiously, I was unable to find research specifically on the user dropdown pattern, even though it’s everywhere nowadays.

That said, I did confirm my suspicion that it’s generally better not to hide high-use items behind a menu. There were a variety of reasons for this, including the ability to find out what is possible, remember what is where, and the extra time to locate the actions.

This suggests the need to know what, if anything, within the user menu is likely to be high-use. Unfortunately, the example I currently have is not a real example, and I’m hoping to get some real-world examples of what the developer has struggled with soon. This will make it much easier to identify the tasks that might cause one to need to use the user dropdown, and gather information about how high-use those might be.

What might we do?

One possibility I’ve suggested is that if there are some high-use items in there, they might be better off outside of that dropdown. The following example assumes that settings is the highest use option, and that we have minimal screen real-estate (on a mobile phone, perhaps).

For example, instead of the existing top-level controls:

Balsamiq version of the controls

Have the settings control be at the same level as the others:

Now you can use the settings without the dropdown

On a larger screen, I’d suggest that the settings gear — while in common use — should be the word ‘Settings’ to improve usability.

What next?

Once I get some real-world examples, I think the next step will be figuring out what questions we want to get answers for. Since we’re hoping to get an idea of how much this particular pattern affects users — within RedHat and perhaps more generally — we’re going to need to figure out what sorts of tasks are likely to send people into that menu.

I’m also going to want to select some good examples of the situations we’re most interested in. On top of whatever real-world examples we think are most relevant, we’ll want to offer users other options. If, for example, we suspect that settings and logout are the most likely options to use, we’re probably going to want to offer interfaces with one or both of those outside of the dropdown.

Currently, I’m waiting for information from the developer before I can continue.


A friend of mine has been working on a project for a few years now, and it occurred to me that I could offer him UX feedback on it. He’s working on it part-time nowadays, so I’m currently waiting for some background information from him. I need to know where is it so that I can see it, how he would describe it to people, and what he wants people to be able to do with it.

Early stage project with someone from Northeastern

I’m recently started discussing a possible project with a technical communications Masters student from Northeastern. She’s interested in getting more experience with UX, and I figure it’ll offer me more experience and mentoring people isn’t bad.

We’re currently trying to identify areas of UX that we are interested in, both in terms of domain (e-commerce? Machine Learning? IOT?), and in terms of specific aspects of UX (usability reviews? Design updates? Or specific pieces like transitions as related to optimization of interstitial anxiety or hapnotics?). If nothing else, time spent researching some of these should be time well-spent.

Still job-hunting

And, I’m still job hunting. Which is still frustrating, because a year and a half of experience means people rarely get back to me. Or it could be something else, but because no one gets back to me, I have no way to know.

In the cases where I apply through someone at a company, they usually say something like “we’re going with someone who more closely matches our needs”. Maybe that’s amount of experience? Maybe something else. Who knows?

I’m keeping an eye out for temp and contracting positions, because they can lead to full-time and are at least paid experience. We’ll see.

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