When I first started curating the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library, I put “tags” near the top of my list of user interaction patterns to investigate. By that time, Yahoo! had already acquired several pioneers in the tagging realm, Flickr and Delicious, and there were some subtle distinctions in how they implemented the experience.
We got down in the weeds on these and did a lot of research, ultimately settled on offering high-level guidance, and finished the patterns in the course of writing the social patterns book, where we filed tagging under the group of patterns known as Collecting, under Social Objects.
Tagging and other forms of collecting are also an example of social design patterns that mimic game dynamics. Collecting objects is a core “easy fun” activity in many games, and similarly these extremely lightweight social interactions around gathering or tagging objects enable a form of self-interested behavior that creates aggregate value and potentially richer forms of engagement.
Our three new tagging patterns are Tag an Object, Find with Tags, and the somewhat controversial Tag Cloud, which some people view as an “anti-pattern.” Drop by, check them out, and let us know if we can make them any better.
Over the past few months I conducted an audit of the patterns in Yahoo!’s internal design pattern library, with an eye toward publishing as many of them as possible in the open library at YDN. Why? Well, for one thing, to get more eyeballs on them, to gather more feedback and keep improving the patterns. Also, since very few patterns in the library contain Yahoo!-specific information, and an alternative process is now in place for vetting requirements specific to the Yahoo! network and brand components, the design pattern collection can now more easily focus on (relatively) universal design principles for web implementations.
I completed the audit before the end of last year and expect to release new patterns in batches over the next few months. Some patterns will be mature and provide a solid foundation for site design. A few will be published as beta patterns which may undergo significant changes in subsequent updates based on feedback received. Regardless of their status, we hope you’ll get involved and review and provide feedback on the patterns provided.
The first batch of patterns to come out from the audit relates to navigation bars. There are three patterns so far in this grouping: Top Navigation, Left Navigation, and Progress Bar. One legitimate question is whether top and left nav bars are still the best or most current way to navigate a site and find content? We still find many examples of them across the web and in use at Yahoo! so for now I’ll say yes, but it’s worth thinking about.
Wherever possible I try to link patterns back to the YUI Library and, where appropriate, to other code and implementation solutions. YUI has great support for navbars and menu examples. Probably the best place to start is the menu widget.
One interesting nomenclature issue we studied was the distinction between a stepwise progress indicator (which is what the pattern is about) and a continuous progress bar (for which there’s a great YUI example). These two things are often referred to with similar names, but perform different functions. Suggestions for more appropriate terminology are welcome.
Please check out these new patterns and let us know what you think!
Gavin Bell draws on his extensive experience to offer a well structured guide to adding community elements to a website or application. His book will help any professional planning a social strategy, designing a set of social features, determining the types of relationships to foster among users, and even determining how best to manage change in an existing site or online structure.
Bell covers a wide gamut of issues that a site planner will need to consider, from developing the data schema for people, relationships, and objects; to how best to expose APIs to third-party developers; to the process of rolling out a new product or feature. Anyone developing a social website or app should keep this book handy throughout the process.
Bell and I share a publisher and our titles cover some similar issues. When I first picked up Bell’s finished book I gritted my teeth with envy. As I quickly devoured the book, though, I was relieved (or, at least I convinced myself) that our books are complementary and are each useful in their own way.
If you’re looking for one book to guide you through the entire process, from conception to launch and into the life of a social web application, then this is the book for you.