The title of this post is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s all important.  We’ve spent the last couple of days revisiting some core assumptions about our user interface, based on some discussions we’ve had with folks as well as our continued research into user experience design.  The impact of that has been some small, but important changes in Origin’s user interface.

Here’s a portion of one of the screenshots we published just last week:


As you can see from the yellow tags, there are three distinct places where you have navigation elements, and to some degree, they are all always visible on the screen and more importantly, taking  up valuable screen space.  And that’s just for one portion of the application.

Contrast that with our current design:


It’s a little hard to see in that screenshot, but instead of three places to look, we now have one.  It is always visible at the very top of the screen, but it takes up much less space than the old version and provides some interesting capabilities.  (Note that this design is not finalized, so feedback is welcome, and the final design will likely change a bit).

I’ll call out a few pieces of the new functionality:

  1. The new navigation gives quick access to other areas of Origins: other trees you have, Research, Online capabilities (we’ve got some great stuff planned for online capabilities which we can’t wait to share, but they’re not quite ready yet), Reports, Social and Help Center are all shown in this version of the top navigation bar.
  2. In addition to the Forward and Back buttons which let you step through the pages / sections of Origins that you’ve visited recently, we now have a dedicated navigation element for recently viewed people, places, events, etc.  Here’s an image of the Recent People as an example:
    recent people
    As you navigate through Origins, people, places and events will automatically be added to these elements, giving you a quick way to jump back.  We’ll probably limit these “most recent” lists to ten items, just to keep things manageable.  This also shows another capability below “Recent” – flagging people so that you can get to them quickly, even if they’re not in the “most-recent” lists.  Events and places will have similar functionality.

Right below this top-navigation bar is the element that provides access to the majority of the functionality in Origins – the “ribbon.”  By default, the ribbon is collapsed so it doesn’t take up as much screen space:


You can change the default to be expanded if you have a large monitor or else collapse/expand the ribbon as you need to.  Initially, there is only one tab in the ribbon – Home.  It provides access to the most commonly used tools/functionality as well as tools that are useful regardless of which “section” of Origins you are in.  The following screenshot is not complete, there are tools missing, and the icons will all be changing (these are just placeholders), but here’s an idea of what the home tab will look like:


Question: What tools/functionality would you need to have always accessible?    We’ve got some ideas in addition to the ones shown here, but we’d love to hear your ideas.

To me the most valuable aspect of the Ribbon is its dynamic nature.  We can show tools and functionality when it makes sense and hide them when they aren’t useful.  For example, when you are in the “people” section of Origins, a new tab will show up – Person.  It will look something like this:

The tools in the Navigation section (the first 10 on the left) will be visible anytime you’re in the People section (as opposed to Online, Research, Social, etc).  They allow you to move between all of the information about the current person.  The next section of tools are specific to the current page you are viewing.  In the example above, the tools for the Tree page are shown:

  • zoom controls to see more/less of the tree
  • a button to jump to the “root” person in your tree
  • a choice of which view of the tree to show – pedigree, ancestor, descendent, etc.
  • the ability to filter the tree to highlight people matching certain attributes.

Each page (Timeline, Map, Facts, etc.) will show only the tools relevant to working in that page.  In some cases, certainly, there will be tools that show up on more than one tab, and that’s OK.  The main thing is that we only show you the tools that are relevant to the task at hand.  Anything else is just a distraction.

One final point about the ribbon, there will likely be some limited ability to customize it to suit your needs.  I don’t yet know if that will take the form of a separate tab which is always available where you can add the tools you like to have handy, or whether you’ll be able to add/remove tools from the default tabs.  We’ll figure that out when we get to that point.

So there’s our current thinking on navigating around within Origins, as well as accessing the tools and functionality you need.

What do you think?