NUS cards, pathways and SEFs

Just so you know: this page was imported from my old blog. Some pages were rather mangled in the process; my apologies if things don't quite look right.

I'm mainly working on the NUS registration system (which is the process you go through to sign up for an NUS card and/or account on UPSU.net) at the moment, but having fried my brain a bit last night working on endless far-from-standard user flow/interaction diagrams (and having had a visit from Portsmouth's enterprising social underclass to give me a sleepless night*), I decided to tie up a couple more loose-ends on the site today.

One thing that's been bugging me for a while has been the pathway - a "breadcrumb" trail of links which live on the left of the grey bar at the top of the screen - which should let you step backwards from where you are in the site towards the homepage. Because of the way we've organised the site, the pathway system has always missed off at least one or two links, making it fairly useless in finding out where you are.

Having a look around Cambridge Students' Union's new website last night (and I must say I'm impressed with how well-written and robust their system looks, although functionally it looks a bit young yet - not as many bells and whistles, but I'm sure that will come in time) and one of the very prominent features of the site is their bread-crumb navigation system. So, having seen that, it reminded me that our pathway needs a bit of a clean-up (no particular pun intended).

After today's work, we now have a link back to the top of the major section you're in; previously, you would normally find only a link to the page you're on and a link to the homepage.

The galleries, blogs, and forums also have a little more transparency in their taxonomy - the pathway includes more logical links now, and our custom SEF URL system is better represented - the page "www.upsu.net/getinvolved/clubs/netball" now shows "upsu.net >> get involved >> clubs >> netball home" in the pathway, instead of "home >> netball" as (I think) it did before.

In fact, the pathway work on the blogs is the most important part for me, and ties nicely in to my finishing off the SEF URL system for the blogs today, which means that the pathway is now a lot more indicative of where you are in the blogs system now, e.g. "upsu.net >> diaries >> alexh >> 2006 >> 06 >> 01" - all of which are working links which actually work and everything...! (I think I'm getting a little over-enthusiastic about the little things here...).

Additionally, you can now type in, for example, www.upsu.net/blogs/joebloggs/2006/04/13 to see all entries on April 13th 2006 by member "joebloggs", or www.upsu.net/blogs/joebloggs/2006/04 to see everything of his in April.

These two (badly-explained, and probably badly-coded) features are major strengths compared to many other blogging platforms and websites in general (although we weren't intending to beat anyone, particularly - I just wanted to make sure our system works as well as possible). I'll probably cover these changes more in the future once I have a chance to really bug-test it all (it's in, it works, it's bug tested and coded as well as I know how, but that's no guarantee of service now, is it? ;o) ).

I'm off to get some dinner - I'm the only one left in the Sabb office (everyone went home 3 hours ago) and I've been here since 8am. I need a shower and a pint!

* Yup, the username "project" on that website is one of my alter-egos, and as I mentioned on the right there --> I'm an occasional spanner monkey in my spare time ;o)

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