Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tv8.1 Beta 3 Worksheet, Dashboard menus improved, still room for more

This post continues my previous post on these Tv8 menus. Please refer to it for background, this one only contemplates improvements yet to be made.

Functional Problems, Bugs

  • Dashboard right-click menu:
    • "Duplicate as Crosstab"
      does not work - active when a Worksheet is selected in Dashboard, choosing this option has no effect—the expected duplication of the selected Worksheet does not happen.
    • "Copy Formatting"
      does not work - cannot find any scenario in which the option is active.
    • "Paste Formatting"
      does not work - cannot find any scenario in which the option is active.

Top Level Menus

The Worksheet and Dashboard menus:

Residual problems include:

  • The items are organized differently, which causes unnecessary difficulty in locating them. The crossed lines indicate the different positions of "Actions..." and "Show Title". Not only are they in different orders, they're found in different compartments.
  • There's no "Format" option in the Worksheet menu, although the Dashboard menu has one. IT seems like there's no good reason for one to have this option and not the other.


These menus have been adjusted to align and coordinate their items, making the mechanics of selecting an option similar across the menus.

The Worksheet menu's Format option.

This Worksheet menu's Format option is shown with the 'more' glyph indicating that there is a submenu available. In this formulation the submenu could well be the same as the top level Format menu. Another option would be to simply launch the Format system in the "format a worksheet mode". This leads naturally into the consideration that Tableau's property sheet formatting mechanisms are dated and need a redesign, but that's another topic.

Right-Click Context Menus – now it gets interesting.

The Worksheet and Dashboard Right-Click context menus:

Interestingly, the menus have the same options. There are plenty of things that can be fixed here, including:

  • "<verb> Sheet" - the use of the generic "Sheet" creates a cognitive dissonance.
    The user has right-clicked on either a Worksheet tab or a Dashboard tab. Tableau knows which one it is, but chooses to not specifically identify it. Why not? Is "Sheet" something special, distinct from "Worksheet" or "Dashboard"? It's this sort of context slippage that introduces confusion.
  • The options are the same, even though they are not targeted the same in the different menus.
    The Worksheet options all relate to the Worksheet, but the Dashboard options don't all apply to the Dashboard, i.e.
    "Duplicate as Crosstab" applies to whichever Worksheet is active, if one is; if not it's inactive.
  • The Dashboard menu Formatting options do not appear to have any function. In my limited testing I haven't been able to find any way to have them active.

  • It's not at all clear what the "Color" option does.
    (actually, it just provides the opportunity to color the tab)

It looks like the Dashboard menu is a straight copy of the Worksheet menu, with some of the options re-targeted to the Dashboard. This is a bad design, muddling up the options for managing the configuration options available for the Worksheet or Dashboard of interest. The Worksheet menu is relatively straightforward, within the current context, but the Dashboard menu is a mess.

Right-Click Context Menus – Redesigned.

The main idea behind these redesigns is to clarify and regularize the management options appropriate for whichever type of sheet is chosen. As noted above, the current menu structures are the same for both, even though the legitimate management options differ. Notably, there are two distinct modes for a Dashboard: whether or not a Worksheet is currently selected in it.

As Tableau's functional span has dramatically increased since the initial management by menu architecture was implemented it would be useful to reconsider how to best offer the appropriate mechanisms for managing its components and content. I'll leave this for future posts. This post is restricted to considering only these two modes, disregarding whether it would be useful and/or appropriate to include other Dashboard object management options via this menu.

Worksheet Menu – New and Improved

There's not a lot changed here. The options remain the same, with some changes made to their presentation.

  • The "Worksheet" item was added to call out that these are Worksheet options, and the options were indented; this is unnecessary in the context of this one menu, but it's done to be consistent with the new Dashboard menu (below).
  • The "Color" option was renamed "Color Tab" to clarify what was being colored. "Color" is pretty confusing all by itself, leading naturally to the question: "Color what?", at which point the user was left to try give it a go and see what happened, and if they selected a color not noticeably different from the current color they might well not identify what happened.

Dashboard Menu – New and Improved #1

The main objective here is to update the Dashboard menu to better present those things that can be done with and to the Dashboard and/or Worksheet.

The challenge is to come up with a way to clearly identify which object an option acts on.

The biggest difference between this menu and the existing one is that the new design clearly segregates the Dashboard and Worksheet options into their own menu segments. Doing this makes it clear which option applies to which object.

On top of moving the options into their own segments, the Worksheet options are only active when a Worksheet is selected in the Dashboard. The left menu shows the Worksheet-selected active Worksheet options, the right menu shows inactive Worksheet options.

Although useful, this approach takes up a lot of space, imposing its own usability burden. One solution to this problem is below.

Dashboard Menu – New and Improved #2

In this model the Worksheet segment has been collapsed because there's no currently selected Worksheet in the Dashboard.

The "Worksheet" item has also been greyed out as a visual cue that there is no active Worksheet.

This design works fairly well, although there is a bit of a jar in the conditional appearance of the Worksheet segment. The design below looks to address this.

Dashboard Menu – New and Improved #3

In this version the Worksheet options have been moved into their own submenu.

The Worksheet menu item and options are activated when a Worksheet is selected in the Dashboard, inactive when there's not one selected.

This works well in terms of consistency of presentation. Everything's in the same place all the time, and even when there's no Worksheet selected the user can see what options would be available to manage one if selected.

This is starting to look pretty good, but in considering it the question comes up: why not provide access to all of the legitimate Worksheet management options through this menu? What would that look like and how would it work? So I put it together below.

Dashboard Menu – New and Improved #4

In the version the Worksheet submenu has all of the options from the main Worksheet menu. It's not obvious whether or not this works well. It might overload the menu, confusing the user with all the options in two places. We're now into real user interface design and usability territory and investigating whether and how well this works would be a real valuable activity.

That's all, folks.

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