Listening to Your Feedback and Making Changes: The Add New Topic Button
If you've read this blog for a while, you've probably noticed that when we talk about the tools available in online courses and CoursePlus, we're always seeking your feedback. I'd like to share with you an example of how your feedback directly shapes the tools we build and the way in which everyone interacts with them.
Earlier this year, we introduced an all-new BBS (threaded discussion system) in the online courses. We've made some adjustments and additions based on your feedback (like the addition of basic emoticon support and auto-linking for URLs). At the end of last week, we made another, quite visible change, based on what we heard from you. We found that there were still some people who did not know how to start new topics in a BBS category that had no topics. This was a particular issue for students assigned to a private BBS category for group work. Some categories would go completely unused because the students in the group did not know that they had to click the big, blue "+ Add New Topic" button at the top of the main BBS page to start a conversation in their private BBS category.
To address this issue, we did some interface prototyping and had quite a few discussions, and came up with the solution you now see in the BBS: there is now a blue "+ Add Topic" button next to every category name in the BBS. This makes it easy to see how to start a discussion in a category without any content. Additionally, if the main BBS page is long (and many of them are) with lots of categories and topics in those categories, having a "+ Add Topic" button next to every category name makes it faster to start a new topic in that category. Previously, you'd have to scroll all the way to the top of the page.
Although the button becomes visually repetitive on the main BBS page with this change, we feel that it does make the BBS easier to use overall, and makes it very clear how to add a new topic to a BBS category for those who were otherwise unclear on the process.