I’ve been re-evaluating fonts for WebLaws.org, and one issue that caught my eye is the style of the numerals. In running text, these proportional oldstyle numbers (font: Buenard) are perfect: they visually flow with the text. The wide variations in figure height and positioning help the reader unambiguously read the number.
But in a vertical navigation bar, I’ve chosen Georgia for its monospaced oldstyle numbers: the monospacing enables the reader to easily compare numbers while scanning vertically. Best of all, the font is already installed on all platforms.
It’s interesting that although the navbar numerals are in an entirely different font (Georgia vs. Buenard), the contrast is not jarring due to the sizes and positioning.
I’ve been doing a lot of work to get the California Codes online, and I now have something to show for it. This is a screenshot of Business & Professions Code Section 22947.4, an anti-spyware statute. (Which is pretty cool; I wonder if Oregon has something similar. Anyone know?)
A trail of links for re-tracing your steps which shows up in two places. There’s an intuitive always-present sidebar view: for example, today’s research steps are simply marked “Today” — instead of cluttering the display with today’s date.
The second, more detailed view of the trail (see screenshot below), is under the “My Laws” tab. The table is easy to sort by date or document name.
Infinitely long for a micro-fee
OregonLaws.org is at the point where it needs a small income to help pay for the cost of running the site: the hosting fees, DNS registration, and SSL certificate fees are now a burden on my student budget. I had a two-part idea: on one hand, all the current legal content will remain free and secure as a public service. And on the other hand, the site will offer extra features that are useful for frequent visitors and serious researchers for the price of a cup of coffee per month.
And so back to the Research Trail: I’m keeping it free for the current day’s trail, as public service. But for those who become members for $2 per month, the first major benefit is unlimited access to their previous search history. I haven’t seen any other research sites offer this at any price.
Please consider joining
In closing, I just wanted to write a personal note that I greatly appreciate the support of those who’ve become members. I’ve just started this program, and so it’s only been a handful. Although not close to the break-even point, these are a great help. These small contributions are necessary to support a public service like OregonLaws.org.
I’m currently designing the part of OregonLaws.org that (1) tells a visitor that they’re logged in, and (2) gives them the link to logout. I hadn’t thought to look at current practices at first; I simply came up with my own idea: A new tab would appear with the visitor’s name. Clicking the tab would show the visitor’s account page collecting all of their personal information and preferences.
Current best practices
(Click the images to view the entire un-cropped screenshots.)
Just today I started noticing how other sites are handling this, and a convention has definitely emerged. I can’t believe I haven’t explicitly compared these until now. I’m now looking at redesigning the site to follow it. This is because I do believe that visitors’ expectations about a site’s functioning are a gift that shouldn’t be rejected. Here are the indicators I found on a sample of modern websites whose design I like.
These first examples are my favorites: clean and very easy-to-read design. Colors are used well, and there’s enough whitespace around the indicator to quickly find and understand it.
Another PB Works screen
I was browsing a PBWorks site, and the you’re-logged-in indicator was so clear and useful that it inspired me to survey what’s out there and write this blog post.
37 Signals always seems to do pretty much everything right. So I went to a couple of my sites with them to see how it looks, and yep — well executed.
Basecamp by 37 Signals
The same good concept, but less-than-excellent implementations
Remember the Milk
Then I found a few sites that aim for the same type of system, but the visual design doesn’t appeal as much. They’re either cluttered by the rest of the page content, or there’s other content added into the indicator so that it’s harder to find the actual logged-in status.
Remember the Milk has an excellent, easy-to-use website. But their design of this particular piece has two problems: The user’s name, indicating that they’re logged in, is far to the left of where it usually appears. Secondly, this position puts it miles from the Logout link, making the two hard to find.
Twitter‘s indicator has always annoyed me subtly. I find it unwieldy—too much stuff is up there. There’s a Profile link but then also the person’s picture and id right below. I bet that no one clicks Profile.
And Google Reader‘s implementation looks very… well, Google. Yes, It works great. But all those lines cluttering up the display: the underlined links, the vertical dividers… And page content is very close to it. On the positive side, the user’s name/email is very easy to pick out and comprehend.