Major usability issues in Moodle

Revision as of 08:38, 10 August 2009 by Olli Savolainen (talk | contribs) (Visual hierarchy)

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Moodle User Interface Guidelines > Major usability issues in Moodle

Note: This page is a work-in-progress. Feedback and suggested improvements are welcome. Please join the discussion on or use the page comments.

This is a guideline template for a Moodle Interface Guideline. Comments: developer forum thread

Moodle UIs that have such serious flaws that in practice they require redesign.

The user-to-user messaging system

This should be thought through together with the jabber messaging/notification/forum subscription system with a holistic approach.

  • Popups everywhere
  • Links point to unexpected locations
  • Getting trapped in a popup with the normal Moodle navigation
  • A frame on the right side of the screen for messaging?
    Page peel / backside of the page? Not covering the current page but something you can QUICKLY turn to and from which you can quickly turn back (big return control for turning the UI back to normal state)
  • Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site. But even disregarding the user-hostile message implied in taking over the user's machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Users often don't notice that a new window has opened, especially if they are using a small monitor where the windows are maximized to fill up the screen. So a user who tries to return to the origin will be confused by a grayed out Back button.


Processes in Moodle that resemble wizards should either be redesigned to be less sequential, or have all the elements that help users navigate, of wizards.

  • Installation
  • Backup
  • There is no proper navigation between the two steps/modes, and it is not even communicated explicitly what is the relationship between the two screens!
    • Two-step roles UIs (assign roles in course)
    • Two-step groups UIs (add users to groups in course: select group -> add users to group)
      • Lack of any visual hierarchy or distiction between navigation and commands
      • It is not communicated that some of the commands work on the selected item in the list.
      • Create group should be separate.
      • Add/remove users should be a link with the group name “Add remove users of group [groupname]”.

Visual hierarchy

Whenever we attempt to make sense of information visually, 
we first observe similarities and differences in what we are 
seeing. These relationships allow us to not only distinguish 
objects but to give them meaning. For example, a difference 
in color implies two distinct objects (or different parts of 
the same object), [...]
Once we have an understanding of the relationships between 
elements, we can piece together the whole story and understand 
what we are seeing. --Olli Savolainen 08:38, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

One big issue is visual hierarchy of screens, i.e. even if there is not as much content on a screen as there was in the old quiz editing UI, in many places there seems to be no organization of the content, and as things are centered by default understanding the structure of some pages can be pretty bothersome - instead of "letting your eyes do the work", you have to really think about what is where and try to solve the puzzle, as it were. Includes things like conveying semantics and relationships of elements through usage of visual elements, like usage of headings and the usage of those funny grey partially rounded boxes.

In a sense this should be a guideline but I really cannot think of much to say, except something could probably be extracted from the web: . Also, perhaps if we define certain page types several moodle pages would fit in then most pages would have some common factors. Then again, this also risks restricting design too much.

There are lots of problematic UIs like this in Moodle, but to name just a few:

  • Groups (managing the groups of a course and the users in them )

Note: This is not graphic design as such, but usage of UI elements in a way that communicates their relationships clearly, facilitating users' preconscious scanning of the UI to make sense of it quickly: more information: [1]

Making Moodle more fluid with javascript/YUI controls/AJAX

Among others, converting dropdowns for adding items into YUI dialogs (quiz editing: add question / type selection vs. course: add activity module)

The workflow of adding items

such as activity modules in courses, questions in quizzes, posts in forums Add_element