Improving navigation in a complex web application like Moodle touches on a lot of areas, but in particular we must aim to hit these goals:
It should be clearer what settings affect only yourself, and what settings affect what others see.
It should be clear what is global navigation (whole site), and what is local navigation (within a course or module).
All parts of the interface should be consistent. We need to have a set of guidelines and core frameworks to better restrict what developers are allowed to do, while also reworking the core code to implement things like blocks and tabs in consistent ways.
Users should be able to easily learn what is there for them.
Users should be able to move around "their world" within Moodle with a minimum of effort.
Processing blocks and building up a page with navigation must be very efficient.
If possible, plugins should not have to change.
Users should also not find the new interface too different (just better!)
What parts of Moodle might be affected by this work?
Since Moodle 1.9, we construct the navbar breadcrumbs from an array using the build_navigation function. However, that converts all the data to a string, which is then passed to the theme. Instead, we should keep the information about the breadcrumb links as structured data, and let the theme choose how to render it.
In different places we have the global administration tree, the Course admin block, the Jump to menu, tabs like in the user profile, various activities, in the roles UI, and the 'Update this forum' button. These are all ways of getting around nearby, related pages. It would be good to make these concepts more consistent.
This is an area we need to think about a lot more
Blocks themselves should not change. What is currently inconsistent is how blocks get associated with particular pages. At the moment this is done through the (pageid, pagetype) columns of block_instance, and the pagetype column of block_pinned. Does it work if we change this to (contextid, pagetype)?
The other thought is, can we make sticky blocks more flexible? What if we let them be configured in any context, not just globally? This would let people do things like add a block to every course in a particular category.
Perhaps let themes control where on the page blocks can appear.
Some more thought required here.
What do we need on top of the existing course formats?
Give themers as much flexibility as possible, without having to do major changes throughout Moodle.
Should we allow themes to have their own lang files and settings.php page in the admin tree?
As I write this, we don't have a clear overview of the whole solution, but following some discussions, I have some ideas about how some components of the solution should work, and I want to write them down. Therefore, I present a possible (partial) design. (Real development never happens as they teach in Software Engineering classes anyway. ;-) )--Tim Hunt 23:28, 29 January 2009 (CST)