We’re working to continually improve the writer experience at Helium. In an effort to learn how we can make the experience even better, we’ve been reaching out to users in a variety of ways to get feedback. That includes conducting surveys, and now we want to hear from you. (Yes, you!) To help us learn more, we’d like you to complete a quick survey. This will take less than five minutes of your time. (Promise.) So what are you waiting for? Go take that survey! We’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

One of the key areas of Helium is a user’s My Articles page.  I like to think of this page as a user’s “command center” because it is from this page, and this page only, that you are able to manage all of your articles – including past versions – as well as leapfrog your articles.  As a user this is likely the most important page to you because it allows you to manage your content which in turn allows you to manage your income – the more easily you can improve your content the more likely you are to be able to earn more income from Helium.

In testing the site as a developer and in talking to users I’ve found that this page is likely a usability issue once you reach a certain threshold – i.e. you have a lot of items and/or leapfrogs.  I’m thinking it’s somewhere in the 25-50 article range but could be higher or lower.  As a user, you might not even notice the issue if you don’t leapfrog much – i.e. you only write new content.  When you do have to leapfrog or find one of your articles for whatever reason though it’s likely a pain to use.  It’s even possible that the usability issues cause this page to be used less than it should and, therefore, causes pain to both users and Helium – in that both miss out on improved content.

There have been several threads on the boards about perceived issues and potential solutions.  My purpose here is to provide a central location to identify potential issues and solutions as well as open the discussion to the community to confirm, deny, or expand upon.  Note that these are only my own thoughts and opinions and not necessarily opinions of Helium nor indicators of future functionality.

Issues

  1. Large volumes of content are not easily managable via the current system
    As I mentioned, once a user has a certain number of articles, which we’ll call X and assume for now to be 50, this page becomes unwieldy simply because of the sheer number of entries and pagination – including past versions of articles.
  2. The current sorts / filters are not enough
    Although we offer sorting and filtering, there are certain instances that cannot be easily found.  You can filter by various statuses – replaced by leapfrog, marketplace active, etc – and even use the channel and creation date headers to sort in ascending / descending order.  However, you cannot sort by rank – which would be useful to find lower ranking articles to leapfrog.  Search also seems to focus on item contents (although I could be wrong) so it’s difficult to find an article if you only know the title
  3. Current sorts / filters don’t save (i.e. can’t set preferences)
    Several users have mentioned on the boards that although it’s useful to be able to list more than 10 results on the page, or sort via date submitted these are not saved on a return trip.
  4. Listing previous versions of the article clutters the page
    Currently we list any leapfrogs – successful or not – under the active item as well as other versions of articles for marketplace, etc.  This means that even with only 10 articles listed on a page it can be very large if you’ve done a lot of leapfrogging.  It’s doubtful that you regularly want to see past versions of the article regularly – so it makes little sense that we serve them up regardless.
  5. Vast amounts of information are presented in a small space
    In a small table we list title, channel, creation date, status, and even a teaser blurb.  A lot of this information is likely not regularly used and better represented in other methods.  This is not even mentioned article options which includes leapfrog, featured article and donation functionality.

Solutions

  1. Create a new page – “manage article” or “my article” – which is linked to from My Articles
    As part of this we move a lot of the clutter off the My Articles page including leapfrog, donation, featured article, and past versions.  Basically if you want to interact with an article it’s another click but that new page would contain only the information related to the article instead of having one page containing all the information on many articles.
  2. Move channel and creation date columns out of the article list and into a filter option above the list
    Likely this would require a new object and line up the top as we are out of space and it doesn’t really fit into either of the current mechanisms.  This would allow us more horizontal space and take care of some of the crowing issues – specifically if you’ve written to long channels or titles.
  3. Combine title and article columns
    Combined with #2 this would change us from a 4 column list to one column, which will buy us more space horizontally and likely readability (think very similar to an article list page on a knowledge title).  Likely would have the title bolded above the blurb.  Outstanding issue would be how to effectively show the 2 status – title and article.
  4. Create a new tab in account settings for preferences
    I originally thought to create a new page here but account settings likely seems a better home.  This would enable you to set your preferred default sort (channel, creation date, rank – ?) and preferred number of results per page.
  5. Enable advanced search of articles
    Likely very similar to the current advanced search except that it would return only your own articles and the links wouldn’t be to the live versions but rather the new page from #1.

So that’s what I have for a first go around.  Did I miss any issues that have caused you pain?  Is the page not as bad as I feel it might be?  What do you think of the improvements?  What other improvements would you suggest for this page?

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

We’re thinking of starting a weekly (hopefully) “Get to know your Helium employee” post. While we have questions in mind, I figured it would also be useful to reach out to the community and see what you might be interested to learn about us.  Some of our employees are smarter more shy than others in being fed to the wolves meeting and being introduced to the community. [ed: 😉 ]

I’m assuming standard questions are to be included:

  • Name
  • Time with Helium
  • Title
  • Job Description / Responsibilities

But what other questions might the community find of interest?  Some possible examples:

  • Hobbies
  • Pets
  • Children
  • Boxers or briefs (note: kidding)[ed: thus concludes the poor humor part of the post]

Let us know.

So I’ve been mostly mute on the blog lately due largely to a lack of ideas. As this is at it’s heart a user generated content site, I figured I’d farm out for some brainpower.

Is there anything you would like myself – or other members of the team – write about?

Be reasonable – no proprietary information and I think we’ve heard enough about rating for awhile. What I’m envisioning is a title idea and 1-2 sentences elaborating on it. Leave it in the comments.

Also, if you’d like to write or nominate someone to write a guest blog feel free. Writing a guest blog gets you the grand payment of $0 in as many payments as you’d like. We will however post links to your bio and/or articles page as well as one tasteful (i.e. non-offensive) non-Helium link (blog, your dog’s Flickr group, etc).

Have some fun with it. I’m pretty laid back (contrary to popular opinion likely) so I’m willing to “let my hair down” a bit (although, technically I have a crew cut and that’s not really possible).

Hasta luego.