Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Blogger interface VS existing help-articles

This article explains the approach I'm taking to converting the advice in this blog to the new Blogger interface which was released in August 2011.

And it asks for ideas about the best way to describe where to find things in the new tool.

A new user-interface for Blog-writers

Boy-with-binoculars Earlier this year, Google announced that they were working on a new look for the tool that we use to write our blogs.  Since then, we've been able to use this tool, in various forms in Blogger-in-Draft.

This week, they've announced that this new tool is available in "production" blogger.   ("Production" anything is geek-ese for the real version of it.)

As with lots of Google's new interfaces, there is
  • A button on the old version to go to the new one, and
  • A button on the new version to go back to the old one, and
Based on what's happened in other Google tools that have had new interfaces, my guess is that  we can expect these buttons to be around for quite a while.  Most probably, the option to go back won't be removed, but it will become irrelevant as ever-newer features are introduced to the "new" version only.

New front-end, old help-articles

As well as the Blogger-help-forum, there are many other blogs (including this one) about "how to do things in Blogger".   I've described these before, and also made the Blogger-helpers-search tool which does a Google Custom Search of the best (IMHO) ones.

The new-look Blogger means that the advice in these blogs is (potentially) out-of-date, at least for people who are using the new interface.   And very soon, there will be new Blogger-users who've never seen the old interface and are really confused when someone says "go to the dashboard, choose Design > Page Elements and ..." - because they won't even know that the main Blogger screen used to be called the Dashboard.

So we've all got a challenge of updating our advice to reflect how things are done in new-Blogger.   Personally, I'm not so delighted about this:  I've spent most of my Blogger-HAT time in the last three months re-writing every single article to apply consistent formatting (Blogger-HAT started out as a place to keep all my working notes for myself) and quality standards to each article.  I will be updating my articles again, but in the meantime ...

Advice in Blogger-HAT is based on using the updated editor in pre-Sept-2011-Blogger, unless otherwise stated.

Which version of Blogger

Today, it makes sense to talk about "new Blogger" and "old Blogger".    But it won't be long before "new" isn't so new anymore.    Personally I'm going to refer to:


the current "production" version


The "old" version (which inludes the old and updated editor options under Settngs > Basics)

Draft Blogger

The experimental version where Google are trying out new things

Describing Blogger Commands

This week's changes mean we have another challenge in writing how-do instructions for Blogger.

Previously, the links to do things inside Blogger were labelled with text.  We could say
"go to the Dashboard, choose Edit Profile, find Identify and ...",  or even "Dashboard > Edit Profile > Identify".   And people who couldn't see where the command was could just use their Browser's help tool to search for the right place.

But now, small pictures (ie icons) are used instead.

picture of new buttons in Blogger's post editor:  the quick edit pencil (blue square, the options drop-down - red circle, and view - green triangle)

So we need to find a way to describe the new features which is
  1. Understandable - especially by people who are new to Google / Blogger, and who don't know that the small round thing with bumps is called a gear-wheel, and is where Google usually hides the "setting" and "tools" type of commands, and
  2. Concise enough so that articles and help-forum answers look readable  (eg needing to say "the small down-arrow to the right of the blog-name in the main blogger screen" every time I talk about that arrow).

Right now, I'm not sure how do this, and would love to hear any ideas you have about how I can describe the tools availabe from Blogger's screens - please use the comments below to let me know how you would like to see things described.

Related Articles

New Blogger interface announcement

Introducing the Blogger-helpers-search tool

Blogger-helpers-search tool

Adding a Google Custom Search to your blog

Using tables to display data in your blog.

Blogs, Blogger and bloggers - an introduction

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