Adventures in UI Improvement

By Jan Blacka - Senior User Experience Specialist, ARIN

Every site has different needs and issues that need addressing, and it can be challenging to fix existing issues while developing new features. We recently took the time to step back and take a hard look at our ARIN Online user interface (UI). The bad news: there is a lot of work to do, and it will be a painstaking and complex process. The good news: the ARIN team is ready for it.

Are we crazy? Maybe. But we’re recognizing the importance of UI improvements more and more every day, and we have our community to thank for nudging us along. As a matter of fact, it was in response to a suggestion via the ARIN Consultation and Suggestion Process that we specifically included UI improvements in our 2016-2017 Strategic Plan (see #4 on pages 3 and 4). So while we balance organizational needs and priorities, we are working small improvements in where we can and laying the groundwork for other changes down the line.

The biggest changes we’ve made so far are to the navigation menu in ARIN Online. These changes were just rolled out on 12 March, so if you haven’t had a chance to fully explore them yet, let us summarize:

  • All of the functionality in ARIN Online previously had to be accessed through 10 flat-hierarchy menu items. To make room for the planned new SWIP-EZ functionality, the 10 were consolidated into seven top-level items plus Ask ARIN.
  • We re-ordered the items to group like things with like. The somewhat enigmatically-named MANAGE & REQUEST RESOURCES menu item is now broken out into “IP Addresses” and “ASNs” to make the labels more immediately meaningful to the people (router and network geeks) who are typically responsible for managing these things.
  • We added “hint” text (the smaller, yellow text) to secondary menu items to clarify terminology used in the main label and remove some of the guesswork about what you can do in ARIN Online.
  • We grouped user profile items with our Point of Contact and Organization ID records because all of these items are fundamentally about people who work with Internet numbers, not the Internet numbers themselves.
  • The visual presentation is now much more readable (we used to use all caps – now we’ve switched to mixed case) and takes advantage of the click-to-expand design pattern to give you control over the level of detail you see.
  • We’ve taken advantage of the badge design pattern to let you know at a glance how many unread Message Center messages you have.

On top of the changes we’ve already made, we’re working with you – the ARIN community – to make even more. We’re reaching out to the people who use our tools the most to learn how you think about the work you do in ARIN Online. We’re also paying attention to common pain points as evidenced by questions coming in through calls and emails, and finding ways to ease those pain points though improvements to ARIN Online.

Lastly, just as you can’t really proofread your own copy or test your own code, you can’t user-test your own interfaces. So we’re getting some face-time with you at ARIN on the Roads and conducting usability tests to test our assumptions and uncover any new pain points we are introducing with new features.

We appreciate your patience as we make these important updates and we hope you’re as excited about the changes as we are. While making UI improvements can seem daunting at first, we keep remembering that it’s akin to adopting IPv6 – we just have to do it!

P.S. Have a few minutes to spare for the good of the community? Volunteer to do some testing via screen sharing! Send an email to info@arin.net and be sure to reference this blog.

POST WRITTEN BY:

Jan Blacka

Senior User Experience Specialist, ARIN