Back in 2009-2010 at Sussex we ran an extensive usability review of moodle (1.9 at the time), and some of the changes your document outlines our the very ones we have implemented, so it’s great to see them making it into core, and hopefully we can help by sharing some of the challenges we faced.
1. Implement paged sections
One of the solutions to our users (students, admin & tutors) usability issues with moodle was a paged format which we developed and deployed - it has been incredibly popular with users, so be great to see it as part of core.
Some tutors still prefer to have all their content on one long page, and that's fine - they use a single section with headings and horizontal rules to semantically divide content.
This summer break we plan to turn off all the scroll based formats (for consistency of user experience).
Pages was a huge win with our students.
We user tested the hell out of wireframes & clickable prototypes before developing it in moodle code, and from looking at your wireframes i can see you might be about to hit some of the same issues we found with our users, mainly :
1.1 Navigation between sections
This wireframe seems to indicate the only navigation would be through pagination pattern <previous next> (with section titles, which is great) and an extra course title bit in the middle to take you back to the list of sections.
When we user tested something similar the outcome was that users wanted a simple ‘click a section title to get to a section’ navigation visible at all times.
I’m aware the current moodle2 navigation does not support this, and its not indicated as a work package in the doc, but it’s something you may run into when testing with users, so probably need to consider.
2. Update core formats: Weekly and Topics
More sections can be added by a big "plus" icon at the bottom, and old ones can be deleted if they are empty.
Add a section & delete are big win with our content creators -
3. UI improvements for course editing mode
Again - big win for content creators.
3.1 Adding activities and resources
Giving our users pedagogical information about why using a resource or activity could aid their teaching was important. Many were unfamiliar with wiki, glossary and other common web cms tools that ‘digital natives’ (for want of a better term) could simply understand and choose to use. Moodle specific mods like the database or lesson needed this info for all users. With a large user base, and small team building this info into the interface rather than relying on training or documentation made a lot of sense.
http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-30615 looks like a big step in the right direction.
You’ll have some interesting discussions about what is the right default pedagogical info to provide for activities and how to provide it in 140 characters or less, i’m still not convinced we have the text or UI right, so the fact this has been acknowledged as a problem and that more people are working on this is great news.
3.2 Action icons
Interviews with our content curators told us the ‘editing clutter’ could be a barrier for them. We tried the hover approach, a ‘gear’ icon to show editing and lots of other patterns.
There is a forum discussion on the editing clutter we posted our users prefered solution on http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=197470&parent=864943
Would this design pattern be something others would like to see in moodle?
From our own lessons learned it’s important not to over-speck and rely on js, when good old fashioned html/css will do the job and often produce better, simpler interaction. Sometimes the infinite possibilities of shiny js interaction can distract from what you need - a great, simple user experience pattern. Less reliance also keeps page load times down, decrease complexity for developers, aids accessibility and makes it all more future proof.
Keep it simple, and keep tommorow in mind when developing now http://futurefriend.ly/thinking.html
So yeh, great work all round really looking forward to seeing some of this in future moodles, hope sharing our experience with some of this proves useful to you!
E-learning team @ sussex
p.s. on a technical note It’s been interesting for us developing with html5 to see the browser landscape move from ie8 and below to chrome, firefox4+, ie9, tablet and mobile becoming the predominant methods of accessing our moodle. I’d recomend using the latest html web standards for interaction (data-target, details/summary, draggable may all be relevant to your spec) and polyfills/shims as fallbacks https://github.com/Modernizr/Modernizr/wiki/HTML5-Cross-browser-Polyfills