Joomla 1.6 Nested Categories and ACL Usability Testing Report

While I was at Joomla Day West, I took Joe Leblanc’s suggestion and conducted a usability test on Joomla 1.6 nested categories and ACL. The tester was Brad, a web designer who uses Joomla but has never used Joomla 1.6 — perfect for our needs!

Joomla 1.6 Nested Categories and ACL Usability Testing Video

Brad’s first impression was positive. He liked the clean look and the fact that it appeared very similar to 1.5.

Testing the nested categories feature

To test the nested categories feature, I asked Brad to create a pets category, place inside it categories for cats and dogs, and add a few canine sub-categories. Brad had no problem doing this.

Conclusion: for experienced Joomla 1.5 users, creating nested categories is an easy and understandable process.

Testing the ACL feature

The second task was to use the ACL feature. I asked Brad to find the feature and see if he understood how to use it.

Brad looked at the top menu and found it under Users – >Access Level.

Brad assumed that Level Title meant a group. He wasn’t sure what the hierarchy meant and said that he thought an info icon was missing.

After creating a new access level, Brad became confused about the meaning of what he had just done. “I’m not really sure what’s going on here,” he commented. He tried the help but found it wasn’t ready yet.

After opening the “customer level” he became even more confused about the hierarchy. At this point, said he may have to Google it in order to figure it out.

Brad tried a few things to understand the ACL but never quite got it. He said he would look for documentation and test it to see how it works.

Conclusion: the ACL feature is not as clear as it could be.

I later found the parameters that allow me to set permissions for each group, which is very cool, but Brad didn’t even realize that there was a permission box, so I would recommend that there should at least be a link at the top of the page and a “tooltip” for each group that describes its permissions. You can see this in the mockup below. Those two additions would help a great deal.

How we can improve the usability of the ACL edit page on Joomla 1.6

What do you think about the new ACL feature? How would you improve it?

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Merav Knafo is the founder and CEO of iJoomla, Inc. She loves writing about Joomla, usability and Social Networking.

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    Forest Linden


    Nice work, Merav!

    I think this usability test points out many of the confusing points about 1.6’s ACL features, which is great to have highlighted for everyone.

    In general, I think many things about the ACL User Interface and User Experience could be, and should be, improved in future releases, but given that 1.6 has passed the feature lock date, we’ll likely have to wait for those kind of improvements.

    Two things that come to mind that might help people understand the ACL features in the short term:

    1. Label the sample levels and groups as “sample level”/”sample group” or even “example level” and “example group.”

    When people who know 1.5 see “customer group” it’s likely to confuse them, because they may not yet understand that that’s an example group that came with the sample data.

    Simple, small labels to the upper right of those group/level names could make it very clear what they are, and then people could use them as they are intended: to help them figure out how to use the ACL features.

    As it is, that sample data for the levels and groups is likely to confuse more people than help them.

    2. Provide contextual video tutorials that play in a modal window or small, new browser window that can be moved anywhere where there are ACL features. The help documentation is good for some people, but having video tutorials available right where you need them, and accessible without leaving the page where you are stuck, would be a great help to people with the ACL features.

    The ACL is very, very powerful once you wrap your head around it, but I think it’s going to confuse a lot of people…both those who are familiar with 1.5, and people who are totally new to 1.6.

    Cheers 🙂


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    Forest, couldn’t agree more. Just seeing the word “customers” made me think that there was something related to ecommerce about this group but there wasn’t, it was just a name.

    Also, video tutorials are a proven way to reduce user confusion. I have links to a video tutorial on each page of my extensions backend, this allow our customers to get immediate help and reduces the support queries tremendously.