Update on All Books, Spatial Interfaces: Aging and Orientation

I’ve spoken a number of times about my personal project for creating a user interface (UI) for reading the Bible – primarily on my phone – called All Books. This post serves as something of an update to where things are with this project, and some of the aims that have evolved as I have continued to use it and gain some feedback from others.

What is All Books?
All Books is a navigational interface for Biblical texts for my personal reading. Technically, it is just a front-end UI built using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript (content is sourced from various areas). The goal of this project is to build an interface to a series of Biblical texts that fits my mental model of navigation and organization – while also being a means for me to gain some insight to the problems and opportunities within the spaces of document navigation (UI and UX), open-licensed content sources (publishing), and memory/recall (mental models, UX).

Current Status:
All Books could be described as being in a field test mode. Since finishing the linking and sources items (March/April ’12), I’ve basically moved to using All Books as my primary Bible reader, noting performance and usability issues, and beginning the process of moving forward with the concept of a spatial interface model.

Next Steps:

  • Create pallet for secondary colors for all sub-sections (i.e., Torah, Gospels, Minor Prophets); append code to assign these colors
  • Create a tracking system where after each click, a CSS class is applied which makes the text a grade more transparent (i.e., after one click into Gen, the black text for Gen becomes 80% black (or adds 20% transparency). After a predetermined number of clicks, the box remains visible, but the text is not. Applied for both book and chapter numbers (counted separately)

The first step is in progress, and has been since the inception of the UI. I navigate in part by color and want to push more meaning of sections of the navigational interface using color. I’ve settled on a two-color method at this point (primary color for the section, secondary color for the subsection).

The second step is also in progress. – though will take a bit longer to make happen. Essentially, this is a mode in the user interface where each click is recorded and the clicked link is dimmer (noticed the next time you would be on that layer of navigation). The text label "fades away," much like ink on a page would fade after repeated touching. This isn’t ink, and so that fading happens much faster.

A UI Model Based on Aging and Spatial Orientation
As seen in the screenshot appended to this, I’m going to push towards an evolution in the UI that takes into account a mental model that’s commonly seen within those persons who read books and are not so much associated with the specific citation of a fact, but associate with a placement on a page to uncover what it is they are looking for.

In a sense, the interface evolves as you use it to endearing the reader to rely more on knowing what place in the section or book they are navigating to. And by the seeing of the text, it is understood by the reader that they have not (as often) engaged those books or chapters. If you will, each click ages the book or chapter, and after some predetermined number of clicks into that book or chapter, the text fades away and the reader is left to associate the primary and secondary colors of the box, along with that box’s placement in relation to others in its subgroup, and along with a fast calculation of the number of chapters, to where they want to go in the text.

I believe that this kind of interface will show me a bit more what books I am in and out of more clearly, while also providing a means to emphasize what digital can do that mimics how we navigate in a print setting. It might be possible to do a kind of "log" section within in where I can see how many times I was in a book or how much I’ve read between sections, books, and chapters total.

Documenting of the primary and secondary color pallet is in progress, and a schema that will guide how to build the tracking system is underway. You can see the progress (and are welcome to join the project) at the All Books Project on GitHub.

Not sure where this goes from here. I’m just doing this as it comes. That said, I’m enjoying the mess out of building, using, and talking about it. All Books has definitely opened my eyes to a few things I’ve not seen, or not seen in a very long time.