How can we make Perl more "explorable?" That's the question I've been wrestling with since my last post about "Getting to the root of Perl's perception problems." (By the way, thanks for all of the feedback -- very helpful).
As I continued to think through the different audiences that Perl needs to speak to and the challenge of helping them find the information they're looking for, I kept coming back to one idea: we need a Sherpa.
A Sherpa for Perl
No, not a real Sherpa, or some virtual recreation. But a wayfinding system that will help people find their way to the top of Perl's Mount Everest. So I started investigating what design patterns are out there in the wild for wayfinding across a network of sites, and recorded these specimens as inspiration (click on the photo for the full-size version):
My favourite by far (because I use it all the time) is the BBC's "Explore" button. It's always there, across all of their sites, and never fails me. (You can see it in action, and try it, here.)
I also like the Virb bar, as it provides some other useful buttons: Take the tour, Search, and Help. Interesting ideas to think about in relation to the enormous Perl online ecosystem.
On the simpler end of things is the network banner for Sidebar creative; just links to each of their various sites. Again, always there, easy to find your way around.
Wayfinding through the Perl universe
The challenge for the Perl community -- and I would argue it's as much of a challenge for the BBC (or probably more) -- is the vast, sprawling, universe of Perl sites. And, as discussed before, they are all over the place. Each has a different navigation system, a different look and feel, and no common set of links to other Perl sites.
This is not a challenge that is going to be solved quickly, or easily -- though I'm glad to read that the TPF and EPO have taken up the cause directly -- and I suspect that the Perl community will need to live with a ad-hoc collection of sites for some time to come. So, with that in mind, I set myself to sketching out some ideas for an "'Explore Perl' persistent navigation bar" that could be implemented easily, and quickly, and across several of the key Perl online properties.
(Like the example design patterns shown above, I think there's a lot of room for creative interpretation here -- should it be dark, light, and so on -- so, to avoid the taste debate, I simply present some ideas for the information concerns of such an intervention.)
(Click for full size image)
Here we have a simple, persistent, bar with a big "Explore" button that opens into a "Mega Nav" with logical menu groups for the major audiences described in my last post. It's simple, and effective: providing a minimal-looking bar that opens into a very useful way of navigating the Perl ecosystem.
Just for those who aren't huge fans of the "Mega Nav" approach, here's another version with the groupings rolled up into simple buttons in the bar:
Hopefully this presents the idea clearly. Again, if you haven't experienced how this would work, go try the BBC "Explore" button over here -- then, come back, and let me know what you think.
Finally, feedback on the grouping and the contents of each grouping, would also be helpful. Clearly, I've left out some obvious things -- like CPAN -- and I've done that because I'm grappling with where they conceptually fit. Suggestions welcome.