Moodle usability – Global editing button overwhelms the user when turned on

Moodle UX_1


When the global editing button is in “ON” mode, every editing option for all sections are visible at the same time. In some instances there is more than one option visible in the same row for a user to choose from. The appearance of all these options at the same time also causes some of the interface layout to shift down to accommodate these editing options. This causes an interference effect and the user must constantly re-assess the space they are working in. The user is left feeling overwhelmed with all of the options on display. In addition, this mode does not provide an accurate representation of the completed edits, causing the user to constantly switch between “editing ON” and “PREVIEW” modes to be able to preview how the edits will finally appear.

Usability heuristic/s neglected:

Recognition rather than recall: Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

Aesthetic and minimalist design: Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

See 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design by Jakob Nielsen.


A solution to this problem could be to constrain the number of options displayed at the same time for a single item. Having all these options displayed at once, actually increases the choices a user is having to make and causes further cognitive overload. Next, eliminate the need to have editing turned on at all, by having settings cog icons (with drop-down menus) that appear at all times on hover, when the user is signed in as administrator (as pictured). A comforting stop-gap for the user might be to keep the “Turn editing ON” button, but make it default to “ON” with the button displaying the word “PREVIEW” to turn it off. This would provide a “the right tool when you need it” approach for the user and also allow the user to continue editing without getting distracted by the interface. (I believe this could end up saving the user hours).

A further solution to the back and forth feeling a user may experience when editing basic text features on this page, would be to allow the user to edit text directly from the main page eliminating the need for a separate editing page (see Additionally, changing the cursor to the move tool icon when placed over topic headings eliminates the need for this extra option to appear at all.

Usability assessment carried out on the standard “vanilla” version of Moodle. Download the full Moodle UX Evaluation – PDF – 3MB originally posted here. This suggestion will be added to the Moodle Issue Tracker if there are no major objections to this post. Feedback welcome!

Recommended reading – Universal Principles of Design.

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