Move collection organization sidebar to the left for usability


As confirmed with the Yale usability study, researchers commonly explore the PUI by looking in an "F" pattern on the screen (meaning: across the top, down the left side, and across the middle area). The collection organization sidebar is an extremely important tool for researchers, but it is unintuitively placed on the right hand column. As described on page 15: "​Many users did not see this sidebar
immediately because they scan the page down along the left side. Some users noted
that they expected this type of feature to be on the left side of the screen. Screen
readers must read through everything on the left side of the page before coming to
this section so right-hand orientation is also an accessibility issue."
What if the finding aid view became the dominant part of the collection overview tab, and that more details of the archival object expand within this view when they're clicked upon? As described in ANW-765, I agree that the top container listing needs to be more prominent in the list view.

An additional point is that neither view is currently that helpful in keeping track of the hierarchy for a large collection. Ideally in the finding aid view, I would like the upper hierarchy to remain visible in a collapsed position with a gist similar to Princeton's finding aids. As in, I'd like it to be more clear what series I'm in from the finding aid view, not needing to click on each item.

Yale's study also determined that the filters for search results was more effective if moved from the right to the left hand column, which is also consistent with "designing for the F".


Lydia Tang
December 17, 2019, 9:39 PM

Comment from ArchivesSpace member list, Rachel Donahue: “Yes, please!”

Lydia Tang
December 17, 2019, 9:42 PM

Comment from ArchivesSpace member list, Lara Friedman-Shedlov, University of Minnesota: “If this is going to happen, I hope at the same time the issue with scrolling of the main window (currently to the left of the navigation tree) when in "Finding Aid View" in Firefox, which I reported about two years ago and is still not fixed, can be resolved. Right now the scroll bar does not work. The only option is to scroll with a mouse or other pointing device, which is extremely slow.

In addition, it is very hard to resize the navigation tree in Firefox. Clicking and dragging the left side of the window to make it bigger doesn't work correctly.”

Sarah Horowitz
December 18, 2019, 5:52 PM

This should definitely move forward – it’s a great opportunity to put ArchivesSpace in line with UX best practices, make this information more visible to users, and to be more in line with other discovery systems.

Lydia Tang
December 20, 2019, 4:45 PM

We discussed this ticket in Dev. Pri. and - with such strong community support for this ticket - we’re passing this to Ready for Development. However, the Program Team will need to investigate whether it can be configurable (and investigate potential re-sizing issues). ~ on behalf of Dev. Pri.

Mark Custer
January 3, 2020, 4:04 PM

I think that following Harvard’s example would make the most sense for the default view.

Ideally, the re-size bug could be fixed at the same time. Right now, if you re-size that section and then zoom in or zoom out, the display gets all wonky (which is why we took the re-size option away in our instance since we couldn’t find an easy fix for that issue). See

Same thing happens in Harvard’s view, though in that case the section gets pushed so far to the left of the screen when zooming in and out that often its completely hidden.

As for putting it on the right, the only implementation that I think has gotten this “right” (sorry ) is the Archives Hub (this isn’t ASpace, i just really like the implementation and functionality!). See . No issues whatsoever within zooming in and out with your browser, and all of the features there are great. The display also works well when there’s no hierarchy at all, which is also possible in ASpace. See Giving that possibility, I think that’s why the right-hand positioning of this section makes the most sense… but it only works when the section is removed if there’s no hierarchy, which isn’t what ASpace does currently. So, to me, I think the overall implementation is a lot more important than what gets put on the left vs. the right. But if there are no other changes (aside from fixing the re-size bug), then I completely agree that putting the sidebar on the left-hand side would definitely be best.





Lydia Tang

Affects versions