NetBuddies use Internet Buttons, one of the earlier versions of Buttons, to provide a simple point-and-click interface for clients at its Job Clubs.
Tell us a bit about yourself. (Your job, organisation, and your technical ability!)
NetBuddies runs computer classes for new entrants to computing. Many are elderly or disabled. We recently started Job Clubs alongside our other activities and these too cater for those with poor computer or keyboard skills, disabilities of various kinds, who are hard to place in employment, but who are now required to search for jobs and interact with Government bodies online. We have many years of computer experience as users and a limited amount in setting up systems for business administration and reporting, but we are not technical experts or programmers.
Why did you look for this tool in the first place? What did you need help with?
We wanted a simple interface to allow us to direct users to specific web sites and sources of information. We needed to be able to set it up and easily amend or update it without resorting to programming.
How did you find out about the tool?
We picked it up in the beta phase from a UK online centres email.
What is this tool mainly used for?
To provide a simple interface allowing users to easily access specific web sites or pages.
What do YOU use it for?
As a consistent front end across all our computers (Linux and Windows 7) allowing our Job Club clients to quickly reach relevant information on jobs, benefits, transport etc. as well as learning resources. We have it set as the Home page in our browser, so it always shows when the browser starts.
What have been the benefits of using this tool?
Huge reduction in the time to get new and relatively unskilled users onto a computer and productively using the facility.
Is there any cost attached to using this tool?
No, it's free, and it is quick and easy to set up and administer.
Are there any online tutorials available?
Only a basic overview, but the software is easy to use, so that is not a problem.
Did this tool need much of your or a colleague’s time to set up at the beginning?
We had our first mock-up running inside 20 minutes. Most of the configuration time is in finding the relevant sites and directing the user to the most appropriate page, not always the home page.
Are there any limitations to using this tool?
It gives you very limited options to design the interface. You have a fixed range of colours for the buttons, some of which are not strong enough for white-out text to show clearly. There is a standard font and size for the text on the button and it's not easy to format a longer script to break in the appropriate place. At the moment, we only use it to direct users to individual web pages. It would be useful to use it as an interface to open applications or documents. This could work locally on one computer, but not as a universal web-based solution as it is. The initial link to the web site is through the Internet Buttons portal and server, which is at times quite slow. Hopefully this may improve as it develops.
Do you have any top tips for using this tool?
Experiment with it. The legends on the buttons need to be well thought out. Test it thoroughly with a group of real users, don't just trust your own or another 'expert's' judgement. Always find the web page you need and then copy and paste the URL into the Internet Buttons interface - don't trust your typing.