The Fluid Project (http://fluidproject.org), a worldwide collaborative project that will help to improve the usability and accessibility of community source software projects, was recently chosen by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for $2.5 million in support. The project is led by the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto along with the University of California at Berkeley, University of British Columbia, York University, and Cambridge University. Other partners include Michigan State University, University of Colorado, University of Michigan, Sun Microsystems, the Mozilla Foundation, and IBM.
Fluid will develop and freely distribute a library of sharable user interfaces designed to improve the user experience of web applications. These interface components will be built specifically to support flexibility and customization while maintaining a high standard of usability, accessibility, and internationalization. The Fluid software will enable designers and developers to build user interfaces that can more readily accommodate diverse personal and institutional needs.
"The end result will be a library of high quality, accessible, usable user-interface components that universities internationally and any number of large organizations around the world can use, and ultimately a better web experience for users," says Jutta Treviranus, the director of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre and principal investigator on the Fluid Project. Fluid's rich user interface components will be included in several academic community source products including Sakai and uPortal.
The project will also foster the contributions of skilled interaction designers, testers, and accessibility experts within open source communities. Fluid will create a user-centered design toolkit that will provide useful documentation and research about web usability and accessibility. This toolkit will be freely shared with the Moodle, Sakai, uPortal, and Kuali Student communities.
Although Fluid will initially focus on improving academic software, the technology may also be useful in other web software products. Rich Schwerdtfeger, chair of the IBM Accessibility Architecture Review Board says, "Fluid will be the first project to deliver a personalized Web 2.0 experience for people with disabilities. Although the Fluid Project is targeted for the learning space, what we learn should have broader web implications in the future."
Many of the Fluid Project partners are founding contributors to the academic community source software movement, and bring a wealth of design and development expertise to the project. Please visit [http://fluidproject.org] for more information or to get involved.
Sakai is a free and open source online collaboration and learning environment. Many users of Sakai deploy it to support teaching and learning, ad hoc group collaboration, support for portfolios and research collaboration. http://www.sakaiproject.org
uPortal is an open source, enterprise portal collaboratively developed by higher-education institutions and commercial affiliates. uPortal is led by JA-SIG, the global consortium promoting open technology for higher education. http://www.uportal.org
Moodle is a course management system--a free, open source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. http://www.moodle.org
The Kuali Student Service System will deliver a new generation student system that will be developed through the Community Source process, delivered through service-oriented methodologies and technologies, and sustained by an international community of institutions and firms.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a private philanthropic institution, with assets of approximately $5.5 billion, that makes grants on a selective basis to institutions of higher education, independent libraries, centers for advanced study, museums, art conservation, and performing arts organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.mellon.org.