Saturday, March 8, 2014

Testing design patterns

Following up on my audience analysis, my usability test needs to examine design patterns in GNOME, rather than specific applications or programs. Allan Day of the GNOME Project recommends several such design patterns that GNOME would like to see in a usability test:

I'd be particularly interested in looking at selection mode, header bars, notifications, content overviews (browsing within the content apps), full screen, app menus and gear menus. The patterns look a bit different in some places, so it might be nice to compare, say, selection mode in Software compared with selection mode in Clocks. For full screen I would probably look at Videos (the new version that's been done for 3.12) or Documents.

The GNOME Applications wiki entry currently lists some 130 GNOME programs. That's a lot; it's impossible to cover so many programs in a single usability test. Fortunately, Day suggested a list of ten GNOME applications that use the new design patterns concept:

  1. Clocks
  2. Contacts
  3. Documents
  4. gedit (development version only)
  5. Maps
  6. Music
  7. Notes
  8. Photos
  9. Software
  10. Web

An ideal usability test would examine several design patterns across a few applications. But timing is an issue. If the usability test goes on for more than an hour, I'll "lose" the testers to exhaustion. It's hard to get volunteers to participate in a test longer than about 45-60 minutes. And that time needs to include the "welcome" where you explain the usability test, understand the tester, etc. - and the "wrap up" where you go back to ask about themes, or areas that seemed particularly easy or difficult to complete. As I plan the usability test, and decide what programs to include in it, I need to watch time carefully.

In order to draw comparisons between the results of this usability test and a previous usability test conducted with GNOME 3.4 and Firefox, the new test design should include Nautilus, Web, and gedit. Nautilus is the GNOME file manager; while the GNOME project is hesitant to make further changes to Nautilus, testing this program in a usability study would provide an interesting comparison to earlier results: How have GNOME design patterns improved the usability of the file manager? Determining which other programs to include in a usability test requires further examination of the GNOME design patterns.

I went back and forth as I analyzed how each of the ten programs used the GNOME design patterns. I commented on part of this process as I discussed my areas of investigation. I found it helpful to compare the ten programs and what functionality they exercised within the design patterns. From that analysis, I eventually focused on these design patterns, which is pretty much the same list that Day suggested:
  1. Application Menus (1)
  2. Header Bars (2)
  3. Content Overview
  4. Selection Mode (5)
  5. Gear Menu
  6. Notifications
(numbers correlate to diagram, from HIG wiki)

These are the design patterns that get exercised the most, and/or have the largest impact to user task scenarios. And as I further examined the ten programs, I determined that a usability study of only a few programs should provide sufficient exercise to the six design patterns to draw effective comparisons and derive common themes. These programs are:
  1. gedit
  2. Nautilus
  3. Notes
  4. Software
  5. Web
This list also incorporates three programs that will let me expand upon my previous usability study. Looking back, those programs were GNOME's gedit, GNOME's file manager (Nautilus) and the Firefox web browser. In my new usability study, I would like to examine programs that let me expand the analysis - but at the same time, provide a deeper analysis of my previous results. I think the new list of five programs will allow me to do that.

No comments:

Post a Comment