Monday, August 4, 2014

My slides from GUADEC

If you'd like a copy of my slides, I have shared them here: usability-themes-guadec-2014.

Note that my presentation used images as "backdrops" so I could talk about the content. So for the first half of the presentation, you may have some trouble in following along. The general outline is this:

1. Introduction.
Who I am, where I'm from. I have been involved in different free software projects since 1993. In 1994, I created FreeDOS, which is still used today to run classic DOS games, to run legacy business software, and to support embedded systems. I also recently got my Master's degree. My capstone project was a usability study of GNOME, working with Allan, Jakub, and Jon.
2. Software needs to be like a rock.
A colleague likes to use the phrase, "Software needs to be like a rock; it needs to be that easy to use." You don't think about how to use a rock; you just bang the rocks together. And software needs to be that simple to use, as well. That's important, because free software is competing for mindshare not just with other free software projects, but with MacOS, iOS, Chromebook, and Windows. Free software needs to be easy to use in order to attract and retain users. And that's where usability comes in.
3. What is usability?
Usability focuses on the user, on people. Because people use products to be productive, users are busy people trying to accomplish tasks, so users decide when a product is easy to use. If it's too hard to use, no one will use it. Usability is about being easy to learn, easy to use, easy to remember.
4. My usability study.
I worked with Allan, Jakub, and Jon to examine how well users understand and navigate the new design patterns in GNOME. This usability test covered five GNOME applications, and included testers of all ages and all experience levels.

Start with a definition of your users; GNOME includes everyone. Then create your test scenarios, using plain language that focuses on real tasks that real users would probably do. Be careful about time so you don't wear out your testers. See the slides for examples of actual scenarios used in the usability test.
5. My results.
I summarize my usability test results in a "heat map." Green and yellow represent no difficulty or little difficulty. Red and black show tasks where the user experienced extreme difficulty or was unable to complete the task. The heat map shows the tasks that represent areas of improvement in GNOME. In my talk, we had a great discussion about these usability areas. Allan has already created usability bugs in the GNOME Bugzilla.

It's best to run your own usability tests - but if you can't, at least follow these themes for good usability: Programs should be familiar to new users. Programs should be consistent to each other. Use menus carefully. Actions should produce obvious results. Buttons, labels, and icons should be located near to each other, or users will skip over them.

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