In our class, I asked students to do their own usability test as a final project, from capturing the Personas, documenting the use Scenarios, defining the Scenario Tasks, and moderating a usability test on their favorite open source software project. To get them ready for the final project, I had students moderate a "mini-project." I selected the topic for the mini-project, based on what open source software everyone claimed some level of familiarity with.
We did our usability test "mini-project" using LibreOffice. This was interesting for me to observe as the instructor, because I am a user of LibreOffice on Linux, and have followed (somewhat) the user interface changes the project has made to improve usability.
I'd like to take a moment to share these three snapshots in LibreOffice's usability: from 4.3 to 4.4 to 4.0.
Please ignore the different user interface font in the 220.127.116.11 screenshot. I have been experimenting with Droid Sans as my GNOME user interface font, in researching another blog post about GNOME.
(That blog post is coming up in the next few weeks.)
What I find interesting is the toolbar becomes increasingly complex, filled with more tools. A few changes that interest me:
- LibreOffice provides more options to save your document in later versions, adding a "Save As" icon (floppy disk with a pencil) but dropping the "Send" option (envelope).
- Relative position of the "Spell check" icon ("Abc" with a green checkmark) changes from version to version.
- Character formatting options expand in later versions. From 4.3 to 4.4, you can now add strikeout, superscript, and subscript. from 4.4 to 5.0, you can also do outlining.
- Relative position of text color and highlight changes.
- Placement of indent (and "out-dent") and bullet/numbered lists icons changes from version to version, including relative position.
- Overall, the user interface (including Properties menu, icons, etc) seems more complex in later versions than in earlier versions.
Each row in the heat map shows a scenario task, summarized here in a few words. Each column represents a different tester.
Comparing these test results to the user interface changes in LibreOffice, most of the toolbar icons aren't used. So these results don't speak to the UI changes there. This usability test mini-project did exercise "Save," "Save As," "Save As PDF," "New Document" and "Center text" functionality. However, we found that most testers skipped the toolbar, and went right to menus. Interesting.
These usability test results highlight the difficulty a student has in setting a page number in the header of a document. Note that many testers experienced some frustration in this task, and some were not able to do it at all (black).
I hope to see more usability testing of LibreOffice in the future. I haven't found a project on usability testing at the LibreOffice website, but LibreOffice doesn't seem to do usability testing anyway. I hope this changes. User interface changes should be driven by users. As LibreOffice adds more complexity to the toolbar, I hope they will stop to consider how real people use the software (users are busy people who are trying to accomplish real tasks) and how they access its functionality (usability).