Sunday, June 5, 2016

Week 2 in usability testing continues

I just wanted to say Diana, Renata, and Ciarrai have done a great job in summarizing personas and why they are important in usability testing. I encourage you to follow their blogs, especially if you are interested in how "usability testing" works and what goes into it.


Personas are an important part of any design process. Whether you are trying to figure out the user interface or deciding what new functionality to add, personas can help you connect to the users.

Personas allow you to talk about changes to the interface based on how those changes benefit users. Rather than saying “I want to add X feature because that would be cool” you can say “I want to add X feature because that helps users like the ‘Mark’ and ‘Sophia’ personas.”

As part of the Outreachy project, we are working with the GNOME Design team (Allan and Jakub). It's really great to have this connection with GNOME. They also share comments with us about GNOME design, which was very helpful in week 2 when we learned about who uses GNOME.

Allan said to us in his email: “GNOME is currently used by a wide range of people. There are people who set up computers for their families with GNOME, where family members are really beginners and will often not know what GNOME is. At the other end of the spectrum, there are technicians using GNOME in big companies, and of course software developers who are very technical and expert." So the potential users spans a wide range. And "When one of our designers set out to design GNOME 3, he stated that the goal was to design ‘a self-teaching interface for beginners, and an efficient interface for advanced users, but optimize for intermediates’.”

We're taking a few extra days to write some sample personas for GNOME. Ciarrai has written one sample persona, here. This is written in the more common “​Table” format, although formatted a little differently (tables are awkward in blogs). Usability.gov suggests the “​Table” format is “Best for designers who need an easy way to compare designs to user needs” and I agree. If you need to compare a set of sample personas, the table makes it easy to scan the list. If you don’t need much detail, you can “sketch out” a few sample personas for what they call a “Quick and Dirty” approach, and I’ve used that method too.

Usability.gov has a similar “table” formatted sample persona, here.

You can also find sample personas written by two previous usability testing interns for Outreachy & GNOME Outreach Program for Women, here:


Writing the sample personas might slip the internship schedule by a few days, but I think it's good to be flexible. Internships are supposed to be flexible anyway.

Expect “week 3” to start later this week. Our topic will be Scenarios.
image: Outreachy

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