Re: [Rhythmbox-devel] Usability report on Rhythmbox

On 22/07/10 18:07, Mister Ribble wrote:
The huge question that should have been asked of users for this report
 "Which music software would you consider yourself most familiar with?"
It was actually asked.  Most participants used iTunes and a few Microsoft Media Player.  Most often, though, the comparison participants drew was between RB and iTunes.  I will add this to the final version of the report.
We know that the users are 'heavy music consumers', but most users
opinions of how things *should* work will be heavily biased towards
whatever software they feel most expert in. Based on some of the users
comments, it sounded to me like most of these users weren't used to
Ubuntu and its paradigms. 
This is right.  We selected participants on the basis of their high level of activity with and interest in music.  Participants were 'general public', potentially new Ubuntu users.
Those of us who are find Rhythmbox
significantly easier to use. Things like "Participants are used to a
rating column in their library" tell me that primarily this report is
designed not to make Rhythmbox more usable, per se, but to make it
better fit users expectations based on previous experience with other
This is a very interesting statement.  My assumption is that if users expect to find a feature somewhere, the feature is not there and they can't find it anywhere else, that is not a usable product.  Expectations and industry standards are core to the usability of a product - if everyone expects to find a column with ratings in their library, this might be a hint to the fact that this type of presentation of ratings has become an industry standard. Of course, we have a choice here, we can play on the strength of the standard or we can decide we won't.  If we refuse to follow people's expectations, we still have to take into account these expectations and give users generous clues to help them discover the features they want to use. 
Furthermore, I hope that Rhythmbox developers don't take comments like
"Users need prompts and feedback to successfully download their music
from a USB key. " as gospel. I would hate to have Rhythmbox intrusively
trying to tell me how to do things all the time. 
I can understand that this might not work for you.  However, our participants wanted more guidance and reassurance - especially when they can't achieve their goals.  Of course, we can chose to design  interactions in many ways, some more elegant than others. 
I like the specificity
of Rhythmbox's language. Statements like 

"...a new window gave a choice between importing file or folder. This
dialogue box confused participants since, in their minds they were not
dealing with files or folder but with songs. "

are disingenuous - I would argue that if a computer user doesn't realize
the difference between a file and folder, they need some basic education
before they should be doing anything with a computer. 
This is another good point.  However, users do not deal with computers when they engage with RB - they deal with music and songs and beautiful things - with magic - that don't equate in their minds with folder and files and computers.  It is true that there have some practical goals in mind, for example, to set up RB and listen to music, but they also have what we call in user experience, 'experiential goals'.  'Experiential goals' correspond to how users want to feel as they are doing the practical bits.  With RB, they want to feel entertained and happy.  They are engaging in enjoyable activities.  It is a usability matter how they feel, because how they feel will probably determine if they will adopt the product or not and if they will show the patience to learn and stick with it even if everything is not working perfectly.
I realize that Mac
people like imagining that they can get away from the concept of a file,
and knowing where it is and what to do with it, but such a view
oversimplifies. If a user works with nothing but 'songs', do we expect
them to keep all of their music in a single directory? If so, how do we
conceptualize them importing a large, coherent group of songs? If not,
wouldn't it seem intuitive to them to import an entire directory from
their collection?

I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm just one user of Rhythmbox, and
I would hope that no one would take all of these recommendations as
authoritative. I prefer Rhythmbox to the myriad other music software
packages because of what it is - if you make it more like others, I
would like it less. This doesn't mean it can't stand improvement, nor
does it mean that some of the recommendations aren't excellent. I just
find this report rather damning of Rhythmbox, which is not
representative of how I see it.
I think that the problems users had with RB stemmed from a weak user-interaction design (anticipation of what users are about to do and responding to what they just did). Participants were often lost because they just didn't know what was going on and RB seemed unpredictable.  Usability findings don't reflect on the excellence of the RB itself.  Having more explicit engagement with users would greatly increase the usability and enjoyment of RB. 

As I mentioned before, there are many ways to respond to these findings:  we could adopt standards and/or satisfy users' expectations or, if we opt for uniqueness, we have to realise that users will be lost and the mechanisms of anticipation/feedback becomes even more critical to the success of the application.

Thanks for such a thoughtful feedback!

-Eli Ribble

On Thu, 2010-07-22 at 16:38 +0200, Charline wrote:

I have just completed usability testing of Rhythmbox.  I am planning
to publish the results on on Tuesday.  I would
like you to read the report, if you have time, and send  me feedback
or any questions you might have.

I hope the report will be helpful.  

User Research Programme Lead
27th floor, 21-24 Millbank Tower
London SW1P 4QP UK 

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7630 2491
Mob: +44 (0) 78 8695 4514 <> <>

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User Research Programme Lead
27th floor, 21-24 Millbank Tower
London SW1P 4QP UK 

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7630 2491
Mob: +44 (0) 78 8695 4514 <> <>

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