Re: [Usability] Usability meeting minutes

Usability team,

We recently had a GNOME Advisory Board meeting around usability. My apologies for not notifying you in advance to get your input on the agenda. (I'm still learning how to use the numerous GNOME mailing lists!) We have monthly conference calls with the GNOME Advisory Board - if there are specific usability topics to discuss or you'd like to follow up on this meeting, we can always schedule that for the future.

Below are my notes from the meeting. I'd like to follow up with the advisory board and I was wondered if you would be willing to work on some concrete next steps - maybe share your plans for GNOME usability that address the discussions below and point us to a place (on the wiki?) where you do (or could) list tasks that GNOME Usability could use help with. We could then share with the advisory board members and they could share it with others within their organization.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.



On Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 3:50 PM, Stormy Peters <stormy gnome org> wrote:
GNOME Advisory Board Meeting
October 8, 2008
GNOME Usability

Frank Ludolf (Sun)
Brian Cameron (Board of Directors/Sun)
Alberto Ruiz (Sun)
Dirk Hohendorf (Intel)
John Walicki (IBM)
Chris Blizzard (Mozilla)
Bradley Kuhn (FSF)
Jonathan Blandford (Red Hat)
Vincent Untz (Board of Directors/Novell)
Ted (Canonical)
Nigel (Canonical)
Alejandro Garcia Castro (Igalia)
Juan Sanchez Penas (Igalia)
Erwann Chénédé (Sun)
Calum Benson (Sun)

Stormy Peters (ED)

Potential action items to pursue:

  • Questions for downstream GTK+ designers/developers
  • Mentors for GNOME designers
  • Figure out best communication channel for involving designers
  • UI design freeze release cycle
  • HIG approved - what does it need to be approved?
  • HIG mobile, accessibility, ...
  • Publish design patterns
  • Case studies - sending a designer or user interface expert into large GNOME deployments and have them come back with feedback and suggestions.


Here are my notes. Any mistakes are my fault. Please confirm with the attributed speaker that that's what they really said before you respond. All the good ideas are of course theirs.

Vincent Untz presented the slides.

A little history. GNOME in the old days was not a good usable product. Because had mostly coders and no designers or artists. Big push for GNOME 2.0 - it's one of the things that made GNOME 2.0 a big success - wanted new GNOME to be usable. Companies and communities pushed for usability. It was successful because companies invested in it - invested in usability studies. The studies helped identify what was important and where we should focus. We no longer do usability studies but they would be useful.
Also had a push for the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) - one of the first for an open source software project. Helped us reach a consistent state and is a tremendous help when you want to make the system usable and consistent.

In the first few cycles of GNOME 2, there were UI reviews. They looked at new dialogs, gave feedback, kept a good state in GNOME. But no longer have people that have time to do that.

3 years ago Novell sponsored the - a usability study. The goal was to get some feedback on what is good from outside the project, people without prior experience with GNOME. The community was not involved and the conclusions were not discussed in the community, so it didn't have the impact that it could have had.

Usability is something the community cares about and is proud of - they want to continue to lead in usability.

Really deeply rooted. They also know that they aren't necessarily usability experts and they are looking for feedback. (This is different from other projects that might value features more than user experience.)

Lots of distributions use GNOME as a default and part of that decision is usability.

GNOME developer platform helps all application developers to do the right thing, usability wise. Make it easy using good default widgets - it's not just for GNOME but to help all developers develop good applications.

Things that could use help:

While we have a lot of developers that are aware of usability, developers are not designers, they make mistakes and need help. For example, on the usability mailing list we don't have many people helping anymore. Yet people still come for feedback. Missing designers.

We no longer do usability reviews during development cycle. Last one was 2.10 or 2.12 and we have lost some consistency and the new modules could have used some review. Lacking designers!

Don't have a project wide vision of what the GNOME desktop should look like. Don't have people leading and helping understand why this is good or bad and help make decisions. For example, GNOME menu was proposed to be included in GNOME. Big change in how applications are launched. Some discussion, but no concensus because we don't have enough people with usability and designer backgrounds to say what is good.

Downstream vs upstream is a big issue. If you look at distributions, most of them have designers working downstream. They might be duplicating work and have conflicting ideas - and they don't talk enough to each other. Would like to see less downstream usability and more upstream usability.

GTK+ is older than GNOME and does not have the same HIG. Standard GTK+ dialog had to be fixed in every application. Changing now as GTK+ folks are involved in GNOME but has been an issue in the past.

Community is well educated about usability but when someone new joins, there's no good and easy documentation or tutorial that explains why we do things this way or to teach them what's good and what's bad from a usability perspective.

User experience hackfest is going well. Not usability hackfest because usability is about rules, how you should build your interface. They want to improve how the desktop feels.

Try to change as few central things as possible. Set goals for next few years. For example, the panel might need some updates. File manager - like Federico's talk about finding documents. Do we want a timeline view? Find on text instead of folders? Have some broad discussions.
- How to introduce more effects and animation and natural feelings like sound into the desktop.
- All the window management, workspace, group things together, tabs in a window with window management.
- How to make applets useful.

Come up with top ideas and then add details. Not a definite plan but something to propose to the community and implement in th next 1-2 years.

Yesterday OLPC people came - they showed how they are doing things in quite a different way.

Hackfest is going quiet well.

A few things we'd like people to think about and help the community work better together:

To have downstream designers go upstream and help upstream developers. Would profit everyone and helping upstream is best for the long term as it would help grow some people.

Usability studies. Having some sponsored would help. Dave Richards had feedback from users on what's wrong and what works.

We'd like to have more time from hackers to work upstream to implement a better interface for desktop and platform and mobile space.

General discussion:

Alberto Ruiz: GTK has diff HIG: Is there a GTK+ HIG?
Vincent: No GTK+ HIG, just the defaults are different.

Alberto: How would be it to encourage GKT+ to use GNOME HIG defaults?
Vincent: Make sense and will eventually happen.

Stormy: How does design in downstream work?

John (IBM):
Have tools built on Eclipse. On Linux calls native GTK+ widgets. You want the look and feel to fit in with the rest of operating system. Their designers make sure theming and native widgets look like Linux apps. (Instead of Lotus notes.) They help the Lotus notes developers. Have usability studies for apps, usually the operating system is an after thought.

Chris (Mozilla)
Cross platform app. Core strength has been integration with core operating system. Has been a challenge. User experience is core value and thing they sell to customers. User experience decide what goes into a release. 6-8 designers (out of 170 employees) doing experience design to research to graphics. Most of that stuff is done on the open so blogged and get feedback. Watch users to reiterate quickly. Addons give them the ability to get feedback quickly instead of a year release cycle. Have problems with GTK+ itself because it's expensive to render native widgets. GNOME users help this a lot because they care about look and feel on GNOME. Feedback on blogs, use groups, twitter, ... then add-ons and quick turnaround. Not usability studies.

Could pass on a list of questions for designers on how GNOME could better help them with GTK+.

Frank (Sun):
Designers upstream. They will also do some usability studies. Once the code is written, it's much harder to get changes into it, especially if architecture doesn't support associating designers with upstream effort. I'm a designer who works with developers -the sooner, the earlier, the better.

The earlier in the process you get design work and usability, the better. Less time you spend developing something that doesn't work. Question how much user testing is going to be done upstream because user testing is always a whole system, not just GNOME. Would be good if Canoncial, Red Hat, could share their results upstream. Rate is about 1 every 3 years.

How will tests effect development process. Usability reviewers are not developers. Implementing formal reviews and tools at the right moment.

Have trial versions of packages. That's a way distros can help - with trial version for design reviews.

Most effective is usability testing on mockups early in the process.

Need to make sure we have a solid foundation. Current HIG is in draft form, haven't been formaly approved. With things like Clutter, OpenGL, there's a lot of usability change and a chance to do new interfaces, and we should invest how those would be in the HIG.

(Lost track of who said what ...)

Usability IRC channel was helpful for developer question.

Are we using the wrong tools to attract designers?  Not on IRC, mailing lists, ...

Carry water up hill - willing to carry it ourselves, come help. Need an action, inspire people to help.

Set some sort of milestone inside of release cycle where we call for designers to come try things and get advice.

Difference between UI design freeze and a code freeze. They have a UI freeze now that gives the documentation team time to update. Worth discussing.

(Sun) Been bad about getting feedback from desktop users that aren't part of our team. How do we encourage getting feedback from university users or people at work.

If you have money to spend, send designer or user interface engineer to large deployments of GNOME - user testing in field. City of Largo - GNOME - Dave Richards - have problems. Would have been useful to get it earlier. How would we generate the list of people?

Accessibility plays a role in usability. How would a blind user perceive the GNOME desktop.

Review of HIG by mobile space. Or separate guidelines for mobile.

Startup time of desktop itself and applications. Inside of usability tests ... developers are advised to focus on those types things.

Instead of usability studies ... case studies. Sending people out to large deployments.

Publish design patterns as part of the HIG. Would help developers to do more by themselves. Accompanied by sample code.

[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Thread Index] [Date Index] [Author Index]