Re: [Usability] measuring and improving user productivity

Interesting ideas, Matthew. I agree that it is important for the desktop to address both the needs of new and more experienced users, and that sometimes the latter get forgotten about. To me, something like GNOME Do is a really interesting case in this respect. GNOME Do is a tool for people who are familiar with the desktop - and it is an extremely useful tool for those users. Very fast, very efficient. I think it's telling that it is an extra that must be installed by the user, though. In an ideal world, the standard desktop would integrate features like this, which would tie into basic application launching, and make themselves known/discoverable. Interfaces which combine both GUIs and text interaction are very promising in terms of what you're talking about, therefore.

Banshee is a another good example. Here, you can search and browse using the GUI, but there is also a search box with a basic query language (the 'artist: ' prefix searches by artist, for example). What would be nice is to see the behaviour in the GUI fed back into that search box though. If I click on 'Kylie' in the browser, the search box should update to display 'artist: Kylie'. This would make the search box functionality more discoverable. As users became more familiar with the app, so they learn to utilise the more 'advanced' search box.

I'm not sure whether 'productivity' is the best term of what you're aiming for. It's a difficult concept to work with, and it might be unnecessarily limiting. I think what you are pointing to is certain aspects of the user experience and particular kinds of adjustment/alignment between desktop and user. Perhaps, instead of talking about productivity, we should be talking about familiarity? We could then talk about mechanisms which leverage familiarity. We could also think about how familiarity is promoted and constructed by the interfaces that are used by new (ie. unfamiliar) users. An obvious example of this is discoverability. You could also think about how desktop and applications promote different habits and patterns of use (as well as knowledges), though.



Hello, I've had on my mind for a while the topic of user productivity
which could be thought of as a subject that falls under usability.

Several times I've composed emails on the subject and with each I tend
to be too detailed or they turn into a rant (or both) and I don't send
it. So I'm writing briefly to see if others here are interested in
discussing this. My thoughts in the matter are this:

The goal of a highly usable desktop environment might be to make you
more productive. That means when you set your mind to a task that is
possible to accomplish you should be able to accomplish it with the
least amount of effort. Especially repetitive tasks.

Optimizing for new user productivity may not be beneficial to
experienced user productivity and vice versa. For example, many call
centre applications from days gone by used green screen terminal apps
that used keyboard short cuts to speed up the experienced users.

Testing for user productivity is also a challenge. In my experience
the more detailed or lengthy the user test is, the less the results of
the test reflect real world results. Meaning that testing in the lab
produced results that were inconsistent with what users were doing in
the real world.

As a daily GNOME user I often get frustrated because the environment
seems to be working against me. For example, the focus is often in the
wrong place in the file chooser dialog and programs like GIMP often
revert to a default setting each time the application is launched.
This caused me to start thinking about how a series of disparate
pieces could be changed to work together to improve productivity. Yet
I'm completely mystified how to measure and test for productivity.

So here we have it, not too long, not too much of a rant. I'm just
curious if anyone else is thinking about this and if anyone knows how
to quantify it so that effort can be made to improve it.

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