[Usability] Ideas for Usability Hackfest

A few weeks ago I was asked to help with planning a GNOME Usability
hackfest.  There is a lot of interest in having the GNOME Foundation
be more involved doing usability studies and testing.

I have had some discussion with people involved with GNOME Usability
and the following ideas came up as being interesting.  I think a
hackfest that runs from 3-5 days could be long enough to make progress
in perhaps a few different areas.  For example:

- GNOME Foundation Mobile Usability Lab

  This could involve setting up a mobile usability lab on Foundation
  provided equipment to be used at various conferences, events, or
  hackfests when there is a need to do a usability study.

  This project would involve using the time spent together at the
  hackfest to actually conduct a usability study and document how
  it is done, so other projects can follow a template.

  Something along the lines of what Máirín Duffy already has some
  experience with[1].

- Next revision of the GNOME HIG

  The HIG is still in draft form, and does not discuss newer
  technologies such as clutter at all.  The HIG needs some real
  attention to ensure it continues to be helpful with GNOME 3.0.

- Usability Data

  We need to think of more creative ways to get GNOME users to be able
  to provide more effective usability data to us, how to do usability
  studies in a remote fashion, how to store usability data so it is

  Methods to get more effective usability data might include things like
  encouraging developers to test paper prototypes with family and
  friends,  instrumenting development builds of software (cf. InGimp:
  <http://www.ingimp.org/>), or devising self-administered usability
  tests where users run through tasks that are provided in an email or
  on a website, and either record themselves doing it (using something
  like Pongo again) and/or fill in a questionnaire afterwards.

- Ongoing Usability

  Some time could be spent on activities such as making progress to
  develop a better set of usability personas, doing paper prototyping,
  card sorting, etc.  Perhaps the GNOME Usability team could improve
  the Usability Wiki to provide some more concrete help for those
  interested in doing usability testing.

For all of these tasks, there is no reason to wait until a hackfest
to get started.  A lot, I think, could be done in preparation, including
things like deciding what should be tested, how subjects are selected,
setting up hardware, putting together confidentiality/release form
for subjects to sign, deciding how to improve documentation or the Wiki,

Since I think there would be further preparation needed for this kind of
event, I think it makes the most sense to give ourselves time to discuss
further before deciding on a timeframe for the event.

The Boston Summit is coming up in a few weeks (October 10-12).  I am
wondering how many usability people are going to this event.  If there
is an interest, and enough people going, we could plan to get together
there and discuss these ideas further.  Any interest?

So, I am interested to hear what people think.  I am interested to know
who is interested, who are the right people to be involved with a
project like this, and who might be available to help with
organizational things.


Brian Cameron
GNOME Foundation Secretary


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