Interview with Jim Hall, GUADEC Keynote Speaker

IMGP9524-1

The curtains are up on GUADEC 2014, and the first keynote was delivered by Jim Hall. Jim is the Director of Information Technology at Morris, University of Minnesota, and he presented his work on usability in GNOME. We took some time to talk to Jim about his keynote and about his research on GNOME.

Nowadays many designers are interested in user experience rather than usability. Do you believe that usability alone is still relevant?

Usability and user experience are related, but different. Usability is about getting something done; user experience is about the user’s emotional impression. Lots of things can affect the emotional experience of a graphical desktop like GNOME. Colors, fonts, location of elements, and window decorations are just some of the things that can influence how a person feels about using GNOME. That’s the user experience.

Usability focuses on the user. The general rule about usability is that people use programs to be productive, and they are busy people who are trying to get things done. Through usability testing, the user decides when a product is easy to use. Because if a program is hard to use, no one will want to use it. And if they don’t use the software, then they won’t have an emotional experience about it.

So I believe that usability and user experience go hand-in-hand. Programs need to be pleasant (user experience) but people need to be able to use them, too (usability).

In your experience, what are the biggest difficulties you can incur in arranging an user testing?

It is critical to plan a usability test around the users. Who are the users? Do you only expect programmers to use it, or is it intended for a general audience? With GNOME, that means everyone, so any usability test of GNOME must be designed for “general users with average knowledge.”

The next step is to decide what tasks those users need to do in GNOME. What are these general users trying to get done? In this usability test, we wanted to focus on new design patterns, but we first had to work out a set of tasks that real people would probably do: manage some folders and files, browse the web, take some notes, and so on.

Once you figure out what the usability test should cover, the hardest part is to make sure the tasks are realistic. You want each task to be something a real person would probably do in GNOME. But avoid using words or terms that actually appear in the program. That would only test if the user can match your task description to a menu item. Instead, you want to describe things using general terms. For example: when I asked testers to increase the font size on a website, I didn’t use the word “font.” Instead, the task was:

“You don’t have your glasses with you, so it’s hard to read the text on the website. Please make the text bigger on the website.”

You have done a lot of work on improving usability in GNOME: what was the hardest issue you found and the biggest satisfaction you have got?

I was really glad to see Allan and the other GNOME folks create entries in the GNOME Bugzilla. It’s really satisfying to see GNOME developers taking usability seriously.

In doing the usability test, it is hard to watch someone struggle to complete a task. You can’t give hints; you almost have to sit on your hands to keep from saying “the menu item you’re looking for is right there.” You must let the tester explore for themselves, in order to understand how users interact with your program.

I was surprised by some of the test results. For example: installing a program using Software. When testers searched for the program (“Robots”) they got a list of programs that matched the search, and a convenient “Install” button they could click. But if they navigated through the categories to find the program, the “Install” button was in the upper-right corner, and users didn’t see it. Instead, they clicked on the link to visit the program’s website, which got them totally off track. So testers either completed this task very easily, or they were not able to do it at all.

What do you expect from this GUADEC?

This is my first time at GUADEC, so I really don’t know what to expect. I have attended other similar conferences, so I expect to meet lots of interesting people. I am a very friendly person, so if you see me, please do say hi.

While I’ve visited other countries, this is my first trip to France. Unfortunately, I don’t have any French, so I am hoping someone will help help keep me from getting lost. I also speak conversational Spanish and a little bit of Klingon, but neither will help me in France. :-)

Can you give us a quick introduction to your GUADEC keynote?

My keynote will be a summary of my usability research with GNOME. This is based on my Master’s capstone project, which you can download from my blog: “Usability Themes in Open Source Software.”

The presentation walks through the usability test of GNOME. I think folks will be very interested in the “heat map” of the usability test, which shows how testers fared in the test. It’s a new way to share results of a usability test, and I think it helps to make issues more clear.

I will wrap up with a discussion of five themes from this usability test: how GNOME developers can extend this usability test to help them with other GNOME programs.

Many thanks to Jim for all his work, and for his excellent keynote presentation.

IMGP9514-1

The first day of this year’s GUADEC conference has wrapped up in Strasbourg, France. As usual, there were lots of fond reunions for long-standing contributors, as well as new faces who got their first chance to meet fellow GNOME contributors face-to-face.

In the morning, Jim Hall gave a well-received keynote on his user testing work on GNOME. Jim has been working closely with the GNOME Design Team, and has been helping to identify usability issues in GNOME’s applications. His presentation described his testing methodology, and presented the results of his tests. There was a positive response to Jim’s talk, and plans are already underway to resolve the issues he found for the next GNOME release, version 3.14.

The schedule also included a range of talks, covering both developments in GNOME, as well as more general issues in Free Software. There were presentations on GNOME’s geolocation framework, the new GObject to SQLite Data Mapper, and GStreamer. There were also talks on ownCloud design, women’s participation in technology, intellectual property, and Free Software business models.

The day ended with the first part of the GNOME Foundation Annual General Meeting. Representatives from each of GNOME’s teams gave a summary of their work over the past year, including accessibility, documentation, design, engagement, the Release Team, system administration, outreach, and GNOME.Asia.

Tomorrow there will be more talks, another keynote, and lightning talks from GNOME’s interns.

GUADEC, the main GNOME conference, is about to start in Strasbourg, located in the eastern part of France. It will gather users, developers, governments and businesses to talk about the status and future of the GNOME project between the July 25 and August 1.

“More than 10 years after the first GUADEC in Paris, the French GNOME community is very proud and excited to host GUADEC once again.”
- Christophe Fergeau, member of the local organizing team

Strasbourg_Cathedral

As always, the conference schedule features talks, hackfests, and social events for the attendees. Besides that, Matthew Garrett, Nathan Willis, and Jim Hall will deliver this year’s keynotes. They will discuss topics such as the place of free software in the automotive market, the future of the desktop, and usability aspects of GNOME.

GNOME.org will be updated during GUADEC, sharing the highlights of the conference with those who couldn’t be there. You can also follow what’s happening via #guadec on Twitter and Google+. More information about GUADEC 2014 is available at the official GUADEC website, including the conference’s schedule.

The GNOME Foundation wishes everyone a great conference! And a huge thank you to the local organizing team for all the time and effort they put into making this year’s GUADEC happen!

GUADEC is only a few days away, but some GNOME contributors are already gathering in Strasbourg to improve the GNOME document reader, Evince.

Their goals include: making further improvements to accessibility support, implementing tiling support to allow infinite zoom, improving the support for PDF annotations, revamping the comics back-end and reviewing and integrating pending patches.

The hackfest brings together members of the GNOME Accessibility team, and Evince developers. It also involves a number of  Google Summer of Code students.

The event could not have taken place without the support of the GNOME Foundation.

You can learn more about the Evince Hackfest on the event wiki page.

 

Evince logo

GUADEC, the GNOME Users and Developers European Conference, is the largest GNOME event of the year, drawing contributors from all over the world. This year’s conference is approaching, and will be held in Strasbourg, from July 26 to August 1.

GUADEC is an invaluable opportunity for contributors to share what they have been working on over the past year, and to have face-to-face working sessions and meetings. As usual, it will consist of four days of presentations, followed by three days of BoFs (“Birds of a Feather” sessions).

Strasbourg looks set to be an excellent location for this year’s event. The local area has a strong Free Software community and, as the home of the European Parliament and European Court of Human Rights, is a highly symbolic city. Strasbourg is also known for its beauty, culture and food. As one of this year’s conference organisers said, “it is a lovely city, and we hope that attendees will fall under its charm”.

The schedule for this year’s GUADEC has now been published, and gives an idea of what we can expect from the event. GTK+ and the GNOME application development platform are a major theme, with talks on GTK+, GStreamer, geoclue and Wayland. Application development will also be a focus for this year’s event, with talks about core apps, such as Documents, Photos, Web and Boxes, as well as other applications, including Pitivi, Corebird and SDAPS, a paper surveying tool.

A number of talks cover exciting new developments in the GNOME project. Ones to watch include Christian Hergert’s presentations on GOM and Builder, Alberto Ruiz on Fleet Commander and Emmunuelle Bassi’s talk on the GTK+ Scene Graph.

As usual, the GUADEC schedule also includes important non-technical talks, on subjects such as usability testing, documentation, outreach, intellectual property and funding models for open source projects.

More details about this year’s GUADEC, including key note speakers and social events, will be made in the coming days and weeks. Watch this space.

guadec-sponsors

GNOME contributors and developers are currently gathered in Berlin, Germany, for a three day Developer Experience Hackfest. The event is focused on the GNOME application developer platform. Participants working to ensure that developers can easily create high quality applications for GNOME.

Topics being covered at the event include:

  • GTK+ planning, and the roadmap for new widgets and capabilities.
  • Developer tools, including editors, DevHelp, and debugging tools.
  • Application development documentation, including tutorials, API reference documentation, and the GNOME developer website.

Detailed updates can be found on Planet GNOME.

The hackfest is being generously hosted by Endocode, and has been sponsored by the GNOME Foundation.

endocode

GNOME Foundation Sponsored Badge

The first GNOME event on the USA West Coast starts today. Held in San Francisco, the GNOME West Coast Summit brings together many senior members of the project for high-level technical discussions and planning. Major topics on the agenda for the event include Wayland, KDbus, application sandboxing, and application developer experience.

The summit is a great opportunity for those on the West Coast to get involved in ongoing GNOME initiatives. Participants from Intel, Red Hat, Yorba, Google, Endless Mobile and Elementary OS will be in attendance.

Several open evening events have been organized to coincide with the summit. On Wednesday there will be a local community meet-up, then on Thursday there will be another evening event at Noisebridge. Anyone in the local area should feel free to stop by – details are on the wiki.

Many thanks to Endless Mobile for providing the venue for the event.

Developers from the major Linux Desktops (GNOME, KDE, RazorQt and Unity) are currently meeting in Nuremberg for the second FreeDesktop Summit.

The summit is a joint technical meeting from developers working on ‘desktop infrastructure’ on the major Free Desktop projects and the event aims to improve collaboration between the projects by discussing specifications and the sharing of platform-level components. GNOME developers are in attendance, and one report is already online. More updates will be posted to Planet GNOME.

Like last year, the event is supported by SUSE.

Check the report from last year to get an idea of what this event is about.

Logo

GNOME.Asia Summit 2014 will be held in Beijing, China in May 24-25, 2014.  We are looking for YOUR help to design t-shirts for this year’s Summit. We need two new shirt designs, one for participants and another for volunteers.

The contest is open from now until March 31st, 2014. Voting will begin April 1st and run through April 3, 2014.

Everyone is encouraged to log in and vote at this page:

http://2014.gnome.asia/tshirts/

Prizes

No contest should be called a contest without some prizes! This year we have the following up for grab:

  • Winner:  A Special gift from local team and two t-shirts with your winning design

Note: The final decision will be made by GNOME.Asia Summit Committee.  Please understand that the highest vote score of the design may not be designated the final winner due to cost or other production considerations.

Good luck!

template

 

GNOME.Asia Summit 2014 invites proposals for presentations at the conference. GNOME.Asia Summit is Asia’s GNOME user and developer conference, spreading the knowledge of GNOME across Asia. The conference will be held in BeiHang University, Beijing, China on May 24 -25, 2014.  The conference follows the release of GNOME 3.12, helping to bring new desktop paradigms that facilitate user interaction in the computing world.  It will be a great place to celebrate and explore the many new features and enhancements to the GNOME 3.12 release and to help make GNOME as successful as possible. We welcome proposals by newcomers and experienced speakers alike.

Click here to submit your presentation!

Possible topics include, but not limited to:

How to Promote/Contribute to GNOME in Asia

  • GNOME Marketing
  • Promotion of Free / Open Source Software
  • How to run a Local GNOME Users Group
  • Asia success stories / Local GNOME Projects
  • GNOME and Educations
  • GNOME Outreach Program for Women
  • Google Summer of Code

Hacking GNOME

  • Latest developments in GNOME
  • GNOME 3 & GNOME 3 Usability
  • GNOME Human Interface Engineering (Icons and Graphic Design)
  • QA and testing in GNOME
  • GNOME Accessibility
  • GNOME Coding How-to
  • Writing applications for GNOME 3
  • Integration of web life into the desktop

Adapting GNOME to new types of devices

  • Developing GNOME on mobile devices (smart phones, tablets)
  • Developing GNOME on embedded systems or open source hardware
  • On-going projects and success stories
  • Finding Free and Open Source friendly hardware manufacturers

Localization and Internationalization

  • Translations
  • Input methods
  • Fonts

Other topics could include any topic related to Free and Open Source Software not listed above.

Lightning talks! A five minute presentation to demonstrate your work or promote an interesting topic. These talks will be grouped together in a single session.

A standard session at GNOME.Asia 2014 will be scheduled as 45 mins (35 mins talk + 10 mins Q&A).  Please take into consideration any time you will need for preparation. The session could be a technical talk, panel discussion, or BOF.

If you’d like to share your knowledge and experience at GNOME.Asia 2014, please fill in the form at before March 3th, 2014.  Please provide a short abstract about your proposal (under 150 words). Include your name, biographical information, a photo suitable for the web, a title, and a description of your presentation . The reviewing team will evaluate the entries based on the submitted abstracts and available time in the schedule. You will be contacted before March 16th, 2014 on whether your submission has been accepted or not.

All interested contributors are highly encouraged to send in their talks.  Please help us to spread the invitation to other potential participants. Even you do not plan to be a speaker, please consider joining GNOME.Asia 2014. This is going to be a great event!