Season of Usability 2009

Project Summary
Gallery is an open-source photo sharing application that can be easily be deployed on any website. Since their aim is to obtain more feedback and data about their upcoming release Gallery3, my plan is to design and gather feedback from users using various field studies such as surveys and interviews and perhaps using discount evaluation techniques to find areas of improvement for the next upcoming release.

Technologies used
Since SoU (unlike GSoC) isn’t meant to be programming-driven, there are few technologies used besides the traditional pen and paper and is very similar to the CSC318 course I took.

Responsibilities and Roles
My goal as a designer is to improve the user experience of stakeholders, and as a usability project for an existing software, my role would be to design and carry out data gathering techniques and analyze them using evaluation techniques. Personas, Scenarios and Use cases provide great data from a user’s prospective, so those would be another data gathering technique that is separate from the feedback portion (interviews, surveys, questionnaires).

Project Details
The goal is to obtain feedback from our users using data gathering techniques and to analyze them for improvements to future iterations of Gallery.
This process will be ongoing for three months (Jun to Aug) and should provide adequate insight into how users view, use and share using Gallery3.

To get a better sense of who our users are, data gathering techniques such as surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc. will be conducted to determine our primary stakeholder groups and secondary/tertiary user groups, if possible.

Data gathering techniques
Upon the release of Gallery3, this can be done several ways. It could be an optional part of the installation procedure, it could be a headline on the Gallery website, a thread on the Gallery forum, or a combination of any of those. The exact methods and procedures will be elaborated upon with the HCI experts should this application be accepted. The protocol for the surveys, questionnaires and interviews will contain similar questions to varying degrees of depth, they will include (note this is just a horizontal slice of the final protocol, more will be fleshed out later on) :

Non-flexible questions:
-Basic demographic information (age group, occupation, gender)
-Time spent online on average (per day, per week)
-How often Gallery is used (per day, per week)

Flexible questions (‘they’ would be ‘you’ in the actual survey):
-What they are using Gallery for
-Why they are using Gallery as opposed to other photo sharing sites/apps (Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, etc)
-Comparison to Gallery2 and what features they liked and didn’t like
-What improvements would they want to see in the next iteration?

UI-related questions:
-Does Gallery work the way users expect it to?
-Is the learning curve comfortable for novice users?
-Is Gallery powerful enough for experienced users?
-Does Gallery go beyond users expectations or below?
-Are users accomplishing things with Gallery that they never intended to before?

Aspects of the User interface will be evaluated in the next section, as it is quite difficult to do informally.

Evaluation and Analysis
Once the data is gathered, Some typical personas representing the user groups and habits of those surveyed will be created. Different scenarios and use cases can be extrapolated from the data and used to evaluate Gallery. Aggregation of these data (graphs,charts) will benefit Gallery users and designers because of the information gained which can be used in future iterations. The evaluation discount techniques can also include expert and user evaluations of the interface and areas of strength/weakness. A cognitive walk through or think aloud can be used for these evaluations, and sets of heuristics can be used to judge our criteria for evaluation (such as learnability, flexibility and robustness of the UI). The set of heuristics I am familiar with is Nielson’s heuristics since I’ve used that set for my CSC318 course, but I believe the set most appropriate to evaluate Gallery’s UI should be used and discussed upon.

Since this is a three month project and depending on how much data we need, actual improvements to the UI could be implemented depending on varying degrees of difficulty and scope. Since Gallery is done in PHP/HTML/JS, I feel that I am capable of implementing these features as I have worked with these web technologies in the past. Again, since the main goal of this project is to obtain feedback from users, the main emphasis is on obtaining, aggregating and analyzing the data to determine future areas of improvement. The scope of actually implementing these features will depend, therefore, on how much time is left after the main goal is accomplished. Regardless, I feel that I can contribute to this project whole-heartedly, doing something that I know I can accomplish using the material I have learned in school, with an open-source software that I feel has, can and will be improved in many ways.

Season of Usability 2009 Application