Ubiquity usability study

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at canonical.com
Thu Jun 28 08:05:45 UTC 2007

On Jun 28, 2007, at 3:00 AM, Evan Dandrea wrote:
> Celeste was kind enough to do a usability study of Ubiquity, and in
> doing so pointed out a number of issues that should be resolved.

Thank you for doing this, Celeste!

> I have the following thoughts on how the installer can be improved to 
> fix these and other issues, but I am interested in getting input from 
> other developers, especially ones with a background in usability.
> ...
> On Tue, Jun 12, 2007 at 09:20:07AM -0400, Celeste Lyn Paul wrote:
> ...
>> If the number of users who download the Live CD with the primary goal
>> of installing are the primary user group, it is recommended a welcome
>> dialog appears when the system is fully loaded to prompt users to
>> install or explore the system.
> I think the welcome dialog would be a good idea.  Perhaps we could
> include text in it that lets the user know that unless they click
> install, they will not modify their existing system, but any changes
> they make to their Ubuntu desktop will be lost on reboot.

Alerts are usually ignored (as exemplified in the "Rebooting after 
installation is complete" section later in this same report). So I 
think it would be best to find a solution to this problem that does not 
involve an alert. Instead, I suggest:

*   Stop using the term "Live CD", because it makes no sense. (Is the
     alternative a "Dead CD"?) Instead, call it the "Ubuntu CD" (or
     "Kubuntu CD", as appropriate), and on both the CD and its cover
     prominently feature the phrase "Test Drive / Install". This should
     make it more obvious that the CD allows both.

*   If possible, overlay the desktop picture with a watermark of the
     words "Test Drive", similar to what we do on the Launchpad Demo
     server <https://demo.launchpad.net/>.

*   Label the installation icon with the text I proposed originally
     <http://urlx.org/wiki.ubuntu.com/42458>: "Install Ubuntu
     Permanently" (or "Install Kubuntu Permanently"), rather than just
     "Install". This will implicitly help people understand that their
     current environment is *not* permanent.

>> This difference in usage between "disk" and "drive" should be
>> investigated to see if there is a common difference which may cause
>> confusion as seen in usability testing.

I wouldn't change this based on only one participant, because it's not 
obviously a design error and it might be an outlier. However, that 
whole paragraph probably should be rewritten anyway: "written to the 
disks" is geekspeak regardless of whether it gets changed to "written 
to the drives". (And in the next sentence, it's not obvious what 
"Otherwise" means.)

There are other visible errors in this screen, too.
*   "Your new operating system" is comically vague. The installer knows
     very well that it's installing Kubuntu, not some other OS.
     (I do not think that reducing translation requirements for
     derivatives is a good excuse for vagueness in Ubuntu and Kubuntu
*   "Details" is redundant with the text immediately above it.
*   "Language:" is preceded by a stray space.
*   "Migration assistant:" is displayed but has no text after it.
*   "are going to be" can be shortened (in both cases) to "will be".
*   "the following devices are changed" should be "these devices will be

>> Consider changing the phrase from "This will destroy data..." to "Data
>> on partitions you remove is irrecoverable.." or something similar
> I think these are both reasonable changes.

If people have trouble understanding "partitions", it might be better 
to avoid using that term when you don't have to. A minimal fix here 
would be to change "destroy" to "overwrite".

>> It is recommended that future versions of the Time Zone Picker
>> interface always include the drop­down menu.  Alternately, separating
>> the timezones by a line and allowing the user to click within that
>> time zone rather than on the small city dot may improve interaction on
>> the map.
> The timezone changes seem to be what we're already planning on doing in
> the UbiquityForumIdeas specification.  This is partially blocked on
> finding a free source of time zone boundary data.

Another small improvement, independent of those, would be to use a 
pointing-hand cursor for the map.

>> To help reduce confusion of a large number of options, consider adding
>> an indication of the "most common" or "safest" options, in addition to
>> making them default.
> I'm not sure how we could convey the "most common" options.  I'd 
> suggest possibly rewording "US English" to "Standard US English" to 
> make it stand out more.

I can think of two, mutually exclusive, ways of highlighting the most 
common options:
*   present them at the beginning of the list, followed by a separator,
     then the rest of the options;
*   present them in bold.

But if there are more than about half a dozen keyboard layouts, and 
you're not even showing what they look like, asking people to choose 
"Which layout is most similar to your keyboard" is completely 
unreasonable *regardless* of how the options are listed. (So this was a 
mistake on my part in the initial design.) We need to find an 
alternative way of guiding people to the correct option. For example, 
would it be possible to ask people their preferred language and/or 
their country, and give them a subset of layouts appropriate to their 

> ...
>> By making the safest option the default option, the risk to
>> accidentally destroy information on another partition could be
>> reduced.  If the safest option cannot be identified, we would suggest
>> to provide no default option and force the user to examine the options
>> and make a choice.  Dual booting also seems to be the most likely case
>> for less technical users, and so the Manual option would be the best
>> default.

I'm trying to reconcile the screenshot of this step with Celeste's 
statement in the report that "the participants were given the scenario 
to install Kubuntu along with Windows". Really? Where is that option? 
Is that what "Manual" is supposed to mean? If so, no wonder people just 
chose the default. I don't know of any dictionary where "manual" is 
defined as "alongside Windows".

> On the first point, I agree with Celeste that making a complete 
> reformat the default option when resizing is not available is scary.  
> However, I'm hesitant to send users into the advanced partitioner 
> unless they really want to go that route, so I'd say we should go with 
> no default option.

I don't think that would help (and it would be violating the guideline 
of always having a default selection for sets of radio buttons).

> ...
> Building on Celeste's ideas, I think we should have the first page of
> the partitioner include the existing radio buttons and titles for each
> option, but also a long description below each option that explains 
> what it does.

Defining the options would be a step forward, but it would be much 
better if they were reworded instead. For example:

     This computer seems to have Windows 98 installed at the
     moment. Do you want to keep it, or replace it?

     (*) Install Kubuntu alongside Windows
         You can choose between them each time the computer starts.

     ( ) Install Kubuntu, removing Windows
         This will remove all your Windows programs and files.


     Two disks large enough for Kubuntu were found in this computer.
     Where do you want to install it?

     (*) SCSI1 (80 GB), Windows XP installed

         (*) Install Kubuntu alongside Windows

         ( ) Install Kubuntu, removing Windows

     ( ) SCSI2 (60 GB)

And so on. It may be appropriate to add another option in each case, "I 
know about partitioning and want to set it myself", but that might 
belong on the next step rather than here.

> ...
>> Providing documentation or directions on what to do with swap and
>> root, or making these technical requirements transparent would
>> alleviate the high learning curve necessary for completing this task.
> ...
> I'm really not sure how we can simplify the concepts of root, swap, and
> filesystem type.

Root and swap could be given human-understandable names, such as "Base" 
and "Virtual Memory". If one of each were set up by default (easily 
resizable), filesystem type probably wouldn't need to be nearly so 

> ...
> Still, ideally I'd like to see something that gives you a better visual
> representation of what's going on, such as two boxes with their size 
> and percentage of the disk that they occupy labeled on them (perhaps 
> even including an icon of the operating system present).  The 
> interface would then allow you to resize from the point where they 
> touch, updating the size of both as you drag.
> ...

Definitely. The table would still be necessary, both for accessibility 
and to cater for alteration of those partitions that were too small to 
see. However, the table probably wouldn't need a border, grid, or 
headers any more, so in most cases it would look just like a legend for 
the diagram.

Matthew Paul Thomas
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