Breezy usability testing?

Tristan Wibberley maihem at
Thu Jul 21 18:11:57 CDT 2005

jimcooncat wrote:
> Check out 'My first 48 hours enduring Ubuntu 5.04'
> ( 
> I don't know how much or if this is being incorporated.

These are my opinions on some of this:

1: Large wrist movements for common activities speeds the onset of RSI,
either menu's should be bound to the windows they apply to, or context
menus should be used. But *not* one big menu at the top of the screen.
Perhaps a big menu at the top would be acceptable if it is guaranteed to
mirror a menu that is closer to the target of its operations.

3: Distinguishing between items and identifying the boundary of an item
is easier with icons and mouseover feedback, and figuring out what it
does is easier with text. Both should be provided for new users.

6: I agree strongly with this one. Confidence that the computer is
responding is extremely important. It doesn't matter if the computer
isn't responding as you'd expect as long as you can be confident that it
is your own error and not a fault in the system that you can't control.

7: There should be feedback to indicate that you can do something here.
Buttons that respond properly to mouse over "afford" clicking more than
static ones. But there should be definite and immediate feedback on the
new state of a button.

12: I agree in a way. The File Manager is not really a file manager. It
is an object browser. Each item should have sensible things that can be
done to it in a context sensitive menu, and that context sensitive menu
should be mirrored in the menu of the window that item is in whenever it
is selected. But things like the CD player should also be available from
a system menu layed out to present "tasks", rather than "programs". It
would be nice if this menu responded to the state of the system - eg, no
audio CD -> no "play CD" item (or no "Add CD tracks to current playlist"
if some media is already playing).

15: Modal dialogues like those described should, IMHO, not be in
separate windows. They should overlay/expand/attach to/etc the window
they apply to so they are clearly actions on the window in the same way
as a menu item is. There is therefore no extra titlebar with a close
button - cancelling the dialogue should be done through a button clearly
inside it, and closing the window kills both the window and, by
extension, the dialogue. Further justification is that the "New Thing"
appearance of dialogues that are separate from the window can actually
frighten new computer users. My mother used to become very stressed when
a dialogue popped up - sometimes almost tearful depending on what it
said and if she was used to the operation she was doing. That doesn't
happen in usability studies as they have the feel of a clinical
environment where nothing can be of harm.

20: Who cares about gibberish. Politicians speak gibberish, but most
people are quite capable of ignoring that and voting for them anyway.
This is a flaw noticed by "Analysts".

23: This is a difficult one, as it is confusing to new users but is
established, common, and even "normal" to some beginners that have
watched a few movies. The only thing I can think of that indicates it is
not a proper name that is being asked for but still indicates that it is
the thing that tells the computer *who* is at the console, is "identifier".

24: IMHO "reboot" has a particular technical meaning and should be
partially obscured, or marked as advanced/technical, but should be kept

27: The names of dotfiles are not relevant, they are hidden from the
user. The session storage issue is not related to the file system, as
that is just a heirarchical database. Names of deep down system
utilities is *not* an issue. These are implementation details, what
matters is the interfaces exposed by the GUI and that the GUI should
provide integrated access to the implementation "database" through a
"Home" icon or menu that is marked as "advanced". Other home directory
browsing should be through a different portal to home as home is a silly
name. "Files" would be a good name, with the ability to remap the
"Files" icon to elsewhere for advanced users, but which by default puts
them in ~/.files/... (note the capitalisation - *all* *lower* *case*).
Ubuntu would have the freedom to store all sorts of metadata in the
"files" storage area, but then integrates with other, more "Unixy"
software via $FILES (or `ubuntu-files`/foo/bar at the shell if changes
are to be picked up immediately)

30: There is a good reason for showing the time, it is just about the
only thing that can be done without requiring authentication as the
logged in user, and it is data you should be able to expect to get at
without providing credentials.

36: That is not a usability problem, it is a usability solution. This
"problem" is that recent GNOME is defined to do something different to
what other computer desktops.

37: I just want a ".." button.

39: The British localisation is clearly crap. It should be "bin" or

41: IMHO this should not be a popup. There should be a notification
toward the edge of the screen or some other non obstructive
notification, where such notifications can also batch up. A sort of
tasks list like tabbed browsing, where you can batch up things to do and
decisions to make, then go through them later. And perhaps the icon can
pulse like the taskbar does to indicate that there is a pending
notification or task relating to it.

45: I hate this dialogue. "The correct extension" is undefined for all
filetypes. If it holds wav data open it in an audio player, if it holds
an OASIS document open it in OpenOffice, etc... Sniff, store extended
attributes, or ask what type it is/what to do with it. Anything but
pretend that the user has chosen a bad name for it. Using a part of the
name for the user to tell the system what type it is is a hack. There
should be specific user interface, storing a mime-type in extended
attributes or something.

46: Hell no! It should *not* select the address. There should be a
button to clear the text box and place the cursor in it to start typing
a new one. Selecting does extra stuff in most X Window System based
desktops and should not happen willy nilly. Which brings me to: dragging
in a selection moves the selection, dragging in non-selected text makes
a selection without moving anything - this is horrible. Use a modifer
key for moving a text/spreadsheet cell selection, and move an icon
selection without.

52: The scrolling drop down is deliberate I think. It ensures the user
always has safe areas of screen realestate in which to click. Remember,
these drop downs are configured by potentially hostile third parties.

Tristan Wibberley

Opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily coincide with those
of my employer, etc.

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