Finding the Blue Ocean of Life

Inspirational post!

Musings Of a Defense Kid

Last semester was the first time I read about Blue Ocean Strategy in the Harvard Business Review and it really got me thinking. Was it just applicable to industries and their strategies ? Or could the same be extrapolated to the realms of everyday life?

To those of you, who do not know what Blue Oceans are, here’s a TL;DR : Business universe consists of two distinct kinds of spaces : red and blue oceans. Red Oceans represent all the industries in existence today—the known market space. Companies compete with their rivals to increase market share, in turn cutting profits and resulting into reduced growth rate. Blue Oceans denote all the industries not in existence today—the unknown market space, untainted by competition. In blue oceans, new demand is created rather than fought over. There is ample opportunity for growth that is both profitable and rapid.


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GNOME Usability Test Observations (Part 1)

It’s been quite a while since my last post, so today may well be overkill – anyhow, it’s high time I documented and published results and observations from my usability test! So here goes:

The Usability Test had a total of 12 participants, distributed across various categories such as age, gender, computer experience, mobile experience and previous OS exposure. Each tester took 38 minutes on average, to complete (or omit) all scenario tasks. Here’s a graph showing the time taken by all the testers:


Test Duration

You may notice a step-up pattern for every three testers – this is because the graph is ordered by the testers’ expertise level within other groups based on age and OS exposure. Following are a few pie charts that represent the test participants’ distributions across various categories:






Mobile OS Exposure


OS Preference



I chose the testers specifically to have an even distribution across various categories as far as possible.

The testers had some interesting feedback/remarks/doubts during and after the tests! They could prove to be useful insights, some of them at least, so I’m including them below, grouped by application:


Why is there no font change option in this menu? (3B)
Is the replacement over?
What is this button for? (3B)
This scrollbar is narrow
Where are the preferences?


How to save this note?
Font change should be in the selection popover
No ticks for the notes I choose?
I like this font better!


There should be a remove from playlist option when you select a song
How do I search within the playlist?
Where can I add to a playlist? (before selecting anything)
Why is it searching everywhere?
Is there a playlist-specific search?
Right click is good to select also


What exactly does the Esc key do? It works sometimes
This blue bar and tick is confusing
Help is not very helpful
How to create a new album?
Does this set the photo as the app background or the desktop background?
When to open and when to select?

You can read my observations and view a “heat map” of the results in the next blog post, here.

GNOME Usability Test: Scenario Tasks (Part 2)

A usability test consists of “scenario tasks” that the tester has to complete (read more about scenarios and scenario tasks here). For my usability test of GNOME, I selected four applications – Gedit, Notes, Music and Photos. The scenario tasks for Gedit and Notes are the same as in Jim Hall’s UT, and you can view them in Part 1.

The scenario tasks for Music are:

  1. You want to add songs to the dance playlist for Jeff’s surprise party. The Music application has been opened for you. Add the following songs to the Party playlist:
  • Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia
  • Rhythm Divine – Enrique Iglesias
  1. You decide to add an entire album of tracks to the Party playlist – the soundtrack of the movie you recently watched with Jeff and Mark.

Add the album Happy New Year (2014)  to the Party playlist.

  1. You remember that you have a Michael Jackson song somewhere on your computer, but you don’t remember which one. Look for a song by Michael Jackson and add it to your Party playlist.
  1. You think the playlist has become too long. Delete Wake Me Up by Avicii from the Party playlist.

Jim pointed out an important aspect of conducting a realistic usability test: “… you pre-populate the Music program with a bunch of tracks. Don’t forget to make it look realistic, and include lots of other tracks than the ones you use in your usability test. I call this a “forest.” Don’t make it too large, but there should be enough tracks that your testers will have to look for the track they want.”

The scenario tasks for Photos include setting up an online account to sync with Photos – a typical way of using photo management applications when so many photos are uploaded on social media. Following is the list of scenario tasks for Photos:

  1. You want to make a dessert photos calendar for 2015, so you want to select twelve photos from your Facebook album. Add your Facebook account from the Settings app. [Credentials are provided to testers]

The Settings app has been started for you.

  1. Now open Photos. Choose the banana split and choco truffle photos, and put them in a new album. Name the new album Delectable Desserts 2015.
  1. Select 10 other dessert photos of your choice, and put them in your newly created album, Delectable Desserts 2015 to make up a total of 12 photos.
  1. You like a photo so much that you want to use it as your computer wallpaper image. Find the banana split photo from the Delectable Desserts 2015 album, and set it as your wallpaper.
  1. You would like to find the choco truffle photo easily next time for your next wallpaper change – mark it as one of your best-liked photos.

I shall be posting my takeaways from the Usability Tests soon! :-)

GNOME Usability Test: Scenario Tasks (Part 1)

A usability test consists of “scenario tasks” that the tester has to complete (read more about scenarios and scenario tasks here). For my usability test of GNOME, I selected four applications – Gedit, Notes, Music and Photos. Of these, Gedit and Notes had already been tested in my mentor Jim Hall’s usability tests, and as per his suggestions the same tasks have been reused for these two applications, with minor changes.

Here’s the scenario task list for Gedit:

1. You want to finish writing a draft of a blog post that you are using in a project. You start the Gedit text editor (this has been done for you).

Please open the file blog post draft.txt from the Documents folder, into the Gedit text  editor.

2. You realize that you got a few details wrong. Please make these edits:

In the first paragraph, change the dash (“—”) to a semicolon (“;”)

from this: Relationships are currency—you

to this: Relationships are currency; you

In the second paragraph, change “me” to “others”.

from relationship to me.

to relationship to  others.

About 2/3 into the document, there’s a list of the “4 I’s” of relationships, but the first two  items are out of order. Put these into the correct order, so the list reads like this:

  1. Initiate
  2. Inquire
  3. Invest
  4. Inspire

When you are done, please save the file. You can use the same filename.

3. Some of the names are incorrect in the file. Please replace every occurrence of  Applejack with Fluttershy, and all instances of Rainbow Dash with Twilight Sparkle.

When you are done, please save the file. You can use the same filename.

4. You’d like to make a copy of the note, using a different name that you can find more easily later. Please save a copy of this note as Leadership lessons.txt in the Documents folder.

For the purposes of this exercise, you do not need to delete the original file.

5. You decide the text in the editor is difficult to read, and you would prefer to use a different style. Please change the text style to be Liberation Serif, 12 point.

And following are the scenario tasks for Notes!

  1. You need to type up a few quick reminders for yourself, so you don’t forget to do them  later. Enter these two reminders into the Notes program. Match the formatting as best as  you can:

First reminder:

Don’t forget: Jeff’s surprise party this Thursday. Check with Mark.

Second reminder:

Things to buy at the grocery store:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

2. You decide to be more clear in your reminder about Jeff’s surprise party, so you don’t  forget the time.

Update that note to say this:

Don’t forget:

Jeff’s surprise party this Thursday.

Get together at 5:30.

Party at 7:00.

Check with Mark.

3. You decide the text in Notes is difficult to read, and you would prefer to use a different style. Please change the default text style to be Nimbus Sans L Regular Italic, 14 point.

4. This is the last task for Notes. Please delete all notes you may have created during this  part of the usability test.

Part 2 will cover Music and Photos. Read it here.

Weather Application Menu

OPW Weeks 4-5: GNOME Design Patterns

So I haven’t blogged for a while – but things are moving fast, and here are some updates!

Following the suggestions of my mentor, Jim Hall and the GNOME Design Team (specifically Jakub Steiner), I conducted an analysis of GNOME Apps based on Application Menus and Selection Mode as described in the latest GNOME Human Interface Guidelines.

Apps with selection mode:

Boxes, Clocks, Contacts, Documents, Music, Notes, Photos, Videos

Selection Mode in GNOME HIG

Selection Mode in GNOME HIG

After identifying apps with selection mode, I consciously used them over a week and found that I started using the select button more frequently and naturally.

Also, I found three distinct patterns in apps based on their application menus –

Gedit Application Menu

Gedit Application Menu (minimal)

1. Minimal App Menu (subset of Help, About, Quit):

Boxes, Brasero, Clocks, Evolution, Geary, Gedit, Maps, Settings, Weather, Font Viewer, Passwords and Keys, Remote Desktop Viewer, Screenshot

Weather Application Menu

Weather Application Menu (one extra option)

2. App Menu with a couple of additional options (like Preferences, or an app-specific action):

Cheese, Contacts, Documents, Music, Photos, Software, Sound Recorder, Videos, Weather, Calculator, Dictionary, Disks, Document Viewer, Help, Logs, System Monitor, Terminal

Web Application Menu

Web Application Menu (multiple options)

3. App menu with a multitude of options:

Empathy, Files, Notes, Simple Scan, Web, Archive Manager, Character Map, Image Viewer

This initial analysis will help shape the list of apps to be covered in the usability test – more on that later.

OPW Week 3: Scenarios

Last week, we saw the importance of personas. Just as personas help us understand who our users are, scenarios help answer the question ‘why are they using the system?’

Scenarios give context and meaning to the event of a user using the system. A good scenario not only makes a credible ‘back story’, but also gives insight into the user’s motivations and goals while using a system. And once we know why users are doing something, it becomes easier to pinpoint what they want from the system – and then give it to them.

Documenting scenarios is a key aspect of conducting a good usability test – it helps both the observer and the tester. Scenarios are possible situations in which the user will use the system. Good scenarios stem from solid personas: both help to conceptualize various use cases of the system.

For example, let us consider Aditya Kumar. (Read about him here.) A few scenarios in which Aditya would use GNOME could be as follows:

It’s 10 pm on a thursday night, and Aditya has been working on a script for a TV advertisement all week. He and his team have a few rough ideas, but he feels he should do better. All of a sudden, he remembers a skeleton script he worked on as a college project – it would be a great fit in this case! He knows he wrote notes about it, they must be somewhere on his portable hard disk. He needs to find whatever material he has, and edit it into a readable draft for his team the next morning.

Aditya has a lot of dessert recipe cards and he wants to make a digital catalogue with tags and categories, inspired by the structure of his blog. He’s already taken photos of the recipe cards on his phone. Now he needs to organize and categorize his recipes by type and time, and upload the catalogue to cloud storage.

After a weekend getaway with his wife at Nainital (a hill station nearby), Aditya wants to write a blog post about his trip. Before leaving for Nainital he had read many travel websites about the must-see tourist spots and weather tips, so he wants to include those references in his post as well. During the trip he had posted a few photos on a social networking website, he wants to use them too.

Although all these scenarios seem different at first, they are not that different with respect to GNOME: all of them have Aditya using the file system, browser and text editor. Then depending upon his specific needs, he also uses photos, maps etc. Scenarios are made up of scenario tasks, which form the basis of structuring a usability test. Thus, although the scenarios may be different, the tasks comprising each scenario are not that different from each other.

A Sample Persona for GNOME

In this post, I shall describe a sample persona for GNOME. GNOME is a free and open source desktop environment. From GNOME’s website: GNOME 3 is an easy and elegant way to use your computer. It is designed to put you in control and bring freedom to everybody. GNOME does not identify a particular class of users – rather, it targets all users. As a result, the design vision for GNOME addresses an inclusive audience (Hall, 2014).

Meet Aditya Kumar.

“It needs to be snappier!”

Job Title: Copywriter at W+K Delhi

Demographics: 27 years old, Has a Masters in Mass Communication, Married

At work: Aditya is creative and articulate, with a knack for crafting catchy taglines. He reviews and polishes copy written by his team, and also writes himself for important clients. As a team leader, he also manages the team assignments and deadlines.

Use of technology: Aditya is comfortable using a computer and is quick at picking up new technologies. He has LAN at work, broadband wifi at home and 3G for his phone and tablet. He uses cloud-syncing apps to keep himself up-to-date and also to have the freedom of working from anywhere (creative flashes don’t limit themselves to office hours!). He uses browser-based apps/extensions for seamless transition between all his different devices.

Use of GNOME: Aditya was introduced to GNOME by his wife (a developer) who is a FOSS enthusiast and has installed Fedora on their home computer. Being a quick learner, he is accustomed to finding his way around new secondary distros every month, but prefers familiarity while he works – which he gets using browser-based apps.

Hobbies: Aditya is an avid blogger and has a large number of followers on Twitter. He also likes baking, and has a large collection of dessert recipes.

(The image is AGPL licensed. Credits: Raghu Nayyar )