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 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.

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 )

Hello, world!

Soooo I’ve finally gotten around to blogging.

About a month ago, I was selected to participate in the Outreach Program for Women as an intern at GNOME (yay!). My project is on Usability Testing. I’m really excited about working on it – usability testing has applications in every application, and beyond! The coming months will see me taking baby steps into the world of free and open source software. :-)

One of the requirements for this internship is to blog about my project regularly. I’m a bit hesitant, seeing as I have never blogged before – but I guess it’ll be just one more in a long line of firsts in OPW! :-D This blog will be regularly updated with my progress on the project. By the way, Jim, my mentor for this project also blogs about Open Source Software and Usability. Check it out!

I also work on Project Mudra, an initiative to promote Braille Literacy. You can read more about it here or here. This blog will also have occasional updates about Project Mudra. Our facebook page is usually up-to-date. Comments and suggestions welcome. :-)

I may also write the occasional opinion piece on an issue I feel strongly about. Like why I feel cutlery is overrated or what I think the real problem with barbie is (hint: it’s much broader(!) than just her measurements).

Oh, and I’m an avid foodie too. :-D So you can expect passionate posts about a delectable tandoori chicken or that corner shop that sells the yummiest sandwiches!

That’s all for now. Hello blogging world! :-)