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.

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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.