The user observation hackfest was an attempt from the part of Gnome developers to learn more about what users want.
So in the context of the openSUSE summit that will took place from 21 to 23 of September, a team of Gnome developers found some time to go on a day trip to the City of Largo, Florida, where there is a public-sector deployment of Gnome, and discussed with the employees and their daily use issues.
Notes group one
So here are the results according to notes group 1 on what Gnome users in Largo prefer:
- People love MIME helpers
- People seem to use workspaces in three ways: a) group applications by activity, b) separate applications, c) have additional space on screen
- People like to have a way to clear stuff out of the way on screen
- People like it when they can easily express what they’re looking for to a search feature
- People like being confident that the search results are adequate to their query
- People very often switch between different windows of the same application; they never use alt-tab, but they use in-app menus or (preferably) the context menu on the panel
- Some users like to place windows side-by-side, either on the same or on different screens, to compare or transfer content
- Users don’t maximize windows often
- Users don’t generally read notifications or dialogs, but selectively read some they know being interesting to them
- Notifications are generally either useless and stressful or very important
- People like it when they learn to gather important information from visual clues on the screen, and will rely on it next time
- Some users are mostly comfortable working with folder structures they made themselves recently. The comfort tends to decrease over time, as accumulating huge amounts of files, or when the folder structure is made, or significantly changed, by someone else
- Some users prefer a flat list, so that they can see all the content available as an overview
- Users enjoy having easy access to files from within applications they are working with
- Users tend to categorize files, sometimes with folders, sometimes with a naming scheme
- Users are stressed by identical or similar files in multiple copies and/or multiple locations
- Users are stressed by the action of deleting files
- Some users don’t understand software crashes, and an application crash is not different from it unexpectedly hiding
- Crashing is not a huge problem for the user if he doesn’t lose data or state
Notes group two
The results according to notes group 2 on what Gnome users in Largo prefer:
- People find it useful to place windows or data side-by-side so they can compare them; applications often don’t let them do that (windows are too wide to be fit side-by-side)
- Data entry is slowed down by having to switch to each field with the mouse. Terminal-based applications let you switch between fields with the keyboard, so people don’t lose their flow.
- People like switching between windows with the bottom launcher bar. They know that (right)-clicking on the application’s icon will give them a list of open windows for that app, and then they select the correct window.
- People memorize or write down the “path” they need to follow to do something. Our first user had a paper notebook with a note like, “Main menu; Expenditures Input; Add/Maintain invoices; Click Star (*); Add New; Posting date…”.
- Not having a browser’s tabs in the normal window list is inconvenient; people would like to have them listed there.
- People like creating bookmarks for the file system.
- People seem to use Minimize and Close without distinction in the window manager. The end result is “make the window disappear”.
- People don’t like little inconsistencies with MS Office when they are invoking the same keyboard-based function. Delete and Backspace in Calc should function just like in Excel.
- People would like to be able to show what is on their screen to other people. Relatedly, software that prevents two people from opening the same document or software at the same time is viewed as inconvenient.
- People use printouts to show them to other people as a collaboration tool.
- The entire payroll got printed (700 pages!) and reviewed by hand/eye, as opposed to having some automated verification tool. The user preferred to visually scan large volumes of data on paper than on her screen.
- People attain usage skills, and get disturbed when they are forced to change those skills because the software now operates differently.
- Switching major pieces of software, like when legacy software is replaced, is very disturbing to people.
- Some people actually know complete pathnames and type them in the right places (/users/largo/department_name).
- Some file formats get opened incorrectly by the right application, e.g. a text file with fixed-width columns gets imported wrong in Calc.
- People use paper notes to write down instruction
- People use paper notes for to do lists
- Some people would like to have a functionality in the spreadsheet that treats lines as records, like in a database, so that they can be checked for duplicates, or sorted keeping the record whole and not sort only one column.
- Help system should have clickable entries, not static text such as PDF.
- People like to use the desktop for documents frequently used
- People like to keep links to frequently used program easily accessible (if they don’t fit in the bottom panel or if they do not know how to fit them)
- People would like to have documents placed on the desktop easily accessible from other computers
- Menu items should be coherent: names for operation, widgets should be the same commonly used (panel vs launcher)
- People uses history or “recently used” as one of the way to find documents
- Email management some time require users to offload mails and attachments to the file system (to free email quota), and to make the documents accessible to other people in the future
- Working place procedures may require users to make documents available to users in the future when the current employer may not be there anymore.
- Co-workers may share document in a shared file system, and they may find difficult to find documents in other people organizations.
- Some people are very fond of drag and drop.
- A person missed a button on the Libre Calc toolbar to find duplicate and eliminate them
- People do not like when they do a repetitive operation and a dialog box opens up everytime to request the same information (example copying and pasting from a browser inside a spreadsheet)
- Some People try to fit in the email quota by eliminating emails from the “Sent” folders.
- When printing, the printers available in an organization may be a lot and it is difficult for the user to select the ones closed by by looking at the list in the printer dialog. When selecting a printer, users often do not know which one to choose.
Admittedly, these are very interesting real-life use observation conclusions, that need to be deeply analyzed and considered to successfully address with small but important changes on 3.8.
What of these points match the reality of your every day use?