Usability Testing

Woo, I just came across the Novell Linux Desktop Usability Study results. These are video clips of normal people peforming simple tasks under Linux.

What interests me here is not so much the usability issues that regular people have with a Linux desktop, but the way that people try to figure things out with a computer. I guess that they’re pretty much the same thing, but I like watching how people assume something should work and how they go about finding out how to do something. It’s more interesting watching someone get it wrong than it is thinking about how something should be fixed to make it more obvious.

For example I know I’m on the net if I can see my little network monitor applet in the notification area (I nearly said ‘system tray’…) and it doesn’t have a yellow sign over it. I might also check my IP address using the network monitor applet. The lady in the clip I watched just opened the browser (she didn’t know what it was, she just knew it was the thing she used to browse the Internet) and typed in an address to see if the page loaded. It struck me how that might not be the first thing I would do, but it is the easiest. I know how I do things but I find it interesting how non-technical people do them. Forgive me if this interest suddenly wanes when I observe the same things in a tech support capacity…

It is interesting seeing how regular people deal with everyday tasks under Linux though. Just to see where the breakages of concept, of real world modelling and of common sense show up.

Go get some of them from here.