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Usability Testing Hardy Heron With a Girlfriend 846

toomin writes "Reviews of the latest Ubuntu version, 8.04 Hardy Heron, are everywhere, but most of them are undertaken by geeks familiar with Linux. This guy sits his girlfriend down at a brand-new Ubuntu installation and asks her to perform some basic tasks. Some of them are surprisingly easy, others frustrate and annoy. There are lots of little usability tweaks he stumbles upon just by seeing the desktop experience from the point of view of the mainstream user."
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Usability Testing Hardy Heron With a Girlfriend

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  • Exceptionally good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:16AM (#23222100) Homepage Journal
    1) Use internet. Successful.
    2) Watch youtube. Unsuccessful. No Flash.
    3) Use torrent. Successful (but this is not a novice user task)
    4) Draw pic. 1/2 Successful. Chose wrong tool.
    5) Burn music. Unsuccessful
    6) Mouse speed change. Successful.
    7) Theme change. Successful.
    8) Desktop background change. Successful.
    9) Scree resolution change. Unsuccessful.
    10) Advanced image manipulation. Successful
    11) MSN. Unsuccessful
    12) Install & Use skype. Successful.

    Note, the problem with 5) burning music was not the actual burning, but finding the mp3s on a windows partition.

    So, 8/12. (maybe 9.5/12)

    To be honest, I've seen experience computer users have more trouble doing the above tasks when switching from windows to OS X.

    Kudos to Ubuntu.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:21AM (#23222154) Homepage
    His note that if you go too small of screen size you cant click on the buttons of the dialog. This happens a LOT in windows with dons of the dialogs and YES even the screen size dialog.

    She would have failed that test under windows.
  • by grm_wnr ( 781219 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:29AM (#23222260)
    Last time I checked Windows still had the 15 second reset countdown when you change screen resolution.
  • by Constantine XVI ( 880691 ) <`trash.eighty+slashdot' `at' `'> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:36AM (#23222294)
    Hand her the disc, tell her to click the "Install inside Windows" option, and let her loose from there. Completely non-destructive, and so simple your wife could (probably) do it.
  • by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:44AM (#23222380)
    Ubuntu has something similar. From TFA:

    However, she clicked "Keep settings" straight away, and couldn't work out how to get it back...
    This is exactly the same problem you would have in Windows if you changed the resolution and immediately clicked the "Keep these settings" button in that 15-second dialog. After you've done that, you may find it difficult to navigate back and change it to the previous resolution.

    The problem here has a lot to do with new users being inundated with confusing dialog boxes, and just clicking "OK" at the first opportunity. This problem occurs both on Windows and Ubuntu. Not that this excuses Ubuntu: a usability problem should be fixed, even if it occurs on other platforms as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:44AM (#23222382)
    8.04 is suffering with sound issues, due to an (imho) premature implementation of pulseaudio. I don't know how to fix it, but try
  • by Centurix ( 249778 ) <> on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:03AM (#23222616) Homepage
    One of our sales guys was having problems with his XP pro install, IE bit the dust and wouldn't show images, even the images in the about box for the application. He asked me if there was any decent alternatives to any of this stuff and I mentioned Ubuntu, but with a level of hesitation (becoming his technical support person for the next 6 months didn't appeal to me) I stated that it had some parts which were a little on the technical side and that he couldn't expect everything to work out of the box. It was a 3 year old laptop. Overnight he found the ubuntu site, downloaded the 7.10 ISO and did a full install (after backing everything up). Came in the next day, put the thing on my desk and showed me it running, including using his accounting package under WINE, his printer and scanner installation. I was thoroughly impressed, with the only question he had was how to setup his PCMCIA NextG Telstra card, about 10 minutes installation time. He had even converted his mail from Outlook to Evolution. After this, I have much more confidence in recommending Ubuntu to people who are used to using something else on a regular daily basis. Before this I'd usually install this stuff for other people I knew, get it going and leave them to it, no more virus or spyware phone calls. Nice work Canonical.
  • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cato ( 8296 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:25AM (#23222952)
    Actually usability testing has been going on with Linux for many years - since at least 2001 for GNOME when Sun started doing this ( [] ). Here's a good article that talks about usability testing for Linux, also from 2001, and mentioning KDE user testing: []

    GNOME is the way it is today largely because of usability testing, I believe - while many power users and developers whinge about this, it is becoming much closer to Macs in overall usability.

    So the issue is not "stupid developers", it's a matter of taking the time to do the testing - and it helps if you have some expertise at running the tests. Then it's the time to actually make the changes. Many developers aren't that interested in doing the testing, which is why there have been separate usability initiatives that can feed changes into projects.

    Some of the issues logged here are not that easy to solve - e.g. making Firefox pop up an Ubuntu-specific Flash installation prompt, rather than executing the YouTube JavaScript logic that pushes people towards an Adobe plugin site that actually does have a Linux plugin for Flash, but one that's much harder to install than an Ubuntu-packaged Flash plugin.

    Also, the one about finding MP3s on the Windows partition is not that easy - you could simply copy the files across with the Ubuntu migration assistant, but what if they're in a non-standard place? Indexing the Windows filesystem to quickly find these might help, but building the index could take some time. However, it would probably be enough if there was some feature in Ubuntu that scanned for existing partitions and said (based on partition type and a few key directories/files) that 'this looks like a Windows partition, it's available on the desktop through this icon', and ideally did a special symbolic link for the My Documents or similar (though that's tough as it's per-user under Windows - which user should this use).
  • Usability test (Score:4, Informative)

    by mach1980 ( 1114097 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:31AM (#23223044)
    Well here's some more anectodes:

    My wife switched to Ubuntu after her XP-installation trashed the hard drive. When she first tried to recover the OS with the supplied restore-cd from LG neither the WiFi card or sound worked. Then she tried Ubuntu which worked without turning a dial.

    Now she's been running Ubuntu for over six months and she's hooked. She even managed to install Hardy Heron while breastfeeding our 7 week old daughter. - If that isn't usability for the masses then what is?
  • Re:Smart move (Score:4, Informative)

    by PReDiToR ( 687141 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:16AM (#23223716) Homepage Journal
    I did implement this test. With gOS v1.

    I told my GF that I couldn't locate an XP Home OEM CD to use with the sticker on the side of her beige box.
    She had used my openSUSE 10.3 laptop and seen that was very similar to MS Office.
    She said that it was OK to put Linux on her computer that she uses for work as long as other people in her large government organisation would be able to read the documents she produced.

    The upshot was, after a week someone couldn't read the OOo format and I showed her how to save as .DOC, since then her experience has been 100% positive. We're even trying to get her sister to use Linux because of the number of times she asks for techsupport after the kids mess up Windows.

    One major convenience for my GF is that it took less than 10 minutes to set NX up on her machine, and now she can sit in the comfy chair downstairs with my laptop and do her work from there instead of spending untold hours in her study in front of a big ol' CRT that does nothing for her eyes over long periods.

    The transition to Linux for her has been very easy. She doesn't have to use a command line, all her apps are in plain view (if you haven't used gOS v1, it is Gutsy with E17) and everything Just Works. She hasn't mentioned going back to Windows since that first document that someone couldn't read.
  • by OldeTimeGeek ( 725417 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:23AM (#23223854)
    Also, on both Windows and Linux, it's easy to get to the computer's root partition (C:\ or /) ... on OSX, I have yet to be able to get to / in finder, although I can get there in the terminal?

    Because Apple feels (usually for pretty good reasons) that a user has no reason to go there.

    Applications are installed in the Application folder, documents and files go into the Documents folder in the user's home folder and that's about the only access that most users need.

    Messing with the lower-level file structure or files directly - rather than through utilities - isn't something that Apple wants people to do, so it doesn't serve much of a purpose to let users access them. It may drive Linux and Unix users nuts, but it makes sense.

  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:25AM (#23223888)
    I'd suggest to you (honestly) - that if all your gf really does is youtube, mail & chat, then she'd be much better off on Ubuntu than windows.

    Maybe. Those who use a computer for those tasks often also use it to play music (MP3 Support) and play movies (DVD support) where Microsoft has paid for the privilage to supply the codecs and the Ubuntu distro is lacking.

    MP3 support isn't bad, but DVD support comes with dire warnings of DMCA violations and it may be illegal where you live.

    Once installed, I like the Ubuntu machine over anything else for playing movies. You put in the DVD and the movie starts.. No previews, no unskippable FBI warning etc. Nice. If I want to watch all the extras, I can watch them later. It's the way a DVD player should work.

    If I travel without a laptop, I carry a copy of Geex box. It's a bootable Linux Media player. Nice.
  • Re:Smart move (Score:4, Informative)

    by Intron ( 870560 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:47AM (#23224222)
    Obviously you didn't read the article. Here's the page Youtube sent her to. Note that there is no '.deb' choice. []
  • by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:44AM (#23225170)
    I agree that "girlfriend" shouldn't automatically imply computer illiterate. In fact I'm quite certain the word "girlfriend" was used in the title of the article specifically as an eye catching "hook". i.e. Ubuntu and Girlfriend in the same sentence!!?? WTF???

    However, from TFA - "Erin's intelligent, quick to learn and is reasonably well-acquainted with modern technology." The author makes it clear that his girlfriend is somewhat skilled with computers, can perform a range of normal computer tasks and was methodical and persistent in solving the problems she encountered. Aside from the somewhat unfortunate title, TFA makes it clear that she is a "noob" only in so far as she has never used Ubuntu"
  • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Informative)

    by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:29PM (#23225920)
    Nipples aren't intuitive interfaces. Both moms and babies have to learn how to nurse, and it's an important part of prenatal classes.

    If it's not done correctly, you end up with hungry babies and sore moms.
  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Informative)

    by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:44PM (#23226188)
    Well, it's been a few years since I've tried Linux. (I wanna say it was Ubuntu 6?) I stopped using it because it didn't support my USB wifi widget on my desktop, and it wouldn't sleep my laptop at all. Back when I used it, it was a complete Windows rip.

    Now I'm happy enough with Vista that I wouldn't risk my Vista install by installing it on my desktop, and my laptop is a tablet which, frankly, I doubt Linux supports at all based on my previous tablet experience.

    And discoverability is important in the long-term, too. I might not use mail-merge the first time I use a word processor, but in a couple years when I'm doing that I certainly want it to be discoverable as well as usable. There are numerous of these "use it maybe once a year" features that need to be discoverable.

    I'd argue that Ubuntu doesn't focus on usability much when it didn't support my wifi or laptop's sleep mode. ;)
  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stevecrox ( 962208 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @04:35PM (#23229298) Journal
    I'd be willing to make a wager on which ones easier if we use Vista Home Premium and drop the "read music files from a linx partition".

    My experience with Hardy Heron was a disaster this weekend and I'd like to share it, in part because if people have solutions to any of the problems I would like to hear them.

    The Machine :
    AMD64 3700+ (socket 939)
    2GB Cosair DDR400 ram
    NVIDIA 7600 GS OC
    Creative XFi Extreme Gamer
    Epson Stylus 4400
    Creative Vista! Live Webcam
    Aver media PCI Hybrid TV Card (AR16R)
    Netgear W111 V3 USB wireless adapter
    Extremely easy, the installation process is as easy to use as the Windows Vista installer and marginally easier than XP's. I did have one problem in that I couldn't seem to get past the partition manager when I chose to use an existing NTFS volume (doing the guided thing) the installer wouldn't proceed. All the other options worked well enough, and even with it freezing I was able to cancel the option and choose another and go forward.

    First Time Use
    I found out (after much googling) Ubuntu hadn't been able to detect my monitor's ability and so had gone into safekeeping mode. This meant I was stuck at a resolution of 640x480, this presented a huge problem as none of the menus fitted on the screen the NVIDIA-settings panel was so cut off I wasn't sure if I could select a monitor and Ubuntu didn't seem to give me an option. 3 Hours later after reading edgy, feisty, random x11 how to's I, in frustration decided to deleted my xorg.conf. Ubuntu actually managed to recover graphically (I was impressed) and entered "low graphics mode" amusingly in 800x600 resolution. From here I could choose a generic monitor that matched my monitor's resolution and was finally able to enjoy 1600x1200.

    Internet Shock! What I forgot to mention above was my Netgear W111 v3 doesn't have a 'nix driver. After an hour of googling I locate ndiswrapper find a Marvel chipset driver for the device and start trying to install it. Two hours later learning more about grep, lspci and ndiswrapper than I wanted to know I give up. For some reason several of my USB devices refuse to show up in lspci and without it being listed there ndiswrapper shows an "invalid driver" error. At this point I would like to say had I actually progressed further I would have made a decent GUI and delved into the code so it gave useful error messages, just to improve the user friendliness (and handed that over.) Alas after checking the device and ensuring the port was working by using another USB device I gave in, got a really big Ethernet cable and connected to my router that way.

    Enjoying that sound fidelity Creative make a beta driver for my sound card, after three hours of googling and trying I gave in. I had, had enough for some reason the driver was reporting a make *** [all] error 2 and a make *** [something I can't remember] error 2 message. Googling that gave me no leads into what the potential problem was and I had to admit defeat. I was aware of a open source driver but the posts I read suggested it was limited, wouldn't output sound through the optical socket (which is what I use) and was "buggy". So I didn't even try to locate it.

    Putting Vista back on
    Around 8PM that night I decided enough was enough, I wasn't going to get things to a level where Quake 4 would run properly so I might as well put Vista back on. Around 9:50 I had my desktop back, I could have placed all my driver disc's in and installed instead I choose to download and install the latest ones, by 10:20 I was online through my Wireless usb stick, posting on Myst Obsession as Office 2003 installed. By 10:40pm I had finished posting on MystObsession and Quake 4 had finished installing.

    My Final note Many years ago I taught my sisters to install XP, place the right drivers on and get their machine setup, both of them can now do it quite happily by themselves. T
  • by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:41PM (#23231312)
    It sure doesn't sound like my experience.

    The linux community tries in a lot of aspect to stray far far away from Windows out of principle yet fail to impliment the things Microsoft actually got right.

    This is historically incorrect.

    When Linus started making his kernel Windows NT was a new, unproven kernel and DOS and windows was a joke. Linus was familiar with UNIX and Minix in his academic background and built what he knew. The GNU software that completes the picture started as part of an effort to create Free replacements for UNIX software that was rapidly becoming closed.

    The "Linux community" doesn't purposely try to be different from Windows because of its hate for Microsoft. From the start, GNU and Linux aspired to work like UNIX and be compliant with standards like POSIX. Not only were DOS and Windows less familiar to the interested parties, Microsoft products made no strategic effort to be compliant with any proper standard back in the day.

    Also, it would be nice if you could give some examples of what MSFT *got right* that Linux-based OSes fail to implement (apparently "on principle"). Ubuntu, Fedora, SuSE and the like all adopted the "automatic update" model amongst some other Microsoft advances.

    The typical user should not have to open up a term window to install a program. It should be click and guide you through the rest. That was always my biggest complaint.

    What are you talking about? I haven't opened a terminal window to install a software package on my desktop for years now! It isn't hard to find a "beginner's wizard" for installing software packages either--you can do it right from the GNOME equivalent of the start menu. Is it perfecet? No, but it's actually better than windows already--it is only different, and the biggest issue is that people are lazy and don't want to re-learn. It is a big reason Apple still has a small market share too.

    Anyways, I find if you try to imitate the familiar you run into more frustrations than if you just try to make things work logically. If it looks different then users' expectations will be different. There are multiple XP-themed KDE desktop linux setups out there and none of them gained traction like GNOME-based Ubuntu that looks like nothing else in particular, except perhaps vaguely Mac-like. They suffer from an "uncanny-valley" sort of problem--they look so familiar, that when an imperfection is found it has an amplified, more jarring negative effect on the user.

    Interestingly, that is a problem Vista has had--even more so than XP had. People expect the same, see somewhat the same, and then they are presented with messed up control panel dialogues, UAC, and so on and get extremely annoyed. It has proven more irritating to users than the dramatic win3.x to win9x transition.

    Given that, I say forget about anti-MS "principles" AND brain-dead imitation. I think that Ubuntu, GNOME and even KDE 4 have not made great efforts at mimicking MSFT in their default behaviour and appearance to their benefit. It's easier to compete when you stand on your own.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva