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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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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chuckymonkey ( 1059244 ) <charles,d,burton&gmail,com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:24AM (#23222186) Journal
    That's pretty interesting. On a tangentially related note, a guy I work with just install Ubuntu as his first linux. A friend and I were talking about 8.04 and he overheard us, so he walked up and started asking questions about it which we answered. The next day he shows up to work and says that he installed it and is really liking it. What is this world coming to when a normal guy one day hears about linux and the next successfully installs it without asking the local nerds for help? It was really interesting, he said the hardest thing was burning the ISO, other than that he said it was easier to use and set up than windows. Trust me when I say that this guy is very very average when it comes to computer smarts, this was a huge leap for him and it was no trouble at all. That's how I know linux is heading mainstream.
  • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:39AM (#23222322)
    I agree. I expected this article to be a little silly, but it was well thought out.

    The new user was given a bunch of common tasks (play some music, draw a picture, play a video on youtube, use an instant messenger on MSN network, install a commonly used application (skype), edit a photo) and asked to perform them on a default installation of Ubuntu.

    Well done. The Ubuntu team (and other linux distributions) can learn a lot from this article alone. Hopefully it will give a target for other usability testing in the future.

    (And, no, I have nothing to do with the article author or website.)
  • by gapagos ( 1264716 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:40AM (#23222328)
    Personally I find all these issues are sufficiently discouraging for any non-linux-eager person to abandon his efforts and go back to Windows.

    That being said, what's encouraging is how little needs to be done in order to solve all these issues.

    Maybe the Ubuntu community could work on making a pre-installed by default "Tutorial" slideshow guide or something like that to inform Average Joe about some basics in Ubuntu and prevent him from hitting a wall like she did.

    Personally, I'm a Ubuntu user since 6.04, and I'm far from being computer-literate. Well, I'm a little bit computer-literate but I have no computer background and know nothing about terminal if it wasn't for some advice on Ubuntu IRC help rooms and some forum browsing, and my own motivation to use Linux.
    I did try Mandrivia and OpenSuSE in the past, and I gave it up on it pretty quickly because of the lack of support I could find.
    Ubuntu, on the other hand, has a very large community and a lot of support, so it has a big chance of hitting mainstream, IF we can overcome the kind of issues this article mentioned.

    However, the kind of issues are precisely why I do NOT currently recommend to my friends to try out Linux, because I know they'll have a similarly negative experience and unlike me, won't have the motivation to seek for advice on forums, chat rooms or google.

    If we can help the user figure it out more on its own, however, Ubuntu has a LOT of potential. Most of the harder work has already been done!
  • by Machine9 ( 627913 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:40AM (#23222332) Homepage
    you update to the new release, and have to manually fiddle with modprobe to get it to engage your wifi card properly =/

    I managed to get that working, but am now left with a problem that frankly has me stumped, in 7.10 I had no issues what-so-ever watching a video while simultaneously talking to someone on skype. Since updating, these two things have become mutually exclusive...
    launching a video, and then trying to make a skype call yields an uninformative error in skype "call failed: there's a problem with the audio output". Starting a skype call, and then launching a video results in the video opening but being unable to actually "play".

    colour me clueless...I have no idea what to do haha.
  • Test using Kubuntu? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:46AM (#23222414) Journal
    I'd like to see the same test with Kubuntu. Not saying that it's better but I'd like to see the results with KDE as well.
  • New user mode (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:46AM (#23222422) Homepage

    I think many of these observations were valid and maybe points up the need for a "New To Ubuntu" mode that provides extra assistance for common transitional tasks. But, please, in consideration for those of us a little more technically inclined, provide a way to turn the new user mode off. Or offer it as a separate distro.

    I'd be willing to bet the larger fraction of Ubuntu users are fairly tech savvy. If the developers try to foist Ubuntu Bob on users that don't want or need it, they'll lose their most loyal users. Bad for all of us. But if there isn't some kind of transitional assistance for new users, that will inhibit getting users from other operating systems into the ark.

    The great thing about Linux is that it doesn't have to be all things to all people. You can shape a distro to the specific needs of particular users.

  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:52AM (#23222490) Homepage Journal
    Yeah well, I have a girlfriend too, and all she ever does on a computer is watch music videos on YouTube, write e-mails and chat on MSN

    And how well do you think your girlfriend would go on a vanilla windows install with no flash installed, MSN account not setup, etc?

    If the article's author had setup flash / pidgin / explained the difference between GIMP & Open Office draw, his girlfriend would have had few problems.

    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.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:11AM (#23222710) Homepage
    At least in Linux you could boot up into command line mode and edit your xorg.conf file to change the resolution. Say what you want about the command line and editing the config file, and how users shouldn't have to do it, but at least the option is available. Any idea if the same can be done under windows? It's the same reason why so many forums are filled with directions on how to accomplish stuff over the command line. Sure it's a little more difficult than clicking around in a GUI. But it's much more likely to work across different distros and different versions of the same distro.
  • This is a victory! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:12AM (#23222722)
    Well - let's see...

    First task: no trouble...

    Second task: no flash...
    Now I wonder why he starts cheeting here. You see - about 99% of the windows computers come pre-configured, so to make a fair comparisation the Ubuntu on this computer sould be pre-configured as well. Compared to a fresh XP install Ubuntu went very well..

    Third task: Well - To be fair you should say that a bare windosw install does not even HAS a bittorent client. You have to search the web to find one. Then you have to install and hope it does not have malware/spyware/viruses. I think Ubuntu is much more easy here..

    Forth task: Well - to find the program you like most you have to try out a few. The problem here is that the poor girl has not given any time to get familiair with a totally new OS and new applications. No wonder she can't find the right application the first time she tries. Oh - and by the way - how many good paint progr4ams windows has out of the box? Never mind...

    Fifth task: Oh come on! This failed because she can't find a file? The files she wanted should have be ported to the right directory by the one installing Ubuntu. Thats the reason for having a music folder in the first place. We can turn the task around and let her burn a music CD using a fresh windows install and using a Ubuntu file directory. What? Windows has no burning software? Cannot find the files you are looking for? Bad Bad Bad - must be absolutely not ready for the dsktop - that's for sure!

    Sixth task: no problems

    Seventh task: no problems

    Eight task: no problems

    Ninth Task: Hmmm.. she did the wrong click. The result should not had happend. A fair critism here. At the other hand - a bare windows install will use a very low resolution with your card. You see - to get a higer resolution you have to install a driver. Would yo let the girfriend find and install that driver? We are comparing "out of the box" systems here renember?

    Tenth Task: Failed because the software is not an exact copy of Photoshop? Well - he should have bought an pre-installed Photoshop using wine. You see - to make a fair comparisation you should have put somone behind a bare windows install an asking the same thing. It would not even produce anything at all!!

    Eleventh Task: I am not familiair with MSN so I cannot comment here..

    Twelfth Task: She succeeded.

    Well the comparisation was not wat I would call fair. He let his girl sitting down behind a unfamiliair, not pre configurated OS, and compares that with a fully equipped, familiair and configurated windows OS. He does not give her a chance to familiairise the slighthest bit with this brand new OS, but demands her to forfill tasks the same moment she sits down behind the screen for the first time!!!

    I should say, considering that this person had no time to get familiair wit something she had never seen before, she did a good task. Give her a week to get used to Ubuntu and I predict she will find her way very easy..

    So - instead of a failure I would call this a distinct victory. Ubuntu IS ready for the desktop!!!
  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:20AM (#23222846) Homepage

    But Ubuntu itself could develop specs for developers that required basic intros, wizards, etc for introducing and explaining the simple but non-obvious stuff to new users.
    Require? Ubuntu got very little power to require upstream to do anything at all. It all depends on how end-user focused they are, some projects are almost "Well, WE know what the application does and how it works, if you want changes to suit new users go ahead but we don't care and won't help." That's why this all keeps coming back, applications change and the developers/power users know the changes so they don't maintain up-to-date intros/wizards. You must realize that to some people what you're talking about sounds like pure overhead.
  • by oddesign ( 1280582 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:22AM (#23222872)
    Hi... I'm a girlfriend of a computer geek? Anyway, he helped me get set up on Ubuntu. If you have a girlfriend, show her how to use Ubuntu. Please! Don't leave her stranded on Windoze. Sure, there's a learning curve... but if I didn't have my boyfriend to show me how to get the hang of Ubuntu then I never would have managed it on my own. Just having a computer-savvy guy who could show me the quirks... how to patiently look up fixes on the ubuntu forums rather than sitting here mad at the machine if something breaks... damn that's sexy. Be prepared for your girlfriend being a little confused/frustrated/annoyed at little things that you just didn't even think to be confused/frustrated/annoyed at when you were setting things up on your machine... but once she gets the hang of it, she won't go back. The number of programs freely available to install immediately is fantastic. I agree that Gimp should be set up more like Photoshop. (I hate how each image gets it's own window. What a window-hog. Also, it needs better colour support.)
  • by anmida ( 1276756 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:23AM (#23222902)
    I think an easy solution to this problem (new-user aid vs experienced user non-irritation) would be to offer an option during the install - "what's your level of Ubuntu usage? a) First-time user, b) middle-of-the-road smart person who might need a little help, c) power user." That way you could avoid all of the annoying dialog boxes if you wanted to, while still allowing the OS to aid people who want it for their new adoption.
  • by grm_wnr ( 781219 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:23AM (#23222906)
    >I also think many of her problems were with gnome rather than with 'Linux'

    Geekthink strikes again! You can consider yourself lucky that people by now know Linux at all, and a decent slice even know Ubuntu, but dan they will not care at all what the window manager is called. If it sucks, it's not GNome's fault, it's Ubuntu's fault (or, more likely, Linux's fault).

    In before "Linux is a kernel, the OS is called GNU/Linux, Ubuntu is a distro". As if normal people would actually CARE about that. Or to think further, most Linux users DO care, because people who care are most liklely to use Linux in the first place. However, I was under the impression that was supposed to change somewhen (2004 I think it was).
  • Simple logic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alkonaut ( 604183 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:26AM (#23222966)
    The logic of it is: with open source, people write software to fix their own problems. Only in rare cases (the big ones: Firefox, Ubuntu, and with commercial OSS) will any developer spend time fixing someone elses problem. And since all developers are geeks (sweeping generalization, but hey) most open source software will not solve any problems for a non-geek.

    This is why the problem is so persistent, it is inherent to the open source way of devoloping software. It won't go away any time soon.

    What could change it would for example be if a seller of a commercial linux distro would actually pay application developers for modifications, including usability: "-You get $1000 if you can make pidgin girlfriend-friendly following these guidelines", meaning: wizards, simplifications, naming conventions, themes and so on.

  • by PeanutButterBreath ( 1224570 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:33AM (#23223090)
    I think a universal "undo" command would go a long way. Most people will just try to guess their way through things as a first resort, either because they assume they know more than they do, or they just don't feel like poring over documentation. In many cases it is difficult to read that stuff while making changes to begin with, so they are unhelpful unless you already know what you are trying to do, a situation that probably comes up more often after something gets screwed up.

    If software adhered to a universal "undo" command, people who follow the first instinct to click whatever button isn't "Cancel" would at least have some way to back out of their mistakes and get it right on a subsequent try. It would also give us some protection against developers who create crap software and crap documentation.
  • Re:Smart move (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fudoniten ( 918077 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:36AM (#23223136)

    Woah, woah, woah..

    These kind of tests are useful for figuring out how to help people make the transition to Ubuntu, but suggesting that Skype is a model Linux app is scary. I hate Skype, especially on Linux.

    The problem with using these kinds of tests to tweak your UI is that, well, you cater to the lowest common denominator. If you went and tried to 'fix' all the problems this girl had, and make things more in line with what she expected, you'd end up with...well, Windows. Of course. Since that's what she expected.

    There's a bit of a balancing act here, I think. Yes, we should make it relatively easy to make the transition. We should make the distro as usable as possible--without sacrificing functionality. A lot of the stuff that she had trouble with (apt-get!) are some of the strongest features of Ubuntu/Linux. You just have to get used to them.

    I think it's fair to expect users to meet you half way, rather than turning your distro into a Windows clone, or making it so brain dead it actually becomes slower/less comfortable for experienced users.

    As an example of how far wrong this can go, whenever I see a Linux distro with a 'Start' button, I immediately dismiss it as doomed from the start. So far, I haven't been wrong.

    Oh, one last note--I'm an experienced computer user, for years and years, and I've used Windows far more than I ever wanted. Yesterday, I was trying to a) find a bunch of files on my uncle's computer, b) burn them to a disk, c) put some MP3s on a player, and d) explain to my uncle and niece how to accomplish this.

    I finally got through (a) (c:\Whatever and Settings\User-126y125071\Application Data\...?), and (b) (Ahead Nero, and all the steps that entails...), never got (c) working (drivers missing/not working)...and (d) was a joke.


  • by flablader ( 1258472 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:36AM (#23223142)
    I thought the same thing myself as I was reading the article, but then I realized that this would add to the complexity of the install. Perhaps it could be defaulted to "First-time user" with the option to change it in an "Advanced" tab?

    I do agree with another user here that the trick is to do all of the tuning after the install before handing it over to the final user. I did exactly that with my parents when they got their new Dell (with Ubuntu Feisty pre-installed). It's been great being able to fix (Power outage destroyed the nVidia kernel plugin, had to rebuild it), modify, or update everything through SSH from halfway across the state!
  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JohnBailey ( 1092697 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:43AM (#23223242)

    No, it doesn't. I fact, it is a already a huge advantage that she did not have to install Ubuntu (Note: It's not that installing Windows is easier, but people do not install Windows, they buy computers with Windows on them. This is a real problem that no amount of whining about the unfairness of it all will make go away.) Now, imagine if she had the wrong wireless chipset; 0/12 points right there, instantly.
    Except getting a pre installed Linux box is getting easier these days. So the statement that people don't usually install an OS is much more accurate. Installing and setting everything up is not as difficult as it used to be. Especially on Ubuntu, so while your point is still valid, it isn't as much of a deal breaker as it used to be for an unsupported beginner.
  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:45AM (#23224198) Homepage
    Well, that's the problem there.

    A general purpose computer is not a hammer. It was never meant to be a hammer.

    It's a lego mindstorms kit.

    Ignorance of that magnitude keeps the end user from doing simple
    things to protect their data like just making a copy of it. This
    is also what causes PC's to end up on bot nets.

    At that point, systems need to be engineered first with the goal
    of keeping them off of bot nets or otherwise getting infested
    with malware.
  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by endemoniada ( 744727 ) <nathaniel.endemoniada@org> on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:47AM (#23224234) Homepage
    The problem, however, is that not all users are trained Windows users, like this one. Should you implement a dock by default, just so Mac OS X users can feel at home? How about getting rid of that damn GUI for the hardcore UNIX users?

    I can understand the need for Ubuntu to be simple, I just can't see the need for Ubuntu to somehow be Windows. They're two different systems, and a user who doesn't get that needs to learn that first, then move on to the details of Ubuntu in particular, and GNU/Linux in general.

    I wrote in the comments that it was an interesting read, but it was in no way a good scientific way of establishing what parts of Ubuntu need tweaking. A lot of the complaints are not because the program is unintuitive, but merely that it's not exactly like Windows
  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by porl ( 932021 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:54AM (#23224322)
    applications; add/remove; select an app from the list; apply changes.

    you don't have to open up a term window.

    try telling a true new user (not someone who has used windows for a while) to install a new program on windows. where do they begin? hint: probably not with 'internet explorer'. deb packages and rpm files are easily as 'intuitive' as window's 'download from a site, click setup.exe, put in license details etc etc. sure, they aren't yet as common, but neither are osx packages, so does that make osx packages harder to install than windows installers?

  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tweenk ( 1274968 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:56AM (#23224352)
    There are some obstacles to implementing these changes:
    1. FOSS fundamentalism - "MP3 codecs and DeCSS are unclean, so let's make it harder to use them". I think Medibuntu should be optionally enabled, and the important components (DeCSS, restricted codecs etc.) automatically pulled in, at installation. There could also be a checklist of what the user wants to install (MP3, DVD, encrypted DVD...) with explanation of the legal implications.
    2. Windows users which think Add/Remove programs means Remove programs (because in Windows you can't Add any programs via this menu...). This, however, can be countered by having a package manager advertised properly.
    3. Windows way of installing programs by downloading them from websites. The users end up downloading the source and trying to compile it, and fail miserably (I have seen this personally with my brother trying to install Kadu). There should be something discouraging this mode of action.
    4. Usability testing spoils a test subject. You need to find new ones every time, because they gain experience the first time they test.
    5. Once Ubuntu is loaded with pretty wizards, no developers will use it ("build a system that an idiot can use, and only an idiot will want to use it"). There should be an "expert" mode which turns off all introductory wizards.

    From what I see Ubuntu is currently catering to its expected target demographic (medium-level geeks). Because of this, there's PulseAudio, which allows one to route sound over LAN, but no MP3 playback, because it requires something unclean.
  • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:58AM (#23224374) Journal
    She was convinced that something was "wrong" with her computer that I had installed Suse. Finally got her a Mac with the understanding that I don't know Mac much and could not offer her tech support. Anyway, I wound up fixing/solving all her issues with that as well. Almost daily issues at first, then weekly, and finally after 4-5 months, I rare get asked to do much with it. She only uses it for downloading songs, making powerpoint, webbrowsing, and some camera picture stuff.

    To be honest, both Linux and Mac generated about the same amount of workload for me

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham