Developer Area/Dev Team Ideas/Usability Sprint '09/Meeting 20090415

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< Developer Area‎ | Dev Team Ideas‎ | Usability Sprint '09

This meeting took place via Skype, at 2009/04/15 11AM NZST.


  • Intel gathering - we have some usability feedback, can we get more somehow?
  • Begin building a list of areas we can work on


Nigel McNie, Richard Mansfield, Ray Merrill, Myles Carrick


Ray outlined a range of issues he had identified previously, thanks to usability testing with the LeaderTracker project:

  • For users, there is disconnect between artefacts and views. It seems people have trouble understanding the difference between their things, and "views" of their things - e.g. they will head off to a View in order to edit something, not realising that this isn't possible. This extends to access too - people don't understand that their data is private and needs to be published through Views. Ray has tried renaming Views to Web Pages, which may help but only touches on this issue.
  • Users have trouble identifying things in the system. Ray made the comment that Mahara is very textual-orientated (as opposed to visual/graphical metaphors). Where names of things appear in the system, it can be hard to tell exactly what they are. This problem comes up with Groups (e.g. a group with a user's name in it like "Support for John Smith"), user roles (who are the admins?), Files etc.
  • Naming - people have obvious trouble with "artefacts" and "views" - and even with terms like "blogs". While internet savvy users intuitively understand the latter term, the vast majority of people "outside" the internet (e.g. first time users) have no idea what it means. And everyone has trouble with Views, unless they're coders it seems. (editor's note: this has been reported in other languages too - German use of "artefact" is very rare).

Ray then outlined some changes he'd made on the LeaderTracker to combat some of the usability issues.

  • Key parts of the page were visually separated. The sideblocks are not "connected" to the main content.
  • The menu structure was re-worked into three main categories, and converted to behave like a pull-down menu. The categories are "My stuff", "Colleagues and Groups" and "Sharing". Items can appear under more than one of these menus if necessary. This removed the "tabs within tabs" issue when looking at groups.
  • Identifying some objects in the system with icons (e.g. groups, and artefact types).

Myles has found by 'organic' experiementation with students (i.e.  "here's Mahara... start exploring!"), that users start with:

  • Groups: Students quickly start creating groups, and inviting their friends to join them. This is similar to many similar systems.
  • Files: Once they've added some basic profile information, students' desire to share stuff with their friends sees them explore and master the Files tools.
  • The use of Views is not so intuitive, and requires a quick tutorial etc... but students then generally love the drag-and-drop editing interface.

After this point, connectivity failed and we scheduled to complete the meeting tomorrow.