Season of Usability 2008 Kicks Off

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Inspired by Google's Summer of Code, the OpenUsability project - an initiative to bring more emphasis on usability to FLOSS development - offers a similar student programme: the Season of Usability. The program is aimed at students of usability, user-interface design, and interaction design and has just kicked off for 2008. We're pleased to be funding 10 students focused on user experience research, UI analysis and design tasks in FLOSS projects. From May until August, the students will work closely with experienced professionals and get insights in to their way of work while improving the usability of many different FLOSS applications, ranging from instant messaging in office suites to web applications. Student participants receive a stipend of $1000 USD, kindly sponsored by Google's Open Source Programs Office, the Open Society Institute and Trolltech. We're proud to share more details on this year's student projects with all of you:

Redesigning DrProject’s Administration Interface

Along with mentors Paula Bach & Greg Wilson, Liz Blankenship, a student of Science in Information at the University of Michigan (USA), will redesign the web-based administration interface for DrProject. DrProject is a web-based project management system and Liz will perform user research, create design solutions and test them along usability methods.

Redesigning Gallery’s Image Upload Tool

Along with mentors Katrin Goetzer and Chris Kelly, Jakob Hilden will be creating and testing an improved interaction design for the image upload of Gallery, a web-based image gallery. As a first step, Jakob will conduct an expert benchmark analysis of 3 upload interfaces like Flickr and Facebook, and compare them to Gallery’s upload options. The progress is documented in Gallery's wiki. Jakob is a student of Communication and Media Science at the University of Michigan (USA).

Improving Jeliot User Interface and Workflows

Along with mentors Roman Bednarik, Andres Moreno and Niko Myller, Sharad Baliyan will perform a user interface redesign and analyse cross cultural issues in Jeliot, a Java Program Visualisation application. Sharad, who studies Interaction Design at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad (India), will be helping make Jeliot more usable for teachers and students of Computer Science, who use this tool to visualise how a Java program is executed and interpreted step-by-step.

Human Interface Guidelines and Design Patterns for KDE4

Becca Scollan, a student of Science and Information at the University of Baltimore (USA), and Thomas Pfeiffer, currently studying Psychology at the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany), will team up to complete the Human Interface Guidelines and define interaction paradigms for the Linux Desktop environment KDE. They will serve as a reference for developers and help them to develop more consistent user interfaces. Their mentors for the project will be Celeste Lyn Paul and yours truly.

Toolbox and Palette Interaction for KOffice

Along with mentors Celeste Lyn Paul, Ellen Reitmayr and Boudewijn Remp, Neha Pahwa will analyse the interaction paradigm of four core applications of the KDE Office suite - KWord, KPresenter,the image manipulation application Krita, and the vector graphics application Karbon. Currently studying Information Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology (USA), Neha's plan is to interview the developers to identify the major project goals and target users as a first step.

3d Widgets for MakeHuman

MakeHuman is a 3d modelling software, which Eugenio Passacantilli, currently studying Science in Communications at the University La Sapienza di Roma (Italy), will focus on for Season of Usability 2008. Along with mentors Stefano Fabri, Manuel Bastioni and Simone Re, Eugenio will perform a usability study of MakeHuman’s 3-d interaction elements that have recently been added. The progress can be monitored in the MakeHuman blog.

Handheld-Mode Interface for the OLPC XO Laptops

Mentors Eben Eliason and Marco Gritti will oversee this project with an eye to the final goal of producing specifications for handheld interactions for the OLPC desktop. As a first step, Alessandro Vona, student of Science in Communications, will analyse various handheld devices and their input methods to gain an understanding of some potential challenges as well as some potential solutions.

Improving HDR imaging with Qtpfsgui

Along with mentors Roman Bednark, Giuseppe Rota, and Alexadre Prokoudine, Vladimir Smida will optimise workflows and improve the usability of different tools in Qtpfsgui, an HDR imaging application. Vladimir is currently studying Computer Graphics at the Brno University of Technology (Czech Republic).

Instant Messaging and VoIP with SIP Communicator

Mike Oren
, who is also working toward his Doctorate in Philosophy at Iowa State University (USA), will spend the next few months working on the usability of SIP-Communicator, an instant messaging and VoIP client. Under the tutelage of Raphael Wimmer and Emil Ivov, Mike will focus on integrating multi-protocol features into a unified UI. As this is a major issue with various multi-protocol IM applications, his work will probably apply to other IM apps like Kopete and Pidgin, as well.

Many congratulations to all of our student participants and many thanks to all of our mentors for helping to make the Season of Usability 2008 a success!