Wrapping the Season of Usability 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Inspired by the Google Summer of Code™ program, OpenUsability — an initiative to bring usability into FOSS development — developed and launched a similar but independent program, the Season of Usability. The Season of Usability sponsors students to work on usability, user-interface design, and interaction design and related projects with pre-screened Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) projects; each student is paired with mentors to help guide them on their project, with mentors chosen from a particular community's set of key developers and user experience experts. For their work, students receive a stipend of $1000 USD, kindly sponsored by Google's Open Source Programs Office, the Open Society Institute and Trolltech.

The second Season of Usability took place between May and September 2008, and has been deemed a great success by students, projects and sponsors! Ten students contributed to nine FOSS projects by doing user research, usability analysis or UI mockups. All projects were finished successfully — in average, the teams fulfilled 80% of their initial project goals. Given the fact that most mentors claimed to have set an overly ambitious roadmap at first, this is a very good value. We are especially happy that the Season of Usability inspired the students to further engage in Open Source — six of the ten students will continue their work on the project.

All students created project reports that are published on the Season of Usability website. Summarised, the following goals were accomplished:

Redesigning DrProject's Administration Interface

This project focused on improving the overall usability for project management portal software, DrProject, especially targeting a redesign of the web administration interface.

Along with mentors Paula Bach & Greg Wilson, Liz Blankenship, a student of Science in Information at the University of Michigan (USA), did a redesign of the web-based administration interface for DrProject. She documented her activities on her blog.

Redesigning Gallery's Image Upload Tools

The goal of this project was to improve the image upload tools of Gallery, a web based software product that lets you manage your photos on your own website.

Mentored by Katrin Goetzer and Chris Kelly, Jakob Hilden did a comparative analysis and created mockups for a new image upload tool. His work is documented in Gallery's Wiki. After having finished his own Season of Usability project, Jakob offered to mentor two more design projects related to Gallery for a design course at the University of Michigan, School of Information.

Human Interface Guidelines and Design Patterns for KDE4

The purpose of this project was to finalize the Human Interface Guidelines for the K Desktop Environment.

Becca Scollan, a student of Science and Information at the University of Baltimore (USA), and Thomas Pfeiffer, studying Psychology at the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany) identified common interaction problems in KDE4 and created generic design solutions. Additionally, they complemented the KDE4 HIG by several guidelines. Their mentors were Celeste Lyn Paul and myself, Ellen Reitmayr.

Improving Jeliot user Interface and Workflows

This project focused on improving the user interface and workflows of Jeliot 3, an Open Source Java Program Visualization application that helps Java beginners to understand coding concepts. Sharad Baliyan, student of interaction design from India, identified possible pitfalls when newbies of programming make use of Jeliot, and created paper prototypes to overcome those issues. Sharad was mentored by Roman Bednarik, Andres Moreno and Niko Myller.

Toolbox and Palette Interaction for KOffice

The goal of this project was to improve the toolbox and palette interaction for KOffice, the office suite of the K Desktop Environment.

Supported by her mentors Celeste Lyn Paul, Ellen Reitmayr and Boudewijn Remp, Neha Pahwa analyzed the tool options of KOffice. She identified the major interaction problems and created first paper mockups for an improved tool interaction in KOffice.

3d Widgets for MakeHuman

The goal of this project was to design and test 3d widgets for MakeHuman, a free software for modelling 3-Dimensional characters.

Eugenio Passacantilli, student of Science in Communications at the University La Sapienza di Roma (Italy) designed and tested 3D widgets as a new concept to present options to users. Eugenio was supported by his mentors Stefano Fabri, Manuel Bastioni and Simone Re.

Handheld-Mode Interface for the OLPC XO Laptops

This project focused on designing a system of interaction for the One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop with limited input methods.

Along with mentors Mentors Eben Eliason and Marco Gritti, Alessandro Vona, student of Science in Communications, analyzed different handheld interaction models to come up with an interaction design for the XO Laptop handheld mode.

Improving HDR imaging with Qtpfsgui

The goal of this project was to improve various tools and the overall usability of Qtpfsgui, an open source graphical user interface application that aims to provide a workflow for High dynamic range (HDR) imaging.

Supported by his mentors Roman Bednark, Giuseppe Rota, and Alexandre Prokoudine, Vladimir Smida created sketches for Qtpfsgui that will improve visual rather than parameter-centric working modes. Vladimir documented his work on his blog.

IM and VoIP with SIP Communicator

This project focused on the integration of multiple protocols in a single instant messaging application, SIP Communicator.

Mike Oren, PhD student in Philosophy at Iowa State University (USA), performed user research and a comparative analysis of different instant messengers. Mike was mentored by Raphael Wimmer and Emil Ivov.

A big "Thank You" to all participants and congratulations for all their good work!