Impressions of a usability guy on the Berlin Desktop Summit 2011

On the joint KDE / GNOME Desktop Summit the developer community showed great interest in working closer with their users.

As Akademy / Desktop Summit was in Berlin this year, I took the chance to participate. I probably wouldn’t if it had been somewhere else – and I have to admit: It was a great decision to take part (and a big mistake not to do so in the years before). A big praise to the organisers!

Everyone with a slight interest in KDE or Gnome should join this conference. I will hopefully be able to attend next akademies again. And hopefully there will be more people with a similar background to mine, doing user resaerch, usability or UX work. We do need you!

Personally I have been talking to dozens of people about better ways of integrating users into the development. My thesis was basically:

The way users are integrated into the projects at the moment is frustrating and (trying to find a nice word) ineffective for both, users and developers. It thus does not bring in the desired amount of new blood nor innovation into the projects.

Interestingly enough, I found no-one who really disagreed with this. On this basis I did talk to developers of a lot of different projects, but also to representatives of the KDE e.V. and user representatives about the problem and how we could use the usability and user-driven-innovation tool we are currently developing to improve the situation. I also managed to do a BoF about it, to get in touch with some people from Gnome and I talked to Michael Meeks from LibreOffice about it.

As a result of these talks, we will start creating user panels for individual projects, by simply popping up a layer that will be asking users to join the panel after some time of usage. We will use this panel to ask usability and demographic questions, but also to motivate users to get – step by step – involved deeper into the projects. A lot work to be done…

As we are entering virgin soil here, we will obviously (need to) gain experiences. If you want to join this ride with your project or just your experience or opinion, you are happily invited to mail me or comment below.