15 October 2010

UX design in open source development

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Olli Savolainen has published a thesis entitled “User experience design in open source development: Approaches to usability work in the Moodle community” at the University of Tampere, Finland.

“Usability work is problematic in open source software development on many levels. There is often no documentation or explicit research of user goals to drive design, no user experience vision to direct development, no usability testing, and typically no resources allocated for usability work. No usability practitioners are usually employed, and doing usability work is hard due to the community value system being focused on concrete results. An attitude of “code is cheap” leads to a tendency to skip user research, design and validation before implementation. However, developers in open source communities do get feedback from actual users. Also, software development work is iterative, as recommended in user-centered design, so there is some foundation to base usability efforts on.

This thesis builds on a review of the observations made about usability in open source literature. It is followed by presentation of the Quiz user interface project in the Moodle virtual learning environment project. I introduced needs of a user group of the already existing Quiz module, which had not been considered previously, into the design of the user interface. I carried out interviews of users and stakeholders, and iteratively designed the user interface using prototypes, usability testing, and community feedback, in each phase of the project. The results of this project are integrated in Moodle 2.0.”

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