This year Flock to Fedora took place in Hyannis, Massachusetts at Cape Cod. It was mostly focused on so called do-sessions or workshops and was therefore action-oriented.
Marie riecatnor and I did our usual Badges Workshop on day 1. A quick recap: I think (hope) we’re getting better and better each year. We started off with the presentation and went through badge structure and process. Badges have migrated to pagure since last year, so we made quite a few additions to the presentation. Another very welcome change was having a co-presenter: Kanika a2batic, who is working on a symbol library to make it easier to make badges resources. She gave a small presentation during badges intro. You can take a look here. After that we moved on to actual designing and several people finished their badges by the end of 3 hours. Everyone got a Padawan badge for attending – we came up with the idea for it at last year’s Flock.
Days 2 and 3 had a lot of design-focused activities, too. For example, on Wednesday afternoon I attended a talk about Micro Usability Testing by Jenn Kotler. She is an interaction designer, and often does usability testing in her daily work. Jenn talked about the importance of early user testing, using the example of an amusement park app. I was very interested to find out how a micro-test is different from regular usability test or hallway testing, for example. Turns out, usually it has fewer participants (5-10 people), looking for early problem identification. It really helps to test the product or feature early, since people would be more open to changes before they have put in a lot of effort. Then she told us how to choose people for testing. One should focus on targeted users; also Jenn shared a tip from personal experience, which is “techies make bad testers”. They tend to get caught up in technology and get sidetracked on implementation details.
Then we discussed interacting with testers during the test; the most difficult part is pretending not to be there. One should also be very mindful of language and body language, trying to stay as neutral as possible. That includes neutral wording of tasks, as the questions and tasks should not include neither positive nor negative language. You might have guessed that neutral is the core word here 🙂
After that Jenn talked for a bit about designing a user test. In that phase you have to be very specific and define what you are trying to learn, thus establishing a goal. Decide what the pivotal feature of the app is. Then you can break this bigger goal into objectives that are going to be the basis for you tasks. It’s usually a good idea to ask users to rate tasks difficulty on a 1-5 scale after performing each one, and also ask them to fill in a System Usability Scale or SUS questionnaire in the end.
Jenn gave us some advice on conducting the test itself and offering assists to testers, which brought us to the topic of evaluating the results. This has always been the most interesting topic for me. Jenn’s advice is to create a spreadsheet, input data, count successes and fails, get average ease of use score for each task. Then you can look for trends and repeated user comments, which will help you define successful features and main points.
On Thursday the whole afternoon was devoted to design topics, which was great! Let me give you a short summary. First Suzanne Hillman talked about her experience with Outreachy and regional hubs design. If you’re not familiar with Fedora Hubs, take a look at Mo’s blog here. And this is the link to Suzanne’s presentation. Suzanne talked a lot about research, analysis and design, her main point being: it’s a never ending process, which one has to repeat over and over again throughout the development of a feature or product. She walked us through her work on Hubs, which included defining goals, competitive analysis, doing interviews, creating mockups, working with developers and much more. This is the ticket she worked on on pagure. Her internship has ended now, and I hope she will be able to do more work on Hubs!
After that Máirín spoke about Pattern libraries and in particular the one her intern has been developing this past summer. The idea is to use atomic design and create elements that look ‘Fedora’-like, that the developers can use for creating widgets, apps and websites. In the open source world it’s hard to make projects have the same look and feel, and pattern libraries can be a solution to that problem. Basically patterns are organized in terms of how substantial they are and developers can take and copy parts of it without having to think about styling and CSS too much. You can see the structure on Pattern Lab. There are several levels of depth: atoms are basic html elements, e.g. buttons; brand colors, fonts; parts of forms and other basic components. Then you move on to molecules; e.g. a form. Next come organisms, e.g. cards. Then come templates, e.g. a blog index or a dashboard. In the end come actual pages. I am excited by the idea of atomic design and having style guides in general, and I find this project extremely interesting.
The next steps will be to upstream CSS and HTML into Fedora Bootstrap. Right now they are collecting patterns; later plan is to create more documentation around it and make it more usable for devs; possibly create a how-to guide for Fedora Bootstrap. Some testing will benefit the project, too.
That conference day ended with a Design Team Hackfest which is my most favourite thing ever, because it brings us all together IRL and allows to solve whatever issues need solving X times more quickly than on IRC or commenting on tickets.
Let me sup up by saying that I greatly enjoyed this Flock, Cape Cod and meeting everybody, can’t wait to see you all next time!