Thursday, March 10, 2016

How to join the internship

I've already been contacted by a few people interested in applying for the internship in usability testing. GNOME and other projects are offering paid, mentored, remote internships to people from groups underrepresented in free and open source software as part of the Outreachy project. I'm proud to mentor again with Outreachy, for the usability testing project.

Are you interested in doing usability testing? Internship dates are May 23 to August 23. You need to apply by March 22.

Here's what to expect in the usability testing project:

I prefer to use a project outline similar to an online class. In the Fall semester, I taught an online class on the usability of open source software. We'll follow the same basic outline: learn about usability, then practice usability. I described the course outline in my earlier article on Teaching usability of open source software. That's probably a good article to read so you know what to expect.

One requirement in Outreachy is that you will maintain a regular blog about your work. But that shouldn't be a problem because I structure the internship so you'll have something to write every week. To understand what's expected, interested applicants should review the blogs from the two previous usability interns: Gina and Sanskriti.

My project will focus specifically on the usability of GNOME. You'll learn a lot about usability in general along the way, but in the end we want to learn about how to make GNOME easier for everyone to use.

So, how to get started?

The first step in the application process is to make a first contribution, and to review that contribution with the project mentor (me). For the usability project, I ask that applicants perform a small formal usability test, and perform some basic analysis using the heat map method.

Previously, applicants did a one-person usability test, but it's really hard to compare results here. So I'm asking folks in this cycle to find three volunteers for their usability test. As you'll find, that's not enough to make general comparisons, but it's enough to see what's involved in a usability test.

To get a jump-start on this, you can re-use the scenario tasks from a previous usability test. You can probably find these on Gina's and Sanskriti's blogs, or you can search for "scenarios" on my blog to find a few examples, including my usability scenarios from 2012. For your first contribution, this doesn't need to be a long test. I think ten scenario tasks is fine.

You can do your first contribution usability test on any open source software program. But I recommend GNOME, since that's the topic of the usability testing internship. So just pick some programs from GNOME, and do a total of ten scenario tasks.

When you've finished your usability test, generate a heat map of your results, then write a brief summary about the experience. This is not a formal paper, just a few pages about the usability test. And I mean "a few," like two or three pages. Feel free to use an informal voice, like you would write in a blog; imagine you are explaining your test to a friend. Email your summary to me in OTF or PDF format, and I'll review the results with you.

There's usually a format for writing about usability test results. The general outline for your summary should be the following:
Provide one or two paragraphs to describe the work and why it is important.
Provide a few paragraphs to describe how you did the research, including what equipment you used ("I set up a test account on my laptop running Fedora Linux 23…"), whether the research is based on something someone else did, etc.
Describe what data you collected. Include your usability test heat map in this section. What areas of the software are easy to use? What parts are more difficult to use? What worked well in the test? What were the challenges? (One paragraph for each.)
Briefly describe how you would do the usability test differently next time, to make it better. One paragraph introduction and three bullet points.

If you need help getting started, feel free to email me! I'm always happy to help! (My email address is listed on my JimHall profile page on the GNOME Wiki.)
image: Outreachy

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