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User Experience Done Live!

Are you a developer in the context of OpenOffice.org? Great! Will you be attending the OpenOffice.org Conference 2009 in Orvieto, Italy? Even better!

You and everyone interested in User Experience (UX) design are invited to participate in this UX workshop.

Bring your questions which have impact on usability to be worked on "live" - supported by the members of the User Experience team. Together we will identify potential issues and develop promising interaction designs to even better satisfy your users' needs.


During the 1,5 hour workshop, we want to take a look at 3 to 5 different topics. For each topic, we will start with getting familiar with the context. To do this, we will take a brief look at the current status of the topic which you or someone else has submitted for use at the workshop. You may either present questions or tell us what deliverables we should aim for. This will be our starting point for working on your topic “live” with the help of everyone attending the workshop.

Each participant is invited to sketch, annotate, discuss ... We, members of the User Experience project, will lead the discussion and use our expertise to demonstrate how usability work can be done. We will also have real usage data from OpenOffice.org at hand to use when looking at design ideas.

The goal of the workshop is to provide a ready-to-serve solution for your topic, or at least provide a good basis for you to continue your work.


We require some information in advance to prepare for the workshop:

  • Please give us a description of the topic you are working on. For example: ideas for creating or improving an extension, website development, tools development, informational graphic design, etc.
  • Tell us your goal for the workshop: We would like to make sure that the question can be understood by the participants quite easily, so that we can get right into it at the workshop.
  • Your OpenOffice.org user name: If we need to contact you, this can be easily done with your user name. For example, if your OpenOffice.org mail address is ”genius@openoffice.org”, then “genius” is the user name. (To avoid spam, please do not write full email addresses)

What must you bring with you to the workshop?

  • Material to explain the context (e.g. a very short presentation with ideas, sketches, early screenshots)
  • Your self :-)

In the workshop, we will provide a computer featuring OSS software (OpenOffice.org, Inkscape, The Gimp, …).

If possible, please bring your computer with you (including internet connection).

The fine print: We would like to take a look at several different topics, so there might not be a final result for each question, but at least a first step toward a solution. If you would like, we may continue any discussion on your topic after the conference on the User Experience mailing lists.

Workshop Leaders

Picture FL.jpg Frank Loehmann

User Experience Project Lead

Frank Loehmann has been working on StarOffice/OpenOffice.org since 1995, the last 9 years with the OpenOffice.org/StarOffice User Experience Team. He holds a degree in Computer Science.

User page in the wiki...

User Christoph Noack.png Christoph Noack

User Experience Co-Lead

Christoph Noack has supported OpenOffice.org for years and has been the User Experience representative for features like "Notes2". The rest of his spare time is spent as Co-Lead of the UX project. His day job is also in the field of Human Machine Interaction, but in the automotive industry.

User page in the wiki...

We owe Elizabeth Matthis and Jaron Kuppers a debt of gratitude, since they helped us to prepare this workshop! Unfortunately, they are not able to attend the OpenOffice.org conference this year.

Place and Time

Please note that the given information is preliminary. According to the conference organizers, the schedule might still change.

Title: UX Workshop II - User Experience Done "Live" Based on Expertise and Usage Data
Building: Palazzo dei Sette
Room: Sette 1
Time: 2009-11-05, 05:15 PM ... 07:00 PM


Here is additional information about the workshop, related presentations at the OooCon and the project we work in:

OOo Conference Program

OpenOffice.org Usability in General

Material and Presentation

Workshop Experience and Result

Workshop Experience

After Andreas finished his workshop about product design, there were about 10 people who attended our workshop. As far as I know, the attendees were volunteers and employees of Sun Microsystems and IBM. Since the workshop did take place in one of the usual presentation rooms, the equipment was somehow optimized for presentations instead of workshops. So we had to rely on the funny ODF note pads we brought with us - and the PLIO people, who were so unbelievable kind to provide a second data projector in the last minute. Thanks a lot for that!!! Unfortunately, there was somebody missing ... Mr. Internet Connection left the room right before and so we had only very rarely access to the Internet and the web sites we wanted to work with. What a pity, especially since some time we kept trying to get it working. However...

First, we presented our backup topics to let the attendees chose what to work on. Backup topics? Yes, because although we did some requests on mailing lists and in blogs, we didn't get any worked out proposal. Maybe our ideas were so bad that - at the end - the people in the workshop presented their own ones. So we got three excellent ideas to work on (see below). Due to the Internet connection problems, the attendees chose to work on "How to improve the quality of search results on the extension website?". Funnily, this idea had been brought in by Frank Mau (Sun Microsystems) who is also responsible for the User Feedback Data tooling. This data could have been used for questions dealing with the core product OpenOffice.org.

Frank explained the problem "offline" - if the user searches for extensions, the search results were sometimes sub-optimal which is related to the underlying search algorithm. Before starting to work on that topic, I gave a brief introduction of "user search strategies" and how this related to todays website features like: hierachical menus, tags and tag clouds, text search with synonyms. Concerning the search we worked out that a plain "text search" does not work well if a) there are far too many search results which might even be unrelated, and b) it doesn't work well if the user does not even know what term to search for (we tend to think technially, but most of our users are technically unbiased).

After some discussion it was raised that there were - literally - no resources to realize huge changes for the Extension Website. Keeping that in mind, we worked on some tiny but powerful proposals how to proceed (see below). If there would be a little bit more support, we also discussed how to re-arrange the elements on the website to provide access to the elements which were rather suited for the search (e.g. moving the tags a bit up). Finally, we had some intermediate result to further work on after the workshop.

Time was running - and still no internet connection - so we proposed to further inform about User Feedback Data and how to use it in the daily work. Agreement - and so Frank Loehmann gave a short presentation and I added a bit more "playing detective" with the source code browser OpenGrok to better understand the raw data. This could also be used for reference in the further analysis in the Project Renaissance.

Result: The workshop itself was quite interesting, especially for me :-) There has been positive feedback after the workshop, so most likely we will offer it again to further strenghten the cooperation in the community. The videos / video streams covering the workshop can be found here (afternoon session).

Workshop Proposals

Although we asked several times on mailing lists and blogs, we did not get fully worked out proposals. So we decided to provide a backup which can be found in the presentation material above. Fortunately, the workshop attendees presented their own ideas:

  1. How to improve the Barcode extension? Kálman Szalai (KAMI), Extension Barcode
  2. How to improve the CT2N extension? Cor Nouws, Extension Convert Text to Number (and date)
  3. How to improve the quality of search results on the extension website? Frank Mau, OpenOffice.org Extension Website

The auditorium decided to work on proposal 3.

Extension Website Seach Algorithm Improvements

Basically, this is the outcome of the discussion:

  • Constraint: only few resources available
  • Develop one or two algorithms with regard to the "user search strategy" by e.g. incorporating the votes (how well rated, how many votes) or other characteristics (age, comments activity). This should be done as a cooperation with UX.
  • Test the different version with the community, e.g. by:
    • Provide two additional extension websites for community access with rating capabilities. After each search, the user may provide a rating how well it worked for him. Or...
    • Work out different scenarios and present them in the survey system so that the community may use the better suited search result which will then get implemented.
  • Implement the new search algorithm in the extension website.
  • And of course, keep in mind that the community members who rated the new search algorithm are already OpenOffice.org experts and already know far too much in comparison to novice users using the extension website for the first itme :-)

If possible: re-arrange some of the elements on the extension website to make the tags more visible for people with small screens.

Lessons Learned

Personally, I'm rather satisfied with the workshop - the first one addressing this topic. The next time, there could be improvements in ...

  • Proposal Collection: We missed the proposals we asked for in advance. I'm sure this could happen the next time, so we might directly ask people who previously asked on the ux-discuss mailing list whether they attend the conference. In this case we miss the people who have no idea about UX, but instead we help those who might be confused by the diverging comments on our mailing list.
  • Technical Equiment: Don't rely on anything :-) Although we did have some backup proposals, the missing internet connection made it impossible for the people to work with our prepared material. If possible, provide a "download package" which is announced in advance.
  • Room: Although we asked in advance how the room is equipped, we should have put more effort in that to have some "traditional" workshop items like flipcharts or boards. This would have been extremely helpful.
  • Computer: If you borrow a computer from a collegue to use it with the second data projector, then make sure that you are able to use it instead of getting stuck with a different configuration...
  • Time: Never try to compete with the QA camp which ran in parallel :-)

That's all, I hope you enjoyed both the workshop and the summary! We would like to thank all people who directly or indirectly contributed to this workshop - e.g. with some short proposals in mails!

Frank and Christoph

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