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Revision as of 14:22, 30 May 2011 by Tobi (talk) (Ideas for Conducting the Method)
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  • Provide further information and understanding in the following areas:
    • users ("who?")
    • tasks ("what?", "how?")
    • context ("where, when, why?")
  • Facilitate empathy for users
    • How do users tick?
    • What are their motivators or pressures?
    • What contributes to their satisfaction?

Proposed Method

  • Mental Models by Indi Young
    • qualitative method
    • based on open interviews (no questionnaires)
  • Further information on this method is available, see:
    • The book (rosenfeld media) Mental Models
    • excerpts available for online reading via paperc (German website, free account required, book in English)
    • The author explaining the method in this Video
    • diagrams from the book on flickr

Course of Actions

  1. define audience segments based on product vision
  2. set scope of the interviews
  3. recruit interview partners
  4. conduct interviews
    • at least 4 interviews per audience segment
    • focus: tasks, behaviours and philosophies of users
  5. transcribe interviews
  6. analyze results
    • distillation of tasks, behaviours and philosophies into patterns
    • create graphic of patterns in a mental model
    • oppose mental model vs. existing functionality
  7. make use
    • gap analysis (planned and existing functionality vs. users' behavior, needs and tasks)
    • adjust user scenarios / audience segments
    • derive stragety for development
    • prioritize features (importance vs. feasability)


  • The product vision is used as a starting point to find the right partners (interviewees) for the mental models interviews.
  • Finding the right interview partners is pivotal. Recruiting must be carefully prepared and carried out.
  • Recruitment channels can be, but are not limited to the following:
    • GIMP developer mailing list
    • GIMP users mailing list
    • blogs, forums, wikis on GIMP
    • blogs, forums, wikis on high-level photo manipulation

Ideas for Conducting the Method

  • Embed an intern during a Season of Usability on OpenUsability.
    • Valuable help can be provided by the intern before, during and after the field phase, e.g.
      • brainstorm ideas for optimal recruiting
      • recruit interview partners
      • conduct interviews / parallel transcription while interviewing
      • transcribe and analyze interviews
      • help build the visualization
  • Inquire / brainstorm how the research process and it's results can be made transparent for developers / maintainers.


  • Mental Model Diagram
    • one diagram per audience segment
    • tasks organized in "Mental Spaces" of users
    • justified audience segments based on tasks
    • gap analysis
    • functionality overview will be confronted with users' perspective
  • A primer describing the target audience of GIMP can be derived (e.g. 20-40 page pdf about users, tasks, context; for both new and seasoned developers or interaction / usability contributors)

pros and cons

  • (+) pros
    • fundamental research, broad focus, high-level
    • detailed analysis of users and their tasks
    • research is built on existing findings
    • verification of user scenarios / audience segments
    • based on tasks and behavior
    • adaptable / scalable method
    • supports strategic vision and long-term development
    • revision and clarification of user scenarios
  • (-) cons
    • fundamental research, broad focus, high-level
    • no immediate improvements
    • complex method
    • not all existing findings are considered