This semester I’m taking a class on user interface design and development. One common technique we’ve covered is think-aloud studies, where you get a user to explain what they’re doing aloud as they do it. This gives you some insight into what the user is thinking about your interface, and why they choose the options they do.
For this class, we post our assignments to a class wiki run on Twiki. Twiki is an adequate piece of software, but it has some rough edges. I got frustrated trying to attach images to my assignment, so I wrote a think-aloud dialogue of my interaction with the software.
Ryan: Great, I’m just going to upload some pictures to my page. I’ll just click the insert picture button.
Twiki: Sure thing. What’s the URL for the picture that you want to insert?
Ryan: Uhh…I don’t have one. I mean it doesn’t have a URL. Err…not yet?
Twiki: No problem. You can select a picture that you’ve already uploaded.
Ryan: I haven’t uploaded any pictures.
Ryan: So where do I go to upload a picture?
Ryan: Can I do it anywhere on this page?
Twiki: You can attach pictures to a page…
Ryan: Great—that’s what I want to do.
Twiki: …but not when you are editing the page.
Ryan: OK, so I’ll save this page and come back later to finish editing after I upload my pictures.
Twiki: Just click the attach button.
Ryan: OK, so now I can upload my pictures on this page.
Twiki: Why would you want to upload more than one at a time?
Ryan: Oh, I don’t know, I just have a few I want to put on this page.
Twiki: One. Picture.
Ryan: Fine, I’ll upload a picture and click Attach and then repeat the process for each picture that I have.
Ryan: This one picture that I uploaded, though. It’s 2000 pixels, which is kind of large to display in a browser window. Could you do something about that?
Twiki: That seems like something you should have though about before you uploaded it.
Ryan: I mean, can’t you resize it or something to make it the right size for my wiki page?
Ryan: OK, hold on, I’ll be right back. I have to go resize these images by hand.
Ryan: Back! Now I’ll upload these three…oh…right…Attach, upload, save, attach upload, save, attach, upload, save.
Twiki: Good work.
Ryan: Now let’s put these images into my wiki page.
Twiki: Well, you have to do it one at a time.
Ryan: (sigh) You’re the wiki for a class on usability?
Twiki: Apparently so.
Ryan: Is this some kind of joke?
Ryan: This is ridiculous. I couldn’t design a less usable wiki if I sat down and tried to.
Twiki: Now you’re just exaggerating.
Ryan: And don’t even get me started on your “WYSIWYG” editor. It’s like you vomit on my text whenever I’m not looking.
Twiki: Please be reasonable.
Ryan: I AM BEING REASONABLE. And what kind of name is “Twiki”? Even the pronunciation is unusable! I’ve been speaking English for decades and I can’t decide how to use your name. Tee-wiki. Twick-ee.
Twiki: It’s my name.
Ryan: It’s absurd.
Twiki: You just wish I was Wikipedia.
Ryan: No, I don’t want—
Twiki: You wish I had millions of contributors and video and embedded SVGs and links everywhere.
Ryan: Really I just want you to be easier to—
Twiki: (sobbing) WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LOVE ME FOR WHAT I AM?
Ryan: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—
Twiki: You can be so cruel.
Ryan: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. (softly, not realizing this is a bad time) It’s just that, on a lot of other wikis—not that I want you to be exactly like them—but it’s just that I could probably have uploaded my pictures in the time it took me to write this. But with you…
Twiki: (muffled sobs)
Ryan: You know what, forget I said anything. I’ll just upload the photos.