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TWiki Usability Testing at SirValUse

This topic is about:

  • the impovements and changes made to TWiki at SirValUse to make TWiki easier to use.
  • describing usability issues and show up potential solutions to do better.

All the issues discussed on this topic are about using TWiki without beeing a developer, coder, highly experienced admin or something similar. If not indicated otherwise all described issues are from an end users point of view.

About SirValUse

SirValUse is an independent corporate usability consulting agency that has been analysing and optimising electronic interfaces in the dimensions of usability, utility, design and emotional relationship to the brand, since its foundation in May 2000. Our many years of experience and expertise guarantee high quality data, analysis and well-founded proposals for solutions. See our services for more information.

About our TWiki Implementation

We are currently running TWiki Version 4.1.2 using NatSkin and lots of plugins. In 2006 we introduced twiki as a replacement for our static intranet.

TWiki usage at SVU

We use TWiki to/as ...

  • track and share learnigs from projects with our clients.
  • identify internal knowledge carriers
  • internal message board
  • knowledge base
  • store and manage documents
    • due to a missing WebDav Solution for Apache 2 we cant use TWiki for storage of frequently used and changed documents (eg *.ppt's)
  • reduce the number of system we use to store all types of infomation.
  • reduce the time needed for searching and storing information

We are a total of 60 users...

  • Arround 75% usability professionals

  • Remaining 25%: IT administration, Human Resources, Office & Accounting, Marketing / PR

The Beginning: TWiki kinda works - let's try use it

TWiki setup: PatternSkin, no extra Plugins, no modifications.

We were 6 evaluaters:

  • one admin (me) with some wiki experience
  • 5 test users with no wiki experience (well, they knew wikipedia wink ).

usability issues in the beginning

Among the first things we had troubles with were:

  1. getting used to this weird TWiki language and it's concept...
    • topics not pages, Main not Home, TWiki not Twiki, WikiWords, webs, WebHome, WebWhatSoEver...

  2. realizing that there's almost no pre existing navigation
  3. editing a topic. Once we clicked "edit" the entire page layout changed
    • Where's the WebLeftBar gone, and the header, the footer? Where am I now?
    • Everyone felt quiet lost the first time we tried to edit a TWiki topic and it was even worst when trying to start a new topic from scratch.

  4. formatting a topics content
    • How do i make a headline or something bold? Where are the buttons?
    • ahh, ok there's some help text with text formatting explanations - not really convinient i still like to have buttons.

About issue 1

  • All this specialised terminology raises the stoppages one might have using this software. We missed the logic behind these names in the first time wink

Hmm, Could be easier some how wink - Usability Improvements

Usability Improvements were based on...

  • Expert Review
    • Expert reviews are usually conducted without any respondents; they are based entirely on the assessment of one or more experts.
    • I've created a small TWikiApplication where we track usability issues recognized by our users (who are all usability experts). Our users prioritize them and propose a solution which will be realized by me (if possible) or someone from the TWikiCommunity via plugin.

  • User Experience Testing
    • The user experience test follows a qualitative approach and investigates the entirety of user experiences surrounding the use of an application.
    • Due to time constraints we did not test in labs. It was more me watching users failing on certain tasks.


... I'll will continue on this one thi week...

-- Contributors: CarloSchulz - 02 Jul 2007


Carlo, we'd love to get usability testing done by professionals!

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Mar 2007

That's very good news. Looking forward to read on.

-- MichaelDaum - 03 Jul 2007

Carlo, do you have time to progress this? It is very interesting.

-- TamsinTweddell - 29 Jul 2007

I try to. Lots of work to do this month. Will continue next week.

-- CarloSchulz - 30 Jul 2007

I would also love to read more.

-- MartinSeibert - 04 Feb 2008

Oooh, I see I need to finish what I started smile

-- CarloSchulz - 05 Feb 2008

Sure, we are waiting ... smile

-- MartinSeibert - 03 Apr 2008

I'm working on something better (and hopefully releasable) for my department at IBM right now. Watch out for NatSkinUsabilityContrib an usability focused addition to the NatSkinPlugin

-- CarloSchulz - 03 Apr 2008

Carlo, as a technical writer who's interested in usability, I look forward to you continuing this discusson if at all possible! If I can help with testing and documenting, please let me know.

-- ReneeMurray - 18 May 2008

Hi Renee, I would be interested in your view on the proposed setup of twiki.org pages in TWikiOrgRenewalWorks2008ToDo.

-- ArthurClemens - 18 May 2008

Carlo, it'd be great to still get your feedback on NatSkin based on your findings at Sirvaluse and IBM and work together on usability improvements to TWiki. Do you think it makes sense to add it to NatSkin directly instead of creating another add-on?

-- MichaelDaum - 19 May 2008

Adding it directly to NatSkin would make more sense imho. Maybe as one of the skin presets, just like the JotSpot one.

I did quiet a few template changes, some of them more focused on the front end usability than on quality code so that is something that should be considered when trying to merge NatSkin with my ideas and findings.

About this topic and it's discussion: I think it is more likely that I'll document and publish my latest efforts (which will incorporate many issues described or intented to be described here).

Thanks to everyone showing interest in this and sorry for not having finished it yet.

-- CarloSchulz - 19 May 2008

I made some screenshots of my latest efforts on creating a nice and intuitive interface focused on novice twiki end users. See TWikiForNormalUsers wink

-- CarloSchulz - 20 May 2008

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Topic revision: r19 - 2008-05-20 - CarloSchulz
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