[mythtv] MythTV Usability Report

Craig Tinson craig at 8010.co.uk
Mon Jan 9 03:35:19 UTC 2006

Hi all,

I am having problems getting my mail through to the list, so thanks to
Craig being in #mythtv and sending this for me.

Thanks for the comments. I have a few thoughts on what you have been saying.

Firstly, I don't agree with the views of "send comments about the SVN
version". Sure, in an ideal world, I would be running the SVN version
on my machine, but I am not for these reasons:

  1. I am not a developer.
  2. I have one MythTV and it is a production box, so SVN bugs and
problems will get in the way of using my normal TV and piss my
girlfriend off.
  3. I can't run it on another machine as I would need to buy
additional hardware such as DVB cards.

As such I am running the most recent stable version, like most other
MythTV users.

I could fully understand if I was running a much earlier version such
as 0.16 and gave you a bunch of comments, but I think demanding that
any feedback from users is from the SVN version is rather naive. I am
just a typical user, but where I can help is in usability. By ignoring
or flaming users of the most recent stable version for providing
feedback seems counter-productive.

Much of my background is in usability. I have been studying it for the
last five years or so, I founded the KDE Usability Study and I write
about it for the O'Reilly network, in magazines and do usability
consulting as part of my work as an Open Source consultant. I figured
that some comments about usability would be useful for the project and
although some of my points have been fixed (and a few were ones that I
missed in the manual), much of my suggestions still remain as they are
in the SVN version.

I want to be utterly clear here - I think MythTV is a superb piece of
software and a huge achievement for everyone involved. Certainly don't
take my notes as a slight on your development. Everyone can contribute
their own skills in different ways and I was just throwing in my
comments as a usability guy.

A few comments on RTFM:

My views are summed up by what Myles said - users really should not
need to read the manual where possible. Let me be clear what I mean by
users here - I don't mean the techie dude who set up the box, but I
mean the moms, dads, girlfriends, boyfriends and hangers on in the
living room. There is no reason why the person holding the remote
control should need to know anything other than the basic set of keys
- everything else should be discoverable. It is fine for them to learn
the buttons, but they should not need to refer to documentation to
learn how to save a playlist, configure their recordings and such like
- the interface should aim to intuitive and usable.

Much of this is about discoverability and learnability - laying clues
throughout the interface so that actions and tasks can be picked up
easily. This is easier in applications such as MythTV with a
restricted input model (the remote control) and a modular framework
that tucks functionality into specific areas.

Achieving this is largely about tiny little changes and improvements
that cater for slights in the design. From my initial research MythTV
seems 95% of the way there, but some of these small issues could
really make it more usable for everyone.

So, I would love to help with some of these usability bits and pieces,
but the hostility on this list concerns me. I *really* do think that
some usability and design research and re-evaluation could be a huge
boon to MythTV.



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