[mythtv] MythTV Usability Report

Jono Bacon jono at openadvantage.org
Mon Jan 9 02:41:09 UTC 2006

Hi all,

Hopefully this will thread OK - for some reason I could not send replies
to the list, so this is another email address.

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

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.



More information about the mythtv-dev mailing list