creating user scenarios with the GIMP team

12 November 2006, 04:09

I spend last weekend in the linux hotel in Essen, Germany, together with six members of the GIMP project team, Kamila Giedrojć and Ellen Reitmayr.

The goal was to create a set of user scenarios, a most vital tool in the further expert evaluation and upcoming redesign of GIMP. In a nutshell, user scenarios describe the essential usage of a piece of software. These are expressed in user goals, avoiding descriptions in terms of functionality or current UI behaviour.

preparation through observation

In the five days before this weekend, Ellen and Kamila had been gathering vital raw material by performing workplace observation. Half a dozen professionals in the field of photography and graphic design were interviewed and observed on the job. These participants had been selected based on the GIMP product vision.

The three of us analysed the results of the workplace observation together. This is an important aspect of a usability–interaction architecture co‐operation: streamlined discussions, and the ability to analyse interaction and usability together.

weekend kick‐off

Saturday morning, Ellen and Kamila kicked off the meeting with their report from the workplace observation. This already contained some eye‐openers for the GIMP team. I encouraged further discussion based on the findings and this lasted to well after lunch.

product vision driven

To develop the user scenarios I started with the product vision, to identify the scenario categories we should cover:

  • high‐end photography;
  • creating original art, from ‘found images;’
  • icon editing;
  • create web graphics;
  • automate repetitive tasks.

For each category, we then filled in an essential scenario with the results from the workplace observation and the ensuing discussion. We then probed if further essential scenarios could be found for the category. That turned out to be either one or none.

So I was very pleased that by Sunday afternoon, we had eight user scenarios that capture the essential use of GIMP, in a powerful way.

direct results

Along the way some hard choices had to be made by the team about what workflow to support, and what to leave to other applications. Moreover, essential functionality has been identified during the weekend and implementation of some of it started right there and then.

Soon Kamila and I will release the GIMP functionality catalogue, and the user scenarios document. We will then move on to an expert evaluation of the current GIMP, and of GEGL, that is so much a part of the future of GIMP.

…on rails

On the train back to Berlin, Ellen and Kamila were dozing off after all the hard work during the weekend. Sven Neumann and I spent the time implementing my concept for rectangle + oval selections, in extreme programming style.

While Sven was writing and refactoring code, I worked on drawings and algorithms for the next step. I went through three algorithms for the corner handle size in as many hours: the concept was clear, but the algorithm needed refinement, until I nailed it.

This all in the shortest concept–implementation loop possible. As Ellen said: extreme usability.

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1 comments · post a comment

at 13 November, 2006 16:29,Anonymous Bassam commented
It might not matter (i.e. usage might be similar to some other groups) but a large number of people use gimp to make textures for 3D applications/games (e.g. blender)
This might start from photos,renders,or from scratch, and it usally involves multiple layer images that are then "save as copied" to multiple files, eg bump, specularity or color maps. 

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