8 more days before i leave for Germany, and i'm putting together a presentation on usability whilst thinking about some of the challenges ahead.
we have developers who need an effective and clearly defined way to interface with usability, both on their own as they develop as well as through consultation. developers can likely, with reference guides and greater awareness of the issues, take care of the "microusability" issues themselves: widget choices, dialog layouts, etc. our current User Interface Guidelines are a great start to this, and with further development can become a comprehensive set of ansewrs.
the larger, broader issues that require testing and further expertise can be achieved through cooperative consultation with usability experts. this is more research than development, but is what can help define visions to knit together the desktop to expose in a natural and powerful way the amazing capabilities that have lie latent in the codebase. but this needs some sort of structure so that when a developer asks, "So... HOW do I engage this process?" the answer is a URL to clear and concise documentation. we also need a process to foster, document and realize the consultations as they occur, keeping in mind we have a global team.
besides developers, we also have usability enthusiasts: people who are learning about usability and would like to engage in the process of improving KDE's overall sleekness. there is a lot of horsepower to be tapped here, and i think we've only seen the smallest inkling of what's possible with the kde-usability list, which has resulted in a good amount of final product. but here too, it is often that the question of "How do I get involved? What next? What now?" is asked.
and finally, there are the usability experts. people who are starting to emerge from the industry who are wish to be involved. but the commercial usability practice and the Open Source development model are, to most, mystifyingly incompatible. try as they might, the two have yet to be brought together successfully. so usability thus far has been "bolted on the side" through a series of short sighted, near-term-gain-producing efforts that ape the traditional usability process but get it almost completely backwards due to the Open Source engine that it rides. but these people are the exact ones who the developers need to consult with. addendum-style novella-length missives that are then debated on the developer lists are inefficient and impractical.
at aKademy we will be discussing how to bring these various worlds together. how to form a usability process that works alongside Open Source development; how to document that process; how to be inclusive of all participants rather than build walls of expertise and initiative; how to bring one of the final missing pieces of the software development process to Open Source.
you know, nothing big.
oh, and we'll probably drink beer, too.