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GSoC Guest Post: How easy is it to use the Privly extension?

on Sat, 06/28/2014 - 18:25

Vlad began his 2014 Google Summer of Code project with a formal evaluation of the User Experience of the Privly Chrome extension. Below is a guest post to summarize his findings.


In recent GSoC work for the Privly UX team I learned much that will help my software development in the future.

Creating user friendly software is not merely about following first instincts or putting nice buttons into the interface. It is, in fact, a science unto its own that benefits from extensive research.

Let’s dive into a little example, just to get a feel for the action. We’re evaluating the process of creating a new message through the Privly extension. At the moment, to post a message the user has two options: either click in the form and a small Privly icon will appear in the top-right corner, or right-click the form, select “Privly Content Extension” and select any of the three options from the context menu.

Posting option 1

Posting new content screen capture 1

Posting option 2

Posting new content screen capture 2

We’ll focus on the first option as it seems to be more user-friendly. Let’s assume that the user is a person who chats and posts on Facebook often and wants to do it priv(ate)ly. The steps needed to accomplish the task are:

  • click on the textarea,
  • click the icon that appears in the top-right corner,
  • login in the popped up window (if he’s not already),
  • click ‘New ZeroBin’ button,
  • type the content in the designated area,
  • click save.

Clicking on the textarea to achieve this task is assumed in the extension’s design, but users don’t necessarily know this. So, documenting the assumption for the benefit of the user is a requirement. Next, the user will recognize the Privly logo and know that clicking it will trigger the process of creating a new message. He will then be prompted with the login window that should have a straightforward meaning. After this, he is shown a page with a lot of small, unreadable text and two primary buttons (New ZeroBin and New PlainPost). If he wants he will read the entire text and understand what ZeroBin and PlainPost mean, but most certainly he will not get bothered with that information and click one of that big buttons that should give him the desired effect. We can see here some big UX and UI problems that need to be addressed.

Screen Capture 3

After this he will be greeted with the ‘Create New ZeroBin Link’ page in which he will be able to type his secret message and select the time until it will be destroyed. To get to the next phase he will have to click the ‘Save’ button which seems a normal thing to do. After this action, the user will understand the flow of tasks needed to be done for the next use.

This process of “thinking like a user” is called cognitive walkthrough. After conducting my session of this process I’ve discovered labels and patterns that are obvious to the designer but not the actual user and it has helped me to identify improvements to Privly’s UX for the future. I’ve also learned that designers must, at the very least, think like users. Ideally, we would do tests with real users and have quantitative and qualitative results, but I found that cognitive walkthrough is a good start to uncovering UX issues.