Views toward usability in open source software projects : a longitudinal case study
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Department of Information Processing Science, Information Processing Science
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Open source software is gaining more users outside of their own developers. This change brings with it a need for better usability development as well. Introducing usability activities to OSS projects has turned out to be a difficult task for several reasons. To find better ways to achieve this several case studies on OSS projects have been conducted. The four first of these studies were done between years 2007 and 2009. This longitudinal case study seeks to make an update to the situation in these projects by finding out how these OSS projects saw usability back then, now, and in between. The findings from the original case studies were analysed to set a starting point. The situation after the case studies was mapped through analysing mailing lists and discussion forums. Finally a questionnaire was conducted to see what the current situation in the projects is. The longitudinal case study in this thesis started by analysing what is known of the target OSS projects based on earlier UKKOSS papers. The development from this starting point was mapped through mailing list and discussion forum analysis. Finally the situation at the time of writing was found through a questionnaire that developers from each of the targeted OSS projects answered. The goal of the study was to see, if there had been changes in how the OSS projects see usability. The results showed that there has been some increased awareness of what usability is and why it is important, but there were very little concrete steps to bring usability activities into the project development. The findings were in line with earlier research about usability in OSS projects. The increased awareness is a promising starting point. It could be possible that as the awareness grows also the possibility of introducing usability experts and usability activities into the projects increases. The developers seem to care for the end user and some of the comments reflect a user-centered approach to software development. These aspects suggest that there could be an increasingly fertile ground for any usability experts who are interested in giving their time and effort to OSS projects.
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