Mere Code

Diverse Topics of General Interest to the Practicing Programmer

"Don't Make Me Think", thoughts for Launchpad

I just read Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug. It’s a good book. Sadly, I read it over a fairly long chunk of time so a lot of the punch has been spread out.

Here are my thoughts about how we can apply some of the ideas to Launchpad.

Tighten up our visual design
Launchpad doesn’t look too bad, I don’t think, but it could look a whole lot better.  Doing that would cover over other sins, make people more comfortable and is just the right thing to do.

Error recovery & undoability
We’re not great at this. You can’t rename teams, you can’t rename PPAs, you can’t rename branches that other branches  are stacked on. You can’t delete bug tasks. Many forms just say “Invalid value” when you enter bad input.

Keep up with the user testing
We do a fair chunk of user testing, mostly thanks to Matthew Revell. We should do it more often, and more readily.  Also, we should wave some kind of magic wand that makes it easier for developers to observe the user tests as they happen.

Home page
Make it better.

Remove more stuff
Way too often in our design discussions, we talk about adding stuff to the page: widgets, links, explanatory text. We should lean toward removing before we add. Especially with text: fewer words. Be suspicious when the solution to a usability problem is “more documentation”.

Discuss things less
Sometimes, we really do talk too much about whether a thing should be one way or it should be another.  Krug leads me to believe that most of things we agonize about aren’t actually the things that are important to users.

Comments

manny on 2010-12-12 15:29
i agree with Vegan,

"Register a project" URL should be more obvious.

https://launchpad.net/projects/+new


that link should be at the bottom of every page with the other links.
jml on 2010-11-29 22:19
Thomi, I wouldn't say "awful", but there's definitely a lot of work to be done. And you're right, it is hard: both because it is tricky, uncertain work that requires careful judgement and because it's simply a lot of work.

However, without wanting to make too many promises, it's something that I'd like to tackle in 2011.
Thomi Richards on 2010-11-29 20:45
In my humble opinion the single biggest problem with the launchpad site is that the UI is awful.

You frequently show way too much data on a single page, making simple tasks harder (can't find the information amongst all the clutter), and hard tasks just as hard. Think about the typical use cases for most users, and optimise for them. Hide the advanced data somehow, and make improvements for things users do all the time, rather than things a few people do rarely.

Now, I don't want to get down on you, since I really do love launchpad - it's a great service (the best avilable, i think), but I suspect that you need to take a step back from the UI and consider how a new user might view it. It's a difficult task, especially for power users (which, almost by definition you must be) of the product.

Oh, and when I say "you", I mean… you know… launchpad developers… or whoever is responsible.
jml on 2010-11-19 19:04
Thanks for the comments, Vegan.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience trying out Launchpad.

Not sure what I can say about different projects having different interfaces. We've made it a bit better recently, but there's still a way to go, particularly wrt downloading files.

On making a project, there's a "Register a project" link on the front page of Launchpad. If you ever want to try again, that's the place to go to.
The Casual Vegan on 2010-11-19 18:23
A couple comments about my launch pad experience.

1. The interface changes too much from project to project.So I can never find the download link, many projects don't even have one. Which means I leave the site without the software.

2. I tried to create my own project in Launch Pad. I've done it in Source Forge. In Launch Pad, I literally couldn't figure out how to start a project and add my code to it.
jml on 2010-11-19 16:59
I agree regarding deleting projects. We can rename "+junk" when we have a simple, guided process for turning junk branches into trunks of new projects.

Yeah, having dashboard as the homepage for logged in users is the plan.
jelmer on 2010-11-19 16:57
I think those are all good points.

I think being able to Undo a project (Deleting it) is very important. Talking to various GitHub users this seems to be something that they like a lot, where Launchpad's project creation feels heavyweight. Not because it's got a larger form (it's got a few more, but not that much), but because if you create a project it'll be there forever and you need intervention from another human to get it deactivated. I realize we have +junk (worst name EVAR), but that's not quite as useful as a lightweight project.

It'd be great to have the hypothetical dashboard as the homepage for logged in users.