Making usability part of the development process

For the first year and a half in Canonical I worked with the amazing Launchpad team, with the ambitious goal of building a new user interface, introducing AJAX in an established code base and rolling it all out on time. While all of that was overwhelming in itself, what was more important to me was making sure the UI remained consistent across time.
Long story short, it was a success and it’s been 8 months since I’ve left the team and the established process is still on-going.

I wrote a paper on the whole experience and presented it at the agile conference XP2010 in Norway.

Here’s the introduction:

When I started working with the Launchpad team I was tasked with designing and rolling out a new interface using cutting-edge technology on a well established product and team. The existing processes and team structure made it very hard to roll out big changes while also ensuring consistency as time went by.
While the general designs and work ow changes were being eshed out, I started to drive some change to the existing processes, enabling me to be successful at an objective that would take a year to accomplish, and unexpectedly, beyond that.
The project was 4 years old and had over 500 dynamic pages with different templates and layouts that had been left untouched at different points in time. The goal for the next year was to make the application easier to use, even enjoyable. I also had to make the UI consistent across the board, take the project from static HTML pages into the wonderful world of in-line editing, streamlined work-flows and predictable interactions. In parallel, fundamental features that had been developed were going completely unused and we needed to turn that around. A re-usable AJAX infrastructure had to be developed from the ground up, new features needed to be designed and delivered, and general navigation issues needed to be addressed.
However, this story isn’t about the success of the roll out of a new interface, but rather the success in the process changes that evolved during that year and how the project went from nobody feeling ownership over the user interface, to the developers taking strong ownership.

I feel very passionate about this subject, and hope this experience can help other projects and teams.

Here’s the paper for download: xp2010_paper.pdf

Streaming at DebConf

The awesome Video Team at DebConf have set up, like every year, streaming video and audio for the talks and BoFs, so if you’re work allows it, you may want to watch some of the talks:

In about an hour (13hs UTC), Mark Shuttleworth is giving a talk on Debian and Ubuntu collaboration, which I’m sure is worth watching.

If you miss any of the talks, a few weeks after the event is over, the videos are provided for download, so keep an eye out for them if you missed any talks you wanted to watch.

Talk on Ubuntu a Success

Even after having my talk moved without any notice at all from an ideal scheduled time (Friday evening) to possibly the worst (Saturday morning) , I’m pretty happy with how the talk went about.

I chose to use a different format then standard “OpenOffice Presentation” which allowed me to get it done in less time and give me more flexibility. I used Eric Meyer’s S5 format, which uses standard CSS + Javascript + HTML which I’m very familiar with, together with a Firefox extension called Full Fullscreen, which resized everything to full screen correctly.

You can see the slides (in spanish) at:
and also download them if you like. A video is available with most of the talk filmed, albeit not the best sound quality.

I also have a few good pictures from our booth at the event and the actual talk:

Ubuntu Booth
Our booth!

Ubuntu Argentina LoCo
Some members from the ubuntu-ar LoCo

Martin Albisetti - Ubuntu Presentation
Me 😀

Martin Albisetti - Ubuntu Presentation
A lot more people then I expected for 11am on a Saturday