Category Archives: enterprise

Sakai Mobile Usability

Case Study

Qualtrics on an iPhone
Pilot application on iPhone

In January 2010, Yale’s Center for Media and Instructional Innovation conducted a survey of mobile devices used to access Classes*v2, the University’s learning management system built on the open-source Sakai platform. The results of this survey and a series of related discussions prompted further development, and in 2011 the Classes*v2 team completed an alpha version of a mobile web interface. A decision was made to open it up to a select group of pilot participants during the Spring 2012 semester. Our goal was to gather student and faculty feedback to inform ongoing development efforts. With no formal usability training, but plenty of gritty do-it-yourself determination, the team set about conducting a large-scale usability study.

The process of selecting and gathering feedback from the pilot participants was a multi-phased approach:

1. Open call for volunteers

Upon logging into Classes*v2, a message invited interested users to apply to be part of the pilot.

  • Sample language we used:
    • “Help us pilot a new mobile interface for Classes*v2!”
    • “Got a mobile device? Help us pilot a new mobile interface for Classes*v2!”
    • “The Classes*v2 team needs your help to pilot a new mobile interface!”

2. Selection of pilot participants

Pilot applications simply required the user’s identity as well as which Classes*v2 tools they used regularly. Since the alpha version of the mobile web interface only worked with some tools, the team wanted to ensure a good fit between these parameters and the usage habits of potential pilot participants.

3. The call to action

We sent accepted pilot participants an introductory email:

“Thanks for your interest in the Classes*v2 mobile pilot. As a first step in optimizing Classes*v2 for mobile devices, we invite your feedback on an alpha release, which includes views of several key tools.

To access the mobile view, please visit …

We’ll be sending you a quick survey in several weeks to learn about your experience. Your input on what works, what’s missing, and what needs to be tweaked will be incredibly helpful as we continue building the mobile view.

We appreciate your participation in the alpha pilot and look forward to your feedback.”

4. Gathering post-pilot feedback

After the month-long pilot period ended, we sent participants a survey about their experience. Out of 648 participants, 220 (34%) responded to the survey.

“Thank you for your participation in the pilot of the Classes*v2 mobile alpha. Please take a few minutes to complete a quick survey on your experience with the pilot. We’re grateful for the feedback, and confident that it will help us further develop and improve the interface.”

(The final survey was individualized for tracking responses.)

Here are the results of the survey, if you’re curious. Included are some lessons learned and signposts that we used to prioritize development efforts.

Outcomes

  • Well over 500% mobile activity increase.
  • Over 300% increase in pages per visit during mobile sessions.
  • Over 300% increase in average time on site during mobile sessions (from roughly 20 seconds to about 90)
  • 25% increase in new mobile visitors
  • 57% decrease in the mobile bounce rate (a good thing!)
  • A focus group with student interns from the Instructional Technology Group to further refine the feedback we received
  • Coverage in the Yale Daily News
  • Users of phone-sized devices are now automatically redirected to the mobile web interface when logging into Classes*v2.

Lingering Questions

  • How might we have streamlined the process?
  • Was there anything missing from our approach, bearing in mind the scale of the effort?
  • What should we do when frequently recurring suggestions are seemingly impossible to deliver?

This post was written as a contribution to Users First!, a November 2013 Unconference at Yale University

Cloud Integration Shootout: Office Suites part 2 (the Mac conundrum)

Users of modern Macs face an unfortunate dilemma when it comes to cloud-integrated office suites. Google Cloud Connect is not available for Macs; the company blames Microsoft for their lack of support for open APIs in the Mac version of Office. And the OOo2GD extension for OpenOffice (and friends) doesn’t work properly on any version of OSX after 10.4 (Tiger) due to Java issues. What this effectively means is that true Google Docs integration is simply not possible at the current time. Users are left with two equally cumbersome and unappealing options.

Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac includes native (though rudimentary) hooks into Microsoft’s own cloud infrastructure. Applications in this suite offer the ability to “Save to SkyDrive” or “Save to SharePoint.” There is not, however, support for automatic synchronization. It is still a manual process, an extra step in your workflow which means this is not true integration. And for established Google Docs devotees, it requires a separate collaborative space to be created and maintained.

NeoOffice is a Mac-specific fork of OpenOffice. I tested version 3.2 Beta Patch 1. Through a feature known as “NeoOffice Mobile,” it does provide support for saving to Google Docs; but again, true integration eludes us here. Users are inexplicably required to create a separate NeoOffice Mobile account, even if they’re only using it for the ability to save directly to Google Docs. The account creation process is tedious (you are asked to donate money), and credentials do not appear to be saved between sessions. So when you quit NeoOffice, and then start it up the next time, you have to separately login to both NeoOffice Mobile and Google Docs. And you have to do this every time. There’s no automatic synchronization, either.

The elegance and seamlessness of both Google Cloud Connect and OOo2GD are sorely missed in OSX Leopard and Snow Leopard. Hopefully someday soon, one of these options will be available, or perhaps an entirely new solution will present itself.

Cloud Integration Shootout: Office Suites

google cloud connect

 

 

Analysis: LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD versus Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect

 

The following is a comparison of cloud integration options for two popular office suites. Both options allow synchronization of documents, spreadsheets and presentations to Google Docs. Both options allow for either automatic or manual syncing, depending on user preference.

 

 

LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD advantages:

  • None of the costs associated with Microsoft Office
  • Multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, many other Unix variants)
  • Supports other cloud services besides Google Docs (Zoho and generic WebDAV)
  • When used with user-controlled WebDAV, allows for total control/ownership of all data
  • Translated into many other languages besides English

 

LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD disadvantages:

  • Some problems with certain versions of Mac OSX (seems to be Java related)
  • Needs Java 5+ to work, on any platform

 

Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect advantages:

  • Allows user to disable Protected View for documents synced with Google Docs
  • Allows application-level configuration of a proxy server to access Google Docs
  • Does not require Java

 

Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect disadvantages:

  • The cost of the office suite
  • Limited to the Windows platform
  • No option for end-to-end control and ownership of all data
  • Does not support any services other than Google Docs

 

Conclusion:

The most impactful factors to consider are the platforms being used by all potential collaborators, and any enterprise requirements for internalization of data.

If you’re dealing with a heterogeneous client environment, OOo2GD is the way to go. The interface looks the same across all platforms it supports, which simplifies training through consistency and uniformity; the only caveat is that you may have problems if any Mac users are running one of the versions of OSX affected by the known Java issue. If you’re an all-Windows shop, none of the above is a concern, and either option will work fine.

Some companies are hesitant to embrace cloud computing because of the inherent risks of having your data stored on someone else’s hardware, in a physical location you do not control. This would be a show-stopper for Google Cloud Connect, because all synchronized documents will live on Google’s servers. Assuming your company sets up its own internal WebDAV instance, which could be accessed by employees via VPN, OOo2GD would provide a completely self-owned and internally-controlled solution. This would allay many of the typical fears associated with cloud computing.