On May 10th we published a toot asking for volunteers to dive into our upcoming beta of Bonfire Social, by participating in some usability testing sessions. It was such a great opportunity to see how a diverse range of people interacted and used our platform, what they found easy and familiar and what instead felt weird, clunky or buggy.
We ended up with a valuable list of suggestions, feature proposals, bugs and some appreciations for the work done so far :-)
This first round included 5 testers (we picked this number based on this NNG article about usability testing). Though small, the group was diverse enough in terms of background, interests and geography. It included educators, activists and developers, among which some were already well versed with the fediverse, while others discovered it recently.
They all were interested in using Bonfire via servers operated by and for themselves, their family or their local community. Some of them were even keen to set up and maintain an instance.
Main takeaways #
We ended up creating an ad-hoc beta-testing tag on our issue tracker to keep track of the bugs and feedback that came out of the sessions.
Among all the amazing input we received, we found some that were shared by the majority of testers:
- It should be more obvious to know how to tailor and extend your instance to go beyond the standard microblogging use case.
- Trending topics are a great way to discover the network. They play an important role in how users search, find, avoid, or subscribe to certain topics and people.
- The text input for writing a post is too small to go beyond microblogging. It does not encourage deeper and structured conversations. We should definitively provide an option for distraction-free writing.
- It would be awesome to have federated groups.
- It would be useful to have moderation and instance rules shown on the homepage, together with other meaningful information about the instance.
- It would help to have a wizard to guide new users on their first time using the platform or participating in the fediverse.
- Pinning one or more posts to the top of your timeline is a simple but powerful way to customise one's profile.
- It would help to have more flexibility on how users define the audience of their posts.
Final thoughts #
Beta testing is not only a great way to spot bugs, but can also be powerful in finding more inclusive and participatory ways of co-designing the platform itself.
We therefore plan to continue with iterative usability testing sessions on a monthly basis - feel free to contact us if you want to join in :)
Thanks also to the Cultural Foundation, who helped fund our work on the beta milestones.