Team Half-Baked

ENGR 3220: Human Factors Interface Design- Spring 2008

Tim Smith and Jessie Sullivan

Needs Analysis Document
Interaction Design Document
Interaction Assessment Document

Team Half Baked Needs Analysis Document

I. Introduction

Wikis promise solutions to a number of problems that commonly face teams. One way to define a wiki is "a collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it" (American Heritage Dictionary). The combination of open access and fast, lightweight editing creates a useful information management platform that is more likely to be updated and facilitate real collaboration than a static website. Wikis can be used to coordinate geographically diverse teams or extend the organizational memory of teams with high turnover.

Wikis as typically implemented appear to represent a clear case of design by programmers, for programmers. They are not easy to use. For example, novice users are confounded and rebuffed by the sparse, undocumented forms, moderately experienced users make mistakes that are difficult to diagnose and repair, and maintainers are frustrated by their inability to enforce a consistent style. Our goal is to design a platform that maintains the open access and rapid edit capability of a wiki that is less frustrating for both novices and experienced users, with a focus on quickly transferring institutional knowledge. We are particularly interested in the case that the OLPC project has brought to our attention, concerning mediating the interaction between project staff and project volunteers.

II. Information Gathering

Interview Questions

  1. What methods do you currently employ to share information?
  2. How much do you use computers? In what way?
  3. How would you define your technical competence and why?
  4. Have you heard of wikis?
  5. What do you think wikis are? (or, how do you describe/define wikis?)
  6. What is your experience with wikis?
  7. How often do you use wikis?
    • Do you edit wikis?
    • What kind of information do you put on them?
  8. Do you read wikis?
  9. How do you find information on wikis?

Lessons from users

After conducting 6 interviews with individuals both affiliated and unaffiliated with the OLPC program and at various skill levels, we found that individuals fell into 4 general continuums in describing the user population for the OLPC wiki.

Wikis are commonly used for organizing large events or projects and are generally perceived to work well for long term projects. Content can be shared through these pages or task lists for personal or group use can be easily created. Wikis are generally perceived to be easy to use, but many new users are not sure exactly how to use them and they appear to be "mysterious black boxes" at times.

Most users commented that they first started using wikis by cutting and pasting information on an existing wiki and then modifying that for their own purposes before finally getting used to the formatting. Even the most experienced wiki editors, though, often still have difficulty remembering certain syntax for the wiki.

In terms of editing wikis, the average wiki user edits very few pages. Wiki use varies greatly and a very small fraction of wiki users are responsible for most of the content on wikis, particularly the OLPC wiki. A common thread in these interviews was the need to lower the activation energy of editing content on a wiki to make it more easily accessible to more users.

Well formatted wikis are more visually appealing and seem more public in their presentation, though users feel like they are less likely to edit the page as they feel that they are destroying someone else's work. Wiki maintenance is considered an important issue as it takes quite a bit of energy to format and maintain a wiki over time. Information from individuals not familiar with a pages formatting can make the page seem disjointed and require further formatting for it to truly be accessible. Vandalism is also a problem where pages are maliciously changed or deleted, requiring work to be done to reverse these changes.

Collaboration through the wiki seems most common among experienced wiki users that are already familiar with OLPC. These users typically have a user profile on the wiki and contact other users using the wiki chat application or by obtaining contact information from their own profile. Little actual browsing seems to be done on the OLPC wiki and the search feature is considered lacking. The OLPC wiki is considered to be fairly big and many users expressed how they weren't sure how to navigate their way through it. Most users interviewed are usually directed to a particular site on the OLPC wiki through an external link. When not sure how to find new information, more inexperienced users tend to just ask the more experienced users how to find the information.

III. Personas, Concept Models, and Goals


Jose is a young professional from Phoenix, Arizona working as a financial analyst for American Express. He heard about OLPC from a college friend who majored in software engineering, and thinks it's a great idea. Jose is bilingual and understands that the OLPC project needs help translating screens into Spanish, and is excited about helping out.


  • Collaborate: The OLPC process is open and is an inherently collaborative process. Our platform will facilitate his contributions to the XO's success.
  • Contribute: Jose wants to be able to contribute his skills to the project, as well as his completed translation sets.
  • Fix/Update: Jose knows that some of the content is incorrect or out of date, and wants to make sure that Spanish-language users aren't confused.
  • Learn: Jose needs to learn about the XO platform, Sugar, and probably about hardware and software development. Our platform needs to facilitate his learning process.


Jose wants to contribute to the Spanish-language translation of the Sugar interface. To accomplish that overarching goal, he wants to be able to:

  • find contact information for people associated with the project
  • learn what needs to be accomplished on the project
  • share information about how his translation is progressing
  • find resources that will help him complete his translation.

It's also important to Jose that he can have:

  • some ownership over his contributions to the project, and
  • a tangible feeling of helping others and giving to the global community.


Donald is a young professional software engineer who's passionate about open source software and Creative Commons licensing. After graduating from college in computer science, he became involved with a small software startup that eventually failed toward the end of the dot-com bust. Since then he's worked at several non-profits for a short period and joined OLPC as a content developer 2 years ago. He has strong background knowledge of online collaboration tools, particularly wikis, and uses them regularly to lead various projects at OLPC and add his own content contributions to the community.


  • Open-source
  • Creative Commons
  • Laptop jams
  • Networking
  • Hacking
  • wikis
  • IRC
  • Mobilizing
  • Vision
  • Contributor


Donald would like to see OLPC to grow into a much wider worldwide community with hundreds of thousands of regular contributors and he'd like to do whatever he can to achieve this goal. To do this, he must tap into the resources of the OLPC community and communicate effectively within the organization to mobilize volunteers and attract new contributors. He wants to help individuals share knowledge and media, be aware of what projects are going on at OLPC and move toward a more shared vision within the organization. Due in part to the failure at his previous startup, he's driven to help make OLPC a success.


Samantha is a 39-year-old working mother of two. She currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An MIT graduate, she has spent the past 15 years in the computer software industry. Though she still likes her job, lately she has found the daily grind at the office to be boring. She needs a creative outlet that could also allow her to help the wider community. When she first heard about the OLPC community a couple of years ago from an MIT friend, she thought it was a good idea but she had just started with a new job and did not have enough time to devote time to the project. Now that her children are a little more grown up, she feels like it's the perfect time to join the OLPC community. She would like her children to become familiar with using computers and she already bought an XO laptop from the 'buy one, give one' program. Joining OLPC would allow her to work on projects that could directly help her kids learn better. Also, this is her chance to get her hands 'dirty' again, as opposed to her day job where, as a senior software engineer, she manages projects and rarely gets to create applications. When she joined OLPC, she was told to use the wiki to find information and post new things on there. She has not used a wiki before but the syntax looks easy enough that she could learn how to use the system in a couple of days. However, as a software person, she has a couple of gripes about the wiki and the way it presents information. She already voiced her opinion to the community via the chat room on the IRC channel but so far nothing has materialized.


  • Creative
  • Vision
  • Contributor
  • IRC


Samantha wants a creative outlet for her coding energy. It's important that she has a tangible feeling of helping children through her work with OLPC. At the same time, she wants to enrich her children's experience with the XO PC. To accomplish that goal, she needs to be able to:

  • Get up-to-date with the community as quickly as possible so that she could work on her project more effectively, and
  • Share information about her progress.
  • IV. Translation of User Needs Into Interaction Needs

    Identifying Tasks

    General browsingXXX
    Correcting errors/vandalism via "Latest Updates" pageX
    Translating contentX
    Starting new program/project/activityXX
    Adding & reviewing contentX
    Connecting with children and schoolsXX
    Collaborating with school in ArgentinaX
    Finding collaborators in Arizona/remoteX
    Apply for getting an XOX
    Policy creation (internal to OLPC)X
    Laying out/creating visionX
    Technical support for othersXX
    Organizing PagesXX

    Representative Task Scenarios

    V. Explanation of Process

    In our initial sets of interviews, team members talked to OLPC wiki users, Olin wiki users, and people who had never used wikis before. Of our Olin wiki users, we found that most did not do a lot of wiki editing or page creation-they might add their name to a list in a page that already existed for organizing an event, but they had never created or formatted a page of their own. Non-wiki users proved to not be as useful at this part of the stage because they didn't have the online collaborative experience and insight to provide us. We believe, however, that these users will provide a gold-mine of sorts when it comes to prototypes and usability testing because our product will need to be usable by someone with no previous knowledge of wikis or similar systems as the OLPC wiki does aspire to involve this user group. With this in mind, during persona development, we found it important to have a persona with wiki experience, a persona with no wiki experience, but a technical background, and a persona with no wiki experience and a non-technical background. This will play a significant role in product development and finding an interface to satisfy all users to some extent, especially those with no knowledge of "coding" languages.

    During the task development stage, varying depths of interface were shown in accordance to personas knowledge and understanding level of wikis. Interactions with Donald, who has wiki experience, show us the minute details of what is involved in wiki pages-details he himself probably understands and has become accustomed to. Similarly, Samantha, who has a technological background, provides insight into trying to navigate within and gather information from wikis. Finally, Jose does not have a technical background or wiki experience, so a scenario at a wider view reminds us of things that Jose would like to do and aspires to do with wikis, but is unable to understand the respective interface processes in order to complete.

    VI. Comparative Analysis

    We completed a comparative analysis on MediaWiki, MoinMoin, and Google Docs. Features we will consider retaining are bolded.



    • Very powerful-can do lots of complex things
      • Templating
      • Categories
      • Multi-language support
    • Great for organizing-subsections
    • "Watch lists"
    • User profiles-good for collaborating
    • Permits multimedia to be part of a page


    • Bad/useless search function
    • Need to learn proprietary markup
    • No contextual help-doesn't provide guidance
    • Separate edit and view modes-high barrier to editing
    • Ugly



    • Somewhat simpler syntax
    • Clean visual feel
    • More simple interface


    • Bad/useless search function
    • Need to learn proprietary markup
    • No contextual help-doesn't provide guidance
    • Separate edit and view modes-high barrier to editing
    • Weaker multimedia
    • Weaker organizational features than MediaWiki-no subcategories or templating
    • Poor at merging changes

    Google Docs


    • Strong formatting
    • WYSIWYG editing that preserves document structure
    • Don't need to know code
    • Simultaneous editing
    • Easy to protect content of document


    • More difficult to share document
    • Poor linking
    • Difficult to find documents
    • Document focus-good for collaborating on document
    • Can't post on web
    • Very limited searching-must have access to document

    VII. Initial Design Ideas

    • Tracking Edits
      • Background color changes when a page is being edited
      • "Freshness indicator"-how recently a page has been edited
      • Many-at-once Diff viewer
    • Editing
      • No User formatting-enforced structure
      • Dreamweaver-esque interface
      • Undo command
      • Guidance tool-paperclip
      • WYSIWYG wiki page
      • Auto-formatting
      • Easy-to-see edit tool (very large "edit" button)
      • Page looks like a work in progress
      • Edit in place-in same view
      • Multiple page views-mind mapping, forums, etc.
    • Promoting Collaboration
      • Having wiki chat rooms
      • Tools to visualize user wiki community
      • Posting comments on pages
      • Shout boxes
      • Robust and Pervasive notification
    • Improving Search Function
      • Stats based search function (based on views, edits, number of links, etc.)
      • External referrers
    • Improving Navigation
      • Category based wiki structure (Northern Light)
      • Showing hierarchy in link
      • Showing depth of links (show "dead-end" icon)
      • User behavior based navigation
      • Show link novelty