When we started Open Usability in 2005, experienced usability/UX/​interaction experts were scarce.
Today, this is no longer the case.

Back in 2005, software projects that took usability & UX serious were extremely scarce (regardless of whether they were FOSS or closed/​proprietary).
Today, this is also no longer the case.

And yet, we are disappointed with the percentage of software that ships today with great usability & UX. Either experts and projects are not collaborating enough, or their collaboration is ineffective.

We want to change this depressing situation and want you to join us, by taking these actions—

  1. Embrace
    Software projects of all countries, reach out and embrace usability/UX/​interaction experts. True, these experts see, think, talk and act really differently than you, but that is the point: they bring what’s dearly missing from your project. Don’t treat them as interlopers.
  2. Define + Collaborate
    Projects and experts, start a collaboration only with a clear definition of how significant, direct and immediate its impact will be on the next software release.
  3. Change
    Projects, to make the collaboration effective, your processes will have to change. Experts, guide this transition, using all your experience.
  4. Focus
    The success of your collaboration is measured in results; all energy must be focussed on shipping software with great usability & UX.
  5. Trust
    Projects must be able to fully trust their experts in matters usability & UX; experts must be able to trust they are an effective link in the software‐making chain.
    Trust is earned through action taken.
  6. Make it last
    It takes a long and deep collaboration to deliver the wide‐ranging and deep goal that is great usability & UX. Projects and experts, build a relationship that lasts for years.

Software projects, if you treat your usability/UX/​interaction experts as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource. We salute you, Eric S. Raymond.

An open invitation

Beyond this, we are convinced that in the long run, Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) can achieve better usability & UX than software made in a closed/​proprietary fashion.

We call on all usability/UX/​interaction experts to join us and further explore the open traits of FOSS; to conceive new methods around them, to teach research & design using FOSS project contexts and to make optimal use of—

All together now

Projects and experts, if you are looking to have a positive impact on today’s software world, then check out our blueprint to get started, today.


for FOSS projects our blueprint for collaboration with usability/UX/​interaction experts

  1. Take a project‐wide decision that you want to seriously work on your usability & UX, and are willing to open up to realise this goal.
  2. Make this decision public; announce it—on your homepage, blog or social network page. This announcement is basically a collaboration ad. In it, describe:
    • your project, briefly (with further‐reading links);
    • why it is cool to work on it (leave out all the technical bits);
    • what you are looking for—research of your users and usability, or interaction solutions designed for your situation;
    • most importantly: your solid commitment of how much you will change in your project—and in code—for better usability & UX;
    • ah, and mention how experts can reach you.
  3. Spread the word/​permalink of your announcement; use your online/​social networks—all of them. You are counting on the network effect (friends of friends of…) to reach out beyond your usual community and find the people who can really help you.
  4. Tweet the permalink, with a few words, using #OUconnect. We recommend that you repeat this every day (but not more often) until you have found your expert. If after a while you still have no success, put more effort into points 2 and 3 above.
  5. Select your expert. Look for years of working experience, a structured, methodical approach and an open mind. No expert will tell you immediately what you should change or add to your software. Instead (s)he will ask you some questions and then be completely authoritative regarding the process for determining what to change or add.
    Remember: an expert with no (current) knowledge of your software will soon be a thousand times more effective than one of your long‐term users with no usability/UX/​interaction experience.
  6. Start collaborating. Your expert will structure the research/​design work, selecting tools and methods, as well as guide your process change.
  7. The secret of success: follow up wholeheartedly on the contributions of your expert. Just do it; convert them to code and ship them.
  8. Iterate. Your expert will also filter community feedback, explain what it actually means and point out where the next step is.
  9. Whenever you ship software with better usability & UX, publish a success story. Tweet its permalink, with a few words, using #OUconnect.

for students of usability/UX/​interaction, and young professionals—our blueprint for gaining experience through FOSS projects

  1. Decide what kind of projects you would really love to work on, and would love to be able to show the world.
  2. Keep an eye out on online/​social networks for internships, mentored by usability/UX/​interaction experts, at FOSS projects. More succinctly, check for #OUconnect daily on twitter.
  3. Choose to apply to these internships based on how much the project appeals to you and how much you can learn.
  4. Publish about your project work during your internship and, most importantly, when you finish it. Tweet the permalink, with a few words, using #OUconnect.
  5. Enjoy the freedom to openly discuss your internship work with as many people as possible.

for experts in usability/UX/​interaction—our blueprint for collaboration with FOSS projects

  1. Decide what kind of projects you would really love to work on, and would love to be able to show the world.
  2. Keep an eye out on online/​social networks for projects looking to collaborate. More succinctly, check for #OUconnect daily on twitter.
  3. Choose to contact one of these projects based on how much they appeal to you and how well you can help them.
  4. Check with the project for both openness and free‑riding. Do not bother checking the wild world of software licences. Openness is all about your work. Is it fully natural that you share your methods, plans, analysis, results, designs, discussions, critique and discontent with the whole world, whenever you want to? If not, then it is not open and we suggest you proceed with this project but treat, and charge, them like a normal customer. FOSS licences are strict on preventing free‑riding, and so should you. There are basically three types of FOSS projects:
    1. Real pro bono. Nobody in the project (and we mean really nobody) gets any funding for working on it. We suggest you work pro bono for them too. You will enjoy the open working and the occasional trip to meet up with your collaborators.
    2. Money flows. This can be direct, with contributors being funded, or indirect: the project is associated with a commercial entity, that generates money with a ‘pro’ version of the software; with consulting; or with customisation. We ask you not to work pro bono for these projects. Instead, we suggest you cut your rates by a substantial percentage (in exchange for the openness) and work on that basis.
    3. Enterprise. There are quite a few ‘FOSS’ projects that are de facto controlled by an enterprise (e.g. intel, samsung, google) or by large, commercial linux distributions (e.g. red hat, canonical, suse). We ask you not to work pro bono for these projects. Instead, we suggest you treat them like a normal enterprise customer and charge your full rates.
  5. With the leadership of the project, discuss and tighten up their goals (both for your collaboration and the project in general) to the point where they are having an epiphany. Then start collaborating.
  6. Take firm control of the means of delivery/​communication of your contributions and of how the developers follow up on it. Never work via their bug tracker, or let your contributions get mangled by group discussions. Do analyse the power structure of FOSS projects (contribution = authority) and their open communication culture. Adapt your methods to these.
  7. The secret of success: constantly keep the leadership of the project focussed on those goals you defined with them. Ensure that they understand the only way to get there, is via the road you are showing them.
  8. Iterate. Enjoy the early, and much more direct, contact with users—and filter, translate and manage it for the project.
  9. Whenever you finish a contribution, publish a success story. Tweet its permalink, with a few words, using #OUconnect.
  10. Need more manpower? May we suggest that you set up and mentor an internship programme? Get help and give students and young professionals the chance to gain some valuable working experience, which they are able to show the world. To spread the word about your internships you can tweet about it, using #OUconnect. We recommend that you repeat this every day (but not more often) until you have found enough candidates.
  11. Keep working together, for as long as it is fun and the project keeps shipping significant usability & UX improvements—as defined and measured, of course, by you.

Ask Open Usability

If you like to contribute, have a question regarding our blueprint, or simply like to know more about Open Usability, then do not hesitate to mail us.