FOSS Backstage 2021

FOSS Backstage approached the Open Source Design community in late 2020 to help out with the design track curation of thier event. They saw design as an increasingly important aspect of open source and wanted to first promote and gather more design talks and sessions as well as ensure the design sessions that were selected were well thought out and had feedback from designers within the open source world as feedback.

As Open Source Design, we helped go through the talk submissions for the design track of FOSS backstage. We looked at talk pitches anononymusly to reduce bias and advised the conference organisers whether talks looked ready to the conference or if they needed further context or information based off of the attending open source design community members experience.

Then then planned and agreed to run a ‘UX clinic’ for the attendees of FOSS Backstage 2021. Open Source Design had previously run a UX clinc at FOSS Backstage in 2020 (just before travel was restricted for Covid-19) and at other events including FOSDEM and Mozfest.

The format of a UX clinic is flexible depending on who attends and asks for clinic help and who is there to help but the basic set up is:

Agree with the conference or event about how long a UX clinic can be run. UX Clinics don’t have to be restricted to any time frame and is largely dictated by what the conference can support and what the design volunteer ciic helpers can offer time wise. For FOSS Backstage 2021 we agreed to have a 2- 3 hour long UX Clinic session that was open alongside other conference talks and had a casual, drop in atmosphere.

Ahead of the event, we reached out to our community of open source designers and ask for volunteer clinic helpers. These are the people that will be offering advice and suport to clinic vistors. These volunteers let us know their availability across the time the conference were hosting us and added their ‘availability’ to a collaborative shared spreadsheet so the person managing the UX Clinic could see who was going to arrive at what point and what kinds of skills and advice they are happy to offer.

We had a dedicated open ‘room’ on the online event platform that FOSS Backstage 2021 had with the ability for private ‘breakout rooms’ if needed. It’s important to establish a space (in-person or online) where people who want to visit the UX clinic can approach the clinic helpers. People approached the ‘reception’ virtual room or table where they could ask questions about what kind of help is on offer and who is helping out. The private online rooms or in-person’ side areas’ away from the main ‘reception’ or ‘sign up space’ help to value confidentiality and privacy of the people that are requesting help from the UX clinic.

And once open, with your design clinic helpers the UX clinic is opena nd ready to help folks! We usually stick to a 10 minute clinic help consultation with the option to extend if we have anough clinic helpers and time as well as not limiting the UX clinic to topics around UX! (User Experience).

Over the years we’ve helped with UX, but also with how to talk to other OSS contributors and maintainers about designers beginning to contribute, about usability, user testing, workshop planning, including your users in the designing of your OSS software and all things visual design like icons, logos, identity and brand and much more!

At FOSS backstage we had a number of small conversations about desinging in the FLOSS space and how designers navigate the complexities of FLOSS and design and then we focussed in as a group to help an attendee who was working on an OSS tool for developers that allowed them to manage the visual code editor space in a number of interesting and flexible ways. We talked about how this kind of interface (not unlike the terminal or other code editors) could be made more accessible using usability and accessibility standards that many designers use in their day to day work or contributions. These included pieces of advice like not relying on a particular colour for a ‘user actioned’ interface change due to different kinds of colour blindness where some people cannot see certain colours distinct from others. We talked about the important of multiple visual indicators that an interface has changed, for example, using symbols or words as well as colours. We then spoke about how to perform usertesting and usability tests and our experiences and best practice as designers doing many different kinds of user tests across lots of different tools and software. This advice included tips like, asking non-leading questions and questions that elicit more than a ye or no response, for example: “Can you tell me about the most recent time that [software or tool] did something you thought was great and really helped you? What happened just before and just after?” We wrapped up our conversation with dicussion on how documentation can be improved by designers being invovled, especially designer with experience and interest in ‘Content Design’ ‘User Experience’ (UX) ‘Information Architechure or Design’(IA) and ‘Educational or Learning Design’. we spoke about how not just this tool had developers asking the same questions about how to use a tool over and over, where they could find the answer in the documentation and how frustrating it is an OSS maintainer to repeat where new controbutors can find answers. We spoke about how this isn’t the fault of the contributors or of the OSS maintainer, but likely about how humans generally navigate complex information (documentation) and how that can be better designed and user tested to be improved over time.

The Open Source Design community enjoyed talking with the folks at FOSS Backstage and hosting UX clinics so if you’dlike support with your OSS conference for a design track or us hosting a UX clinic reach out on: