Shotwell usability testing

As part of the UX advocates project, I’m working together with Charline Poirier of Canonical to conduct some usability testing on Shotwell (which is scheduled to be the default photo manager in Ubuntu).

To get an idea of how we should construct the tests, I did a preliminary one: I just grabbed a friend, gave her a few tasks and watched her using the program. I’ll explain the procedure more in the next post, first up are the results:


  1. Get photos from camera
  2. Select the best, delete the rest
  3. Edit when needed
  4. Categorize
  5. Upload to Flickr

German user, advanced digital and analog photographer, Ubuntu user since 6 months. First time using Shotwell, normally uses file manager and Image Viewer, sometimes Picasa (for editing) or Photoshop when on Windows. Names folders after events (e. g. »Hamburg«) and pictures »DDMMYY (##).jpg«.


For the problems that already had a bug filed in the ticket system, I attached the corresponding one.

Get photos from camera

  • Drag & drop from device to »Photos« does not work (proceeds by clicking »Import all«): »That was shitty, I always use dragging.«
  • No automatic renaming for photo title / file name [Ticket]
  • After importing, unclear what »Behalten« means (keep photos on device)

Select the best, delete the rest

  • No delete button in the toolbar
  • Remove dialog does not have an option for »don’t ask again« (like Image Viewer)
  • Library is confusing: »If I say delete, I want to have it deleted.« (from the hard drive) »Otherwise you always have duplicate photos.«
  • Initially thought that zoom slider is a horizontal scrollbar [Ticket]
  • Hide function frightens (»Aah«),no way to view hidden photos, continues by undoing it: »I wouldn’t know any other way to recover it.«

Edit when needed

  • Edits not directly visible while sliding, only when slider stops [Ticket]
  • Plays around with sliders to see what happens [Ticket]
  • Sliders sometimes jump too far when not »correctly« clicked
  • Not obvious that the histogram can be adjusted (did not use histogram editing that often)
  • Discovers after a while that histogram changes when moving sliders, didn’t notice it before
  • Accidentally discovers that menu can be moved: »The mouse cursor did not look like it.«
  • Likes to get menu out of the picture
  • Position of »Adjust« menu is reset
  • Not obvious that »Enhance« is automatic (especially because »Adjust« is a menu), expected a similar menu [Ticket]
  • »Enhance« is too extreme: »This overdoes it a bit.« [Ticket]
  • No »Undo« in toolbar, starts to use keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Z (on German keyboards, Z is where Y normally is)
  • No function to sharpen image [Ticket]
  • »Crop« handle seems hard to use (looks like the window manager handle which is sometimes only usable in a very small area), expected a double-sided arrow
  • Drop down menu opens with all the entries below, needs to be scrolled down to see them
  • »Do I need to save after editing?« »I always think I need to save. I don’t, right?«


  • How to rename pictures? Did not discover / expect »Titles« in view menu [Ticket]
  • Photos can not be reordered by drag & drop
  • Expected »Sort Photos« in »Photos« rather than »View«
  • Created an event from photos and wondered why they were sorted the other way round, (previously edited sorting order while trying to reorder)
  • About the tag function: »I never use that. Everybody always says I should but then I would have to do that for all my photos.« [Ticket]

Upload to Flickr

  • »Publish« does not work if no photo is selected, not obvious
  • Has problems selecting specific photos (uses Shift instead of Ctrl)
  • Need to choose if one comes from the program or from a sent link: »Why doesn’t it know that I used the program?«
  • Flickr site in English, likely because my account is configured to English (used mine because user forgot the password)
  • Label of »Publish« button is truncated for German translation »Veröffentlichen«Wants to go to the library because the upload takes long, does not work [Ticket]
  • Visits Flickr site to check uploaded photos [Ticket]
  • Normally does not give photos on Flickr titles (removes them after uploading)


  • Found welcome popup not overly helpful: »Better than nothing but it is obvious that you need to get photos from somewhere.«
  • Sees right-click context menu as unordered: »Lots of weirdly chosen items from the menus.«
  • Double-click good (»Like on YouTube«) but inconsistent: Switch between grid and single, but not exiting slideshow
  • Button for »Leave fullscreen« not obvious: »Maybe an ›X‹?«, expected the button to just make the slideshow smaller
  • Slideshow has settings only for one setting
  • Delay slider behaves weirdly [Ticket]
  • »Fotos« whereas in home it’s »Bilder« / »Photos« whereas in home it’s »Pictures«
  • Accidentally clicks help, browser opens: »Oh no!« »I don’t like that at all.« [see below]
  • Help contents open a browser, English only: »The address already looks fishy.« »That’s exactly what I imagined! Everything in another language, unordered and everything is called differently.« »I expected something like the help window in Word, that would have been ok.« »While searching in the help I could instead search for the function myself.« [Ticket]
  • »Zum Schlüsselfoto für dieses Ereignis machen« / »Make Key Photo for Event« not obvious, does not know what it does
  • After discovering it: »Maybe ›Album thumbnail‹ would be better.«
  • Can not figure out how to adjust date and time, tries to click on the left pane, right-click on the event dates
  • Sees »Exposure time will be shifted …« as nice to know, but not necessary
  • Did not discover star after marking a photo as favorite
    Likes »Adjust Date and Time« function as good for scanned photos
  • Likes that empty events are deleted automatically

6 responses to “Shotwell usability testing

  1. It’s so awesome to have usability testing happen in open source – we need more of it. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. Thanks Allan, for helping me get into GNOME and into blogging. 🙂

  3. avatar4antistress

    Would it be possible to have an update on this ? Which issues have been corrected ?
    BTW, this issue seems a big one to me : asking the user to unmount the camera before proceeding is really not a good way to welcome him. It’s frightening for non-technical people !

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