Can a 7 year old install Fedora 18?
There have been a number of threads about how the new Anaconda UI is unintuitive or hard to use. So many that I thought maybe there was something to the claims. Maybe working on Fedora for the past many years and being involved constantly for the past year and a half has skewed my opinion so much that I wouldn't even recognize something being hard to use. So I decided to find a couple people that don't work on Fedora and have never done a Fedora install at all. That is to say, I used my family as guinea pigs.
Now, before you shout and rant about this, I am not claiming this is a scientific study. I'm not pretending this is somehow valid User Experience interaction data. This is is just me wanting to observe what happens when you sit someone down in front of a newUI screen and ask them to complete a default install. I found it interesting. If you don't, then that's cool with me. That's why I gave the short answer at the top. OK, onto my experiment.
Presented with a "machine" sitting at the home screen of the Anaconda newUI interface, the subjects were told to "install this machine with the operating system". I didn't explicitly tell them, but my intention was just to use as many defaults as possible. Basically, let the installer do work for you.
First up was my 7 year old son. He likes computers, but has never installed anything. Not applications, not backgrounds, and certainly has never installed an operating system. He noticed the computers he uses at home are different than the ones at school, and might be able to tell you what Linux is, but basically he uses a web browser to get to the Lego site and play the Lego Ninjago game or look up Pokemon cards. Clearly not a Fedora target user by any means.
The second user was my wife. She's very technically literate, a bit of a geek, but not involved in the computing industry at all. She has reinstalled Windows before, and uses Fedora at home but makes me fix anything that is broken (which is actually fairly rare). She has never installed Fedora. She is arguably a decent candidate for a target user.
My son read the initial language selection screen and said "I can only read the one it already picked" and clicked 'Continue' without hesitation. The Beta warning popped up, which he found very funny and clicked "I accept my fate".
Later he told me this was his favorite part.
My son stared at the screen for a while and then clicked the "Installation Source" spoke. When I asked why he went there, he said "I have to tell it what to install". I had configured the VM for a network install, so the URL box was already filed out. I explained it was set and he stared at the screen a while more. After a while longer, he asked me if the 'Done' button was for "I'm all done with the install or I'm done just on this page?" I just asked him to figure it out. Clicking 'Done' brought him back to the home screen.
He proceeded to click on the rest of the spokes in a very orderly fashion, clicking 'Done' when he was finished. For most spokes he would ask a few questions about things here and there and then just leave everything set as is. He found the keyboard spoke slightly confusing because "we already set the language at the beginning."
He clicked the "Installation Destination" spoke last because "it was last on the page." He asked me if this meant where it would be installed to, and having only one option he clicked the icon for the virtual drive (or rather, he clicked it twice because it was already selected). He then clicked 'Continue' without hesitation, and then after verifying with me on the dialog that popped up, 'Continue' again. This lead him back to the home screen where he finally saw that he could click 'Begin Installation' and did so.
While Anaconda was doing it's thing, he clicked the Root Password dialog, and entered the password I told him to. When he clicked 'Done', it didn't go back. He looked confused for a second, and then read the bottom of the screen. I asked him what we should do and he said "we should make a new password because this one is weak" (small proud Dad moment for not taking the easy way out). So we did that, he clicked 'Done'. I asked him if he had seen the yellow warning bar before and he said no. At that point, I told him he succeeded with the task. His response was a smile and "Cool." and then he left without caring if it actually finished. LEGOS WERE CALLING.
I intended for my wife to have an identical scenario setup, but I forgot to delete the VM storage file and it was reused. This turned out to be worthwhile though, because it let me get some feedback on a "new install over an existing OS" kind of scenario.
She sat down, clicked continue on the language selection screen, and paused briefly for the Beta nag warning. Once she was at the home screen, she looked around briefly. She seemed to head towards "Installation Source" but hesitated when she saw it was updating itself (again, a network install was configured). Once things stopped changing on the home screen, she clicked on "Installation Destination".
She saw the virtual drive was selected, clicked the "Encrypt my data." checkbox (I have no idea why but proud husband moment), and clicked 'Continue'. The dialog that popped up was telling her that there wasn't enough free space. She read it over and clicked 'Reclaim space'. The encryption password dialog popped up so she filled that out without a problem and clicked 'Save Passphrase'. This brought her to the Reclaim Space dialog.
Here she had a bit of trouble. As I said above, she has never installed Fedora before, so partition layouts and such aren't really familiar to her. She clicked next to existing 'fedora' LVM partition and nothing happened. Then she clicked on the ext4 /boot partition and nothing happened. After a bit more clicking, she noticed clicking and holding on the 'Preserve' under the action tab created a drop down menu. She selected 'Shrink' for both of the existing partitions and clicked 'Reclaim space'. From there, she finished out the installation without issue.
Feedback and Observations
My son had virtually no feedback. He thought the whole experience was fun and want to do it again sometime now that he knows more.
My observations of his install boiled down to about 3 three things:
1) The yellow warning bar was too small and not prominently placed. He didn't notice it at all until the installer wouldn't let him continue on the Root password screen. He clicked on 'Installation Destination', but not because it is the ONLY spoke you have to click on to do an install.
2) When a screen presented both a 'Done' and a 'Continue' button, he clicked 'Continue' 100% of the time. He also moved the mouse to the right bottom corner first, every time. His question about the 'Done' button on the first spoke he visited made me wonder if the word sounded too final for him. I'll never actually know, but he clearly preferred 'Continue'.
3) The lack of direction on the home screen led him to click all the spokes. Now, as I said earlier, he didn't notice the single spoke with a warning icon. He also clicked them in order, left to right, top to bottom. This really isn't a problem at all, but it is work done that isn't required. I also think his complete lack of context and inexperience with computers was a major factor with this one.
My wife had both good and bad feedback. The good:
1) The fonts and layout were nice. Things were readable.
2) The language and terms used in the dialogs were fairly "human friendly". They weren't techy sounding or technology specific terms.
1) The warning icons were too small. She noticed them, but didn't think they were prominent enough. She also thought the yellow warning bar at the bottom was just part of the window decoration for a while. This is understandable somewhat, because it is present on the home screen always until you do the 'Installation Destination' spoke. She suggested highlighting the spoke that needs attention as yellow instead.
2) The 'Reclaim Space' dialog was difficult for her. Not because of the terminology or concepts, but because discovery of the drop down action menu was rather difficult. She suggested putting a normal arrow drop down box kind of thing instead of just the words. Clicking and holding was easy enough to use after she discovered it, but the discovery was the hard part.
So there's my entirely unrepresentative, unscientific study of a defaults Fedora install with the Anaconda newUI on complete n00bs. It was pretty fun doing this. My personal, objective overview is: The newUI is not horribly broken. It isn't unintuitive, and it is serviceable and will continue to improve going forward. Why some people react so violently to it is beyond me. Maybe it's change. Maybe they're doing really complex things. I dunno. But I'm not going to spend more time worrying about it either.
Though.... I wonder if my other son who is 5 years old could install Fedora with it... maybe I'll have to find out.