jwboyer (jwboyer) wrote,

Can a 7 year old install Fedora 18?

Short version: yes.

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.

The Task
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.

The Users
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.

The Installs
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.

The bad:

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.
Tags: fedora

  • Flock Krakow 2016

    The annual Fedora contributor's conference, Flock to Fedora, wrapped up last week. From everything I've seen and heard, it was a smashing success.…

  • Time for an Alternative

    I've been doing kernel development or maintenance for a large portion of my professional career. It started at my previous employer and continued for…

  • When is a kernel bug not a kernel bug?

    Think of this scenario: You're sitting at your shiny Fedora install and notice a kernel update is available. You get all excited, update it through…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
Hah, thanks for the writeup. I always love reading about unexperienced people using and installing Fedora and am glad to hear that the NewUI isn't as hard to use as some people claim.

I think I'll run this same test with my family as well (Who each has varied backgrounds) and will report back in a post to the planet. :-)


December 5 2012, 20:29:46 UTC 8 years ago

Interesting text and I'm almost agree with the points. I've waited long (for many releases) for the new UI and I like it.But I agree that the partitioning spoke is a little "weird". Also, I don't like the colors used in this spoke (e.g. the magenta).
Wow this is awesome! Thank you Josh!!! From a number of reports now I've been suspecting that maybe the very top of the screen is a better place to put the warning bar... I think especially for VMs where sometimes you've got a vertical scroll on the VM viewer.

The non-discoverable reclaim dropdown is an issue we know about too - basically the GTK+ cell renderer for comboboxes will not allow us to make the combobox look like one. :( We will either have to write a custom widget to fix that, or re-design the screen to use a different widget. It is something that was on our radar, but it's good to know we definitely need to fix that.

I didn't realize the warning icons weren't noticeable enough - we can definitely play around with a few different designs on that and see what is most effective.

The done vs. continue has also caused heartburn for a lot of users, we've noticed. We changed the text for the done button to 'done' from 'back'. I think Chris is working on setting a different color background for the bar at the top - I'm not sure if that will help, but the idea is that we put done in the upper left because it makes you go up the hierarchy to the main menu, whereas continue is in the bottom right because it makes you go forward, to the next screen in a linear progression or to the next menu (which right now only has root password on it.) I think it's not really clear right now, but we're hoping making the top look more like a horizontal toolbar will make that 'done' button seem more like a 'go back to the main menu, i'm finished here' rather than a 'i'm commiting to everything here, let's install!' type of button.

I really love how you've added to the conversation with *actual data*! :) Let's hope others take suit!


December 6 2012, 02:54:09 UTC 8 years ago

Maybe make it an icon instead of text?

For example a little grid icon, like in GNOME Control Center might communicate better that the user is taken back to the hub?



December 5 2012, 23:21:57 UTC 8 years ago

I'd suggest chainging "Done" to "< Back to hub" or something similar, so it'd be more clear.
That's what the text originally said. :) We changed it to 'done' in response to feedback that folks weren't sure if their changes would be saved or not.


December 6 2012, 18:38:20 UTC 8 years ago

Why not just 'save'?
Also the the background of the item which needs user attention could be in a different color (say yellow) in addition to the yellow warning button.
May be the keyboards etc. could have an 'optional' label (may be in brackets)
Brilliant read!

There is one thing that concerns me though: "He also moved the mouse to the right bottom corner first, every time." This is what I heard from everybody so far. On the anaconda test day, some people did not even find the 'Done' button in the top left corner. Therefor I filed https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=863841 - but it was closed NOTABUG. How can something not be a bug if it's what 99% of the users expect?


December 6 2012, 16:23:52 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  December 6 2012, 16:31:08 UTC

We have a pending visual design fix for that, and I think it'll make the done position more discoverable.

And... FWIW, I do think it is a very real problem that users aren't finding it, and I do recognize that they are having trouble doing so. I do not think, though, moving the button to the bottom right is the solution. The problem is that we have two axes in this UI:

- Top-to-bottom (and back) - moving from a menu screen, down to a spoke screen, back up to the menu screen
- Left-to-right (and continuing forward right) - moving from one spoke screen to another if there's a linear progression (as in storage), or moving from one finished menu screen to the next menu screen ('continue with install' on the first menu screen)

Controlling these motions in the same way will confuse folks in the same way that both the "< back" text confused folks and they asked for it to be labeled "done" and they are still confused and suggesting it be changed again to "< back." They are two different motions. Usually, if you're moving up through a hierarchy, you're going to the upper left, as in say a tree view widget - you move up to hit the parent, and the parent is not indented to they are to the left. (If that makes sense.)

The visual design fix we have pending, that I hope will lessen the confusion, is something like this:


I think maybe delineating the general information the install that sits on top from the specific-to-this-screen stuff on the bottom will help make it obvious that the done button brings you back to the menu and that's how you finish the screen. If this visual change isn't enough, maybe some short text in the lower right that says something to the effect of "Return to the main menu when you've finished your changes" might help more. I also like bochecha's idea of using the grid icon the GNOME control center uses to mark the button where you return to the main menu - we could place that icon next to the button text maybe.

Anyway, I don't want it to seem as if anybody's plugging their ears here and pretending this isn't an issue. It is. I just think moving the button will not solve the problem is all.
To be fair to the complainers, most of the criticism of newUI has been limited to the custom partitioning spoke, which you didn't send either of your guineau pigs through. Most feedback on the rest of the UI has been pretty positive.
I didn't send them through it for two reasons. The first is that clearly it would be pointless to send a 7 year old through something like that and have any chance of it being completed without me basically doing it for them. The second reason is that I don't believe a typical user will be doing custom partitioning. That isn't to say it isn't important, but I don't think that is a majority case. (For a small data set, ABRT reports the kernel command line which has the root/swap partitions included. The vast majority of the reports I've seen are the typical Fedora default.)

Now, the most complained about spoke might indeed be the custom partitioning spoke. I have no idea. I do know that it isn't the only complained about portion and there are a large number of just complaints in general. So the object wasn't "let's show the haters they're dumb." It was, as I said at the beginning of the post, "is this UI something that is generally usable or is it completely unintuitive."

I don't think all the complaints are worthless. I just wish they'd come with suggestions for improvement.


December 8 2012, 00:06:50 UTC 8 years ago

You really want to hear people tell you that the previous anacondas did custom install UEFI/LVM triple boot beautifully, effortlessly and flawlessly and even let you know what was going to happen before it happened? No, I didn't think so.


8 years ago


December 6 2012, 08:53:43 UTC 8 years ago

Next real challenge would be to test with 70 years old people.
If you are doing a *default* install, it would be equally easy easy with the old UI, just press "next" until you end-up with a (somewhat) working system. Second, without any help, your son would have completed the install? From what I read, not, in at least a couple of places he needed input from you.

I agree about the Beta waring being one of the installers' highlights and the "Done" button one of the biggest flaws.

From your experiment, can you tell, if for your test subjects, the new Anaconda UI was a better experience compared with the old one?
Yes! I had this same thought about the old installer. Clicking next would result in a working system. Honestly, I don't think that is a bad thing. I shows ease of use and accomplishes the goal of getting Fedora on the machine, which is what I was looking for with newUI as well. Neither test subject has installed F17, but I might try it later and get some comparison opinions. Frankly, I would expect my wife to say the older installer was a more familiar style.

As for my son completing it without any help, it was fairly close to that. His questions were:

1) "We don't live in New York", so I explained timezones again to him. I could have just let him find the nearest town to us and he would have been fine.

2) He didn't know what a 'Proxy' was in the Network Tab, so I explained that.

3) He wasn't sure the Installation Source was selected because I did a network install, but the URL was already in the box so he just asked me if it was correct or not. If we had done a DVD install, there would have probably been less confusion.

He lives with me, so perhaps he's absorbed random computer knowledge though listening to me talk about them and osmosis. I'm certainly willing to conceded that he isn't a typical random 7 year old in that regard. I mean, I did say this was entirely unscientific.

It's worth noting that he wouldn't have had any of those questions if he noticed the only spoke he had to do was the Installation Destination one.

  • Flock Krakow 2016

    The annual Fedora contributor's conference, Flock to Fedora, wrapped up last week. From everything I've seen and heard, it was a smashing success.…

  • Time for an Alternative

    I've been doing kernel development or maintenance for a large portion of my professional career. It started at my previous employer and continued for…

  • When is a kernel bug not a kernel bug?

    Think of this scenario: You're sitting at your shiny Fedora install and notice a kernel update is available. You get all excited, update it through…