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Usability Lab

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Usability Lab

The Usability Lab aims to increase user safety and promote practical internet freedom by working with developers and technologists to improve the usability of open ­source circumvention and digital security tools.

There are many open ­source software projects that aim to help people around the world – activists, journalists, and everyday citizens – communicate in privacy and security. Unfortunately, few of these software­ development teams have the capacity or expertise in-house to make tools that are truly usable. These usability challenges hamper tool adoption, or may cause misunderstandings for users about tool functionalities, and subsequently may give users a false sense of security.

OTF’s Usability Lab, though its service providers, will provide the following services as an in-kind resource to OTF-funded projects and other internet freedom technologies:

  • Secure Usability Audits, which will analyze and identify any pitfalls that might make it difficult for users under threat to use your tool.
  • Secure Usability and User Experience (UX) Consultations, to connect tools with Usability and UX experts to help address a specific gap in expertise, or to work on solving the hard and specific challenges facing digital security tools.
  • Secure Usability Testing, which is similar to a Usability Audit, but limited in scope to a particular area or aspect of the tool.
  • User Research and User Studies, to help tools better understand the needs of their users, and how to articulate those needs in the design of their tools.
  • Assistance in secure UX Design, to help projects to design their tool in a manner that puts their user’s needs, usability, and security first.
  • Assistance developing secure usable Style Guides, which outline user interface and graphical elements, rules and guidelines to ensure a cohesive and consistent user experience across different aspects of a tool.

OTF is proud to work with the following four Usability Lab service partners to provide the above services:

  • Guardian Project/Okthanks: Guardian Project, in partnership with Okthanks LLC, will provide secure usability services. Guardian Project specializes in the development of privacy-protecting and security-enhancing mobile applications and tools, with deep experience on both Android and iOS operating systems. Okthanks is a​ detail-oriented team passionate about making tools​ simple to use and understand. Through prototypes and testing, Okthanks cr​afts​ clear, effective user experiences and brand messages.
  • Simply Secure: Simply Secure is a nonprofit dedicated to helping teams make technology that meets the needs of users, especially technology that deals with issues of security, privacy, and transparency. They were founded in 2014 to support the Internet Freedom and open-source communities make their tools more usable. They offer UX coaching, user-study design, and other services in addition to a growing set of resources in their online Knowledge Base.
  • Torchbox is an award-winning independent digital agency established in 2000, based in the UK. They specialise in digital strategy, user experience design, website development, software engineering and digital marketing for people who are trying to make the world a better place. They design and build beautiful responsive websites and applications for some of the world’s great universities, think tanks, charities, NGOs, and membership organisations.
  • Ura is a digital agency which focuses on visual communication solutions tailored for Open Source and Internet Freedom projects. They are dedicated to improve Usability and Experiences by keeping a project’s unique community consensus model in mind. Ura was founded in 2016 in Albania to cater to the ever-rising demand for Usability and Design services in Open Source Software. Among others, they offer UX Design, Design Systems Research and Visual Identity to support a project’s needs. Also developed at Ura is Identihub, Open Source Software to self-host visual assets and identities to ease collaboration between designers and developers.