Wed, 2018-03-07 16:59

OTF’s Usability Lab offers open source circumvention and digital security tools a means to make their technologies easier to use. Now, we’re expanding the Lab’s offered services to include new services that will help make it easier for users to safeguard their communications and more securely connect to the internet.

What new services is the Usability Lab offering? In addition to Secure Usability Audits, which will analyze and identify any pitfalls that might make it difficult for users under threat to use your tool, the Lab will be offering these additional services:

  • 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.

In addition to those services, Simply Secure will be holding regular Community learning seminars addressing usability, UX design, and user research topics drawn from the demonstrated needs of the community and specific to activists, journalists, and/or citizens in repressive environments that are under surveillance or censorship.

Who will provide these services? As a result of a public RFP process, OTF is happy to announce it will work with the following four Usability Lab service partners.

  • 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.

Do I need to have a specific number of users to apply? What is the ideal tool you are looking for?

Tools that would be considered are those that aim to safeguard the communications of its users, by enabling access to an open internet through circumvention technologies, maintaining privacy by adding encryption to email, chat or other communication channels, or otherwise making digital security best practices more available to users who need them most. Ideally, tools user have an active user base that includes activists, journalists, and/or citizens in repressive environments that are under surveillance or censorship.

Is there a deadline? No, you can apply at any time.

What is needed? How much time do I need to invest in this? Applicants must assign a point person that can serve as liaison between their tool and the Usability Lab service providers. Upon submission of your application, we will work with you to determine the number of hours needed to provide the assistance, and can provide clear guidelines to ensure it is done in the most efficient way possible.

I’m a usability expert. Can I help? Yes, if you are an organization and/or an individual that’s interested in providing services for the OTF Usability Lab, we encourage you to reach to the Usability Lab program manager Tara Tarakiyee at [email protected].

Why did OTF expand the services offered by Usability Lab? While there exists many FLOSS circumvention and digital security tools that help people around the world to communicate privately and securely, 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.

To address these challenges, OTF created Usability Lab in 2015, and partnered with Simply Secure to provide usability audits to those tools. This year, building on the program’s success, and in response to feedback gathered through a community survey and various other forms of consultation we’ve decided to expand the services offered by Usability Lab in order to better support emerging usability needs, address gaps in expertise, as well as improve knowledge sharing around specific usability challenges facing internet freedom tools.

To apply, please visit our Usability Lab page!

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to reach out to Tara Tarakiyee at [email protected].