Request for Proposals: Usability

Mon, 2017-10-09 19:28

Despite the proliferation of digital security tools that aim to help journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens in at-risk communities, the adoption and secure use of these tools is often adversely affected by usability issues. Seeking to address this issue, OTF first created the Usability Lab in 2016, partnering with Simply Secure to provide usability audits to help analyze and identify any pitfalls that might make it difficult for an average user to successfully use the audited internet freedom tool.

In the continued pursuit of this persistent issue, OTF is now looking to bolster the Usability Lab’s offerings. We’ve consulted with our partners, tools, and community members on how to best improve the Lab and its services, and with that experience and feedback in mind, OTF is seeking multiple individuals or organizations to both support services currently offered by the Usability Lab while also bringing the capacity to offer new, additional services.

The Challenge

While the state and practice of secure usability in digital security tools has noticeably improved in the past few years, gaps in knowledge and capacity still persist. We recently fielded a community survey on the topic, and the feedback gathered therein further affirmed this to be the case. While discourse on the topic has moved beyond asking why secure usability is important in the first place, the questions of how it is best applied as a practice and how to empower tools to adopt it still remain. Projects have certainly made strides in addressing the unique challenges involved with providing users with security, privacy and anonymity while also collecting necessary feedback about the usability of their tools, yet there still remains much work to be done.


To address the challenges outlined above, we hope the Usability Lab can help increase the pool of resources available for projects and community partners to work together towards the following objectives:-

  • Objective 1: Provide secure usability services to internet freedom tools where there is a gap in knowledge or capacity.
  • Objective 2: Assist internet freedom tools in establishing and improving their internal secure usability processes.
  • Objective 3: Develop, distribute, and maintain knowledge around secure usability techniques, methodologies and best practices that address the unique challenges experienced by internet freedom tools that are deployed in countries with highly repressive governments.

Services Requested

The following are a list of services we believe we need to accomplish the stated objectives but encourage additional ideas outside these examples:-

  • Assist internet freedom tools to identify specific communities of users that their tools should be adapted to suit their needs, including but not limited to:
    • Mapping of relevant actors through local partners to help relevant user communities.
    • Walking technology staff through a methodology to help them understand the questions to ask of their users.
    • Analysis/synthesis of responses for use by technology developers.
    • Follow-up with developers and users as needed.
  • Documentation of the internet freedom threats facing relevant user communities, for uptake by technologists and developers.
  • Conduct user testing and heuristics to discover opportunities and challenges when tools are used by particular communities.
  • Consultation with technology project developers and other key staff when appropriate to identify and implement tool interface changes to make them more user-friendly.
  • Perform secure usability audits on tools to help identify improvement opportunities and critical issues.
  • Follow-up on specific UX/UI improvements on an as-needed basis.

Feel free to submit other specific types of work that may fit within one of the above service areas.

Applicant Profile

Organizations or individuals applying to this RFP must be able to demonstrate:-

  • A track record of performing secure usability work particularly under the areas of services highlighted above;
  • An understanding of and a track record of collaboration with communities in countries with highly repressive governments exposed to significant levels of censorship and surveillance and in contexts where rule of law is not the norm;
  • An understanding of the FLOSS and internet freedom community demographic, their culture, and preferences and/or previous working experience in the community strongly preferred;
  • Approaches to these services that emphasize collaboration with and transfer of knowledge and capacity to beneficiaries of Usability Lab will be strongly prefered.

The deadline to submit a proposal is 2017-10-31.

To read the full RFP and apply, head here. If you have any questions about this RFP, talk to us here.