Keeping User Happy on the Desktop vs. On the Web

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Conference IIW8 Room/Time: 3/G

Convener: Andrew Nesbitt, Ariel Gordon (MS)

Notes-taker: Brian Eaton

Attendees:

Technology Discussed/Considered: Installed applications and online applications. We stayed away from specific technologies.

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

What problem are we trying to solve?

How do you link your computing device identity to your online identity?

Computing device: sometimes shared, sometimes not. (Smart phones are generally only used by a single person, computers more likely to be shared.) If a device isn't shared, user switching is not as big a problem. All full-fledged PCs have “fast user switching” so you can have one real person per OS session.

  • Expectation: if my spouse uses my PC, s/he switches session.
  • Reality: OS session doesn't change, but browser session does. Spouse logs me out of my browser, but doesn't do the fast user switch.

This can mess up installed applications that get confused between the browser session and the OS session. Good installed app behavior: know about both browser-based identities, ask the user which they want to use.

Challenge: what if you don't want to create a new user account? For example, my friend is here for 5 minutes and wants to check his e-mail. Proposed solution: click a button that says “Guest” account.

Experience from google: approximately 0% of enterprise users actually use “fast user switching”. consumer number is about 1%. google has needed to make it easy for users to switch identities in the browser, without relying on OS support. This is a ton of work for web apps to support (a single authentication cookie might authenticate multiple users, it's a pain to code in that environment.) users want to be able to cut and paste between accounts. frequent complaint: can't use gmail account and adwords account at the same time. Users end up learning how to open two separate browsers at once.

Experience from AOL: it's not that OS user switching is bad, it's that users can't find it. AOL client does a good job of showing the user which identity they are using at any given time.

Question: are users confused by having two identities in the same browser? Answer: so far it hasn't resulted in huge confusion

User experience: shared computer, iTunes account is always showing preferences for wrong user (showing kids music preferences to someone who doesn't buy kids music. Wife buys kids music.)

Q: should the OS detect when the browser switches identities, and switch the OS identity at the same time? Good idea, bad idea? A: room is confused. Details ensue: when user switches identity in the browser, thick client apps would pick up the change as well, e.g. User switches e-mail addresses, thick client calendar app switches to new calendar at same time.

Expected behavior might vary by thick client app. Example: user has 10 tabs open. Spouse walks over to computer, logs out of gmail. Do the other 9 tabs switch identities as well? What about the thick clients?

Some concern that users will be surprised/confused if clicking logout of gmail changes everything on their desktop.

How do we decide which identities switch?

  • Strawman proposal: only the identity in the tab changes.
  • Strawman proposal: all the apps using identities from the same provider change.


Q: why don't users use fast user switching? A: it takes a little longer. Sharing data across OS accounts causes headaches. Users aren't trained to switch. Users don't mind sharing an account.

Boundaries of user data and boundaries of user accounts are frequently different. Different househoulds draw the boundaries in different places, and user account is not a natural metaphor for non-computer users.

User gestures can be a good way to figure out what is required, can give users an option:

  • “private mode”: used for birthday shopping, browsing pornography, other stuff that must be private
  • “shared mode”: default, everything is shared
  • “parents mode”: parents can switch into this mode.

Experience: need three twitter clients installed to manage three twitter accounts. This is annoying.

Proposal: have a “work” profile and a “personal” profile. Lots of people despise this idea, they don't want to ask the user which profile to use, they want to import work data (say, paycheck data) into personal apps (like Quicken/MS Money).


Challenge: OS user accounts have too much privilege and data separation.

Room consensus seems to be that applications need to support the affordance to let users choose the sharing model for data. Simple model of “all applications are separate” seems too simple to express the kind of data sharing that users want, so applications need to have data sharing built-in.


Decisions should be incremental, so that users can figure it out as they go. Actions should be undoable, so they can recover when they make a mistake. Results should be obvious, so they understand what they've done.

Installed apps should have a notion of multiple accounts/data sources, and provide a light-weight way to switch between them.


Problem spaces identified:

  • Multiple personas for the same person (multiple identities on AOL or second life)
  • Multiple users on one computer (shared PC in a household or a library)
  • shared resources (shared iTunes library, shared pictures folder, shared webmail account)


User switching:

  • At OS level -> global, also applies to all online accounts automatically.
  • In the app/in the browser
  • Can propagate to all “connected” apps, e.g. Desktop widget shows calendar of user at browser, switches when user at browser logs out.
  • Can choose not to propagate
  • Something else...