VisualMusic project is now in the midst of the user-centered validation of its software. This means that, alongside constant technical tests and programming, the development process has now taken the users’ perspective to ensure that live performers’ needs and preferences are satisfied by the functionalities implemented so far.
The means through which this goal is pursued are several. A team of usability experts at UNIPD has created an ad hoc checklist; the items in this list represent all relevant usability requirements and all specific user requirements collected at the beginning of the project. The software is periodically analyzed to assess the level of fulfillment of such requirements, one by one, and the results are reported back to developers. An excerpt of such report is displayed in the picture.
In parallel, the live performers and visual artists in the project’s consortium (Versuz, Oliver Hunteman, Square Rivoli Publishing and Link associates) have engaged in a tight schedule of meetings. They are using VisualMusic software at home and, once a week, they gather together online to share their experience and their attempts during a SkypeMeeting with the rest of the consortium. A screenshot from one of these meetings, when one participant shares his screen with the others, is reported in the header picture.
The users’ contribution is essential, because some issues can only be discovered by actually trying to use the software for real and stand out only to the expert eyes of its target users. For example, the labels of the sound parameters in the software were technically appropriate (spectral – level – beat) but understandable to sound analysts only; they have then been replaced with different ones that make much more sense to the users (Master, Bass, Mid and Treble). Similarly, although the progression of visual animations worked properly from a technical point of view, it was not fully convincing to the users who found them too ‘snappy’; modifications have been made to render their progression look softer.
With these manifold strategies, the principle of user-centeredness development has then achieved, in VisualMusic, its full expression.