Usability evaluation: Empathy and Pidgin

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on Canonical’s Ubuntu team as human interface designer. (Before that, I was on the Launchpad team.)

One of my first tasks was comparing the usability of the Empathy and Pidgin instant messaging programs, to help decide which should be shipped and installed by default in Ubuntu 8.10. (People already using one or the other in Ubuntu will be unaffected.)

My evaluation uncovered many small learnability, efficiency, and safety issues in each program. Many of these are now reported, and several have been fixed just in the past couple of weeks. It’s great to see the developers of Empathy and Pidgin so enthusiastic about improving the design of their software.

My conclusion was that Empathy shows promise, but isn’t mature enough yet, so we should continue installing Pidgin by default in 8.10. Ubuntu’s Desktop Team has now decided accordingly.