Fritzing is an open-source software to support designers, artists, researchers and hobbyists to work creatively with electronics like Arduino. Fritzing allows users to document their prototypes, share them with others, teach electronics in a classroom, and to create a PCB layout for professional manufacturing.
Being part of the development team for 3 years, I had the opportunity to design and integrate a large set of electronic parts into Fritzing and to partner with different companies or organizations such as Sparkfun, Gogo Board or Parallax. Beyond this designer role, I also initiated a usability test study of Fritzing done within the frame of a semester project at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam.
Creating an electronic part for Fritzing involved at first the analysis of the respective datasheet in order to get an overview of the nature of the connectors available. This prepares the creation of three svg assets, corresponding to the breadboard, schematic and PCB views, that are later to be linked together.
While the design of the assets related to "schematic" and "PCB" views is very framed, the design of the "breadboard" part provided me with the opportunity to reinterpret in 2D elements that are otherwise encountered in 3D. I avoided gradients in order to optimize the amount of resources needed by the software to run.
Since its inception, Fritzing (which was still in beta) had evolved a lot by 2011. In this context, it was important for the development team to check on how good it fits the needs of physical computing beginners. These are a critical category of users.
After having defined the main use cases of our target audience, we created and conducted four-parts tests based on a diagnostic evaluation. They probed the whole user experience of a beginner, from downloading the software to the modification of a sketch. Our work included the conception of all the associated documents, including forms and test manuals. Within each post-test phase, we used the quantitative analysis method SUMI (Software Usability Measurement Inventory).
The analysis of the gathered data helped us to create an overview of usability issues and made some design recommendations through two redesign proposals: the first one was economically affordable (important for a open-source project) and the other one was involving comprehensive changes in the structure of the software.