Mission: Figure out the usability issues of Tor Browser and document them.

Location: UC Berkeley campus.

Dates: 30 Jan, 31 Jan, 1 Feb (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

  • 30 Jan: Meet in the evening to prepare for user study.
  • 31 Jan: Do user studies all day.
  • 1 Feb: Start writing a summary of results.

The idea is to hold this ux sprint before winter dev meeting, so the output can be discussed there.


  • Reserve meeting rooms
  • Prepare technical infrastructure for user tests (workstations, screen sharing, recording)
  • Recruit user participants
  • Confirm attendees (#Who)
  • Send announcement to ML

Who: #Who



Eliminating Stop-Points in the Installation and Use of Anonymity Systems: a Usability Evaluation of the Tor Browser Bundle
Greg Norcie, Kelly Caine and Jean Camp. HotPETS 2012.

Why Johnny Can’t Blow the Whistle: Identifying and Reducing Usability Issues in Anonymity Systems
Greg Norcie, Jim Blythe, Kelly Caine, L Jean Camp. USEC 2014.

Tor User Experience Report: Recommendations on enhancing the user experience of the Tor Browser Bundle
Jeff Mau, George Rosamond. ISC Project 2013.

Discovering What Your Users Know
Arne Renkema-Padmos. Includes sample consent form, questions, and researcher script.

A Needfinding Framework for Internet Freedom | Direct link to PDF

Understanding Internet Freedom: Vietnam's Digital Activists | Direct link to PDF

Crypto Tales from the Trenches (panel discussion of journalists on crypto tools)
Nadia Heninger, Julia Angwin, Laura Poitras and Jack Gillum. 31c3.

Notes and ideas

The first thing to do is to identify goals.

  • Find places where the current interface is hindering users?
  • Test proposed new user flows against current ones?
  • Give users an opportunity for direct communication with developers?
  • Give developers an opportunity to see how the software is used?

Then, identify which users will participate in testing.

  • English speakers?
  • Users who have not used Tor Browser before? Good if the goal is to find overall user experience flaws.
  • Users who already use Tor Browser? Good if the goal is to test new interface ideas.
  • Ideas for recruiting users:
    • Advertise at a journalism school.
    • Advertise at a university.
    • Contact activist groups.
    • Ask someone we know where the meeting is (a "stringer") to assemble some of their contacts.
    • Ask representatives of Open Tech Fund and Radio Free Asia for resources in the meeting city.
    • The translators on the Transifex mailing list are also users and many are interested in helping.

We should have specific goals and things we want to work on before assembling people to a meeting. Doing user testing takes more time than you think.

We have a great resource: monthly help desk reports. We can take the most common questions (or the most common answer templates) and treat them as the most pressing UX issues. We should invite members of the help desk to take part in the meeting.


  • "Cognitive walkthrough": Have a user explain verbally what they are thinking as they use the software. Demonstrate the idea for them on an unrelated application. "Now there are two buttons, I don't really know what they mean but the one with the arrow looks like the one I want, now it's asking for a username, it's probably the one I set up earlier..."
  • Make a video of the screen and an audio recording.
  • Present users with paper or wireframe designs. Good for short tests, only takes a few minutes, doesn't require a live computer running.

It's important for those taking part in the meeting to feel comfortable. It is intimidating to have a developer, an expert, present when you are using an unfamiliar interface. Nobody likes to feel stupid. It may be better to have someone not intimately involved with the software help guide the interaction. Non-developers should outnumber developers. Developers can be at arms' length; e.g., watch screencasts after the fact, in order to avoid influencing users during the tests. Even the "dev" in "Minidev" could be offputting if that's how we recruit users.

Simply Secure and SecondMuse offered to look over templates.

Video on adding transcripts to videos: Automatically Subtitling the C3: How speech processing helps the CCC subtitle project, and vice-versa


Ideally, we'd like to have at least one active person from each of the help-desk, Pearl Crescent and TorBrowser teams, plus whoever is interested in usability issues. If you'd like to join us, please add your name in the following table:

Person Attending Lodging Arriving Departing Team
mrphs Y -- 29 Jan 2 Feb GetTor
saint Y -- -- -- Satori
David F. Y Y local local Freelance
Linda L. Y -- -- -- Berkeley
Kathy B. N -- -- -- TB (Pearl Crescent)
Colin C. M -- -- -- Support / Translation
Arthur E. Y -- -- -- TB
Arlo M -- -- -- TM
SpencerOne N -- -- -- Freedom
Kate K M -- -- --


Tickets created as a result of the sprint (#uxsprint2015 tag):

Ticket Summary Keywords Owner Type Status Priority
#6503 Single-word URL bar searching doesn't work tbb-usability-stoppoint-navigation, uxsprint2015, tbb-firefox-patch gk defect closed Medium
#12164 Users with no network obstacles are emailing us instead of clicking connect tbb-helpdesk-frequent, tbb-usability-stoppoint-wizard, uxsprint2015 brade defect closed Medium
#14629 Torbutton prefs are confusing and unnecessary tbb-usability, tbb-torbutton, uxsprint2015 tbb-team defect closed Medium
#14630 Remove "TorButton > Preferences > Proxy Settings" Tab tbb-usability uxsprint2015, MikePerry201502, TorBrowserTeam201502 mikeperry defect closed Medium
#14631 Users that try to run from DMG files run into "Another copy of Firefox is running" tbb-usability, uxsprint2015, tbb-usability-stoppoint-app,tbb-helpdesk-frequent,tbb-firefox-patch, tbb-4.5-alpha, TorBrowserTeam201503R, MikePerry201503R mcs defect closed Medium
#14632 Disable Cookie Manager until we get it working tbb-usability, tbb-torbutton, uxsprint2015, MikePerry201502, TorBrowserTeam201502 mikeperry defect closed Medium
#14633 Default NoScript settings says "Allow Scripts Globally" is "dangerous" tbb-usability uxsprint2015 tbb-team defect new Medium
#14634 NoScript whitelisting and blacklisting of scripts keyed by URL bar domain tbb-usability uxsprint2015 tbb-team defect closed Medium
#14635 Transparent Torification test button complains about Polipo uxsprint2015 tbb-team defect closed Medium
#14636 single-word searches don't work in URL bar tbb-usability-stoppoint-navigation, uxsprint2015 tbb-team defect closed Medium
#14637 New identity should show confirmation tbb-usability uxsprint2015 tbb-team defect closed Medium
#14638 Make it easier to add a bridge in network settings uxsprint2015, tbb-usability-stoppoint-wizard, s32-o32a2 tbb-team enhancement new Medium
#14639 Tor Launcher configuration wizard should say something like "One time setup" tbb-usability uxsprint2015 brade enhancement closed Medium
#14686 Consolidate or de-emphasize our many download pages tbb-usability-stoppoint-website, uxsprint2015, bridgedb-ui, defer-new-website, ux-team traumschule defect closed High
#14687 Test different backgrounds for DMG install tbb-usability-stoppoint-app, uxsprint2015 tbb-team defect closed Medium
#14838 Clearer OS X installation dialogues gatekeeper, tbb-usability-stoppoint-app, uxsprint2015, sebastian-0115-triaged, TorBrowserTeam201504, TorBrowserTeam201504R Sebastian enhancement closed Medium

Tickets with the "tbb-helpdesk-frequent" tag:

Ticket Summary Keywords Owner Component
#5203 Setting Tor Browser as default browser does not work in Wndows 7 tbb-usability, tbb-helpdesk-frequent, tbb-firefox-patch tbb-team Applications/Tor Browser
#9675 Provide feedback mechanism for clock-skew and other bad problems tbb-3.0, extdev-interview, tbb-helpdesk-frequent, tbb-usability, AffectsTails brade Applications/Tor Launcher
#11406 UI for ExitNode country selection in tor-launcher tbb-usability, tbb-helpdesk-frequent brade Applications/Tor Launcher
#11506 Users are confused by the 2000-01-01 00:00 UTC timestamp tbb-helpdesk-frequent, TorBrowserTeam201601, GeorgKoppen201601, tbb-rbm, AffectsTails, gitlab-tb-tor-browser-build tbb-team Applications/Tor Browser
#12040 Please make a test connection to tor SOCKS port as part as Tor Launcher tbb-helpdesk-frequent tbb-usability brade Applications/Tor Launcher
#13775 Tor Browser won't open with OpenVPN tbb-helpdesk-frequent tbb-team Applications/Tor Browser

Whiteboard photos

Last modified 4 years ago Last modified on Oct 12, 2016, 2:47:05 PM

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