A Usability Test on VLC Media Player

I. Introduction
VLC Media Player is a free and open source application created by the volunteers of the VideoLAN Community, which allows users to play music and video files in their computers.

II. Objective
This usability test will identify strong features and weak features of VLC Player, in terms of general tasks, music and video playback only.

III. Ten Test Tasks A. General 1. Open a media file 2. Customizing the User Interface 3. General Options and Preferences
B. Playing Music 4. Play the music file 5. Repeating and Shuffling music 6. Modifying playback settings 7. Searching for music files 8. Creating playlists 9. Get information about the music file 10. Accessing video playback settings

IV. Analysis A. General

1. Open a media file

The user has two easy options: search a media file, dragging and then dropping it at the image saying ‘Drop a file here’, or opening the file directly from the explorer from the left.

The user can also access media files by using this dialog, however this is more difficult and time-consuming to use. The user had to select the files one by one. The user would instead go to ‘Open folder’:

2. Customizing the player interface

The user has the option of modifying the player interface by using the toolbar editor. In it are icons of controls most commonly used in a music player, however the user would have difficulty choosing which control he would include since he didn't know what he really need.

3. General Options

The Preferences dialog presents all the customization that the user can make, however it would be a little bit dangerous since the user would be surprised with numerous controls. Fortunately, VLC Player has an option of displaying only simple control layout and the most important controls.

B. Playing Music

4. Play the music file

Sometimes it is confusing to play media files since some album art will appear with unrelated songs. In addition, playback would also cause some unexpected errors:

5. Repeating and Shuffling music

Shuffling and repeating music is easy and fun! Shuffle will work as it is — randomly, unlike the other players which the ‘random’ sequence are frequently retained. The buttons are easily accessible: it is grouped together with the playback controls.

6. Modifying playback settings

VLC Player also provides an exciting way to change how the song is played and what it will sound like, like the graphic equalizer. The good thing is, there are default values (or presets) which could give the user a better understanding on how the controls would affect the sound. However, in the compressor part, there are no presets which adds difficulty for the users which don’t even know what compressor is about.

7. Searching for music files

The search system of VLC is simple but at the same time could misguide the users. They would think that the search box is universal that in fact will only search on the particular playlist/folder:

8. Creating playlists

Creating playlists could be a great help for users who want to export their favorite songs in group and sequence.

Saving a playlist to .m3u file (supported by Windows Media Player):

9. Get information about the music file

If the user has found incorrect information about a song, he can easily edit it directly from the player, even changing the album art image:

10. Accessing video playback Settings

If the user is watching a movie and want to adjust the video settings, he will be shown with this dialog at the adjustments and effects. However it will take some ample time to sift through the controls as they are grouped by tabs.

V. Analysis

VLC Media Player, in general, has a very good layout and interface however there are some dialogs that are designed in the way that the user would find it difficult to use the player. These are:

1. Simplify and reduce controls on the player interface options
2. Remove the individual file selection
3. Manage album arts, it seemed to be mismanaged that causes it to display incorrect images
4. Add presets to the compressor tab (adjustments and effects)
5. make the search box universal
6. Arrange tabs into a select pane in the left

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