Today the results of the Default Desktop User Testing for Ubuntu 11.04 was published by Canonical's Rick Spencer. The test was done using 11 participants from different backgrounds to test the new Unity interface that that Ubuntu 11.04 will have.
The test was interesting in many ways. One of the main reasons I found this test very interesting is because of the bad press that Unity has got recently. Moreover the result of this test comes right after Canonical has confirmed that Ubuntu 11.04 will indeed come with Unity by default. Because of various issues with Unity, reverting to the classic GNOME desktop as default was briefly considered for Ubuntu 11.04.
The most startling revelation from the study was that five out of the eleven participants had Unity crashing on them during their test. I knew that Unity had problems - but never thought that it would crash for half of the users. I have been told that many of the issues which caused these crashes has been fixed in the second beta that was released yesterday and that the developers are confident of fixing the remaining ones before the final release on April 28. (I am updating my system to the second beta as I write this and have not tested the second beta yet.) Still, such a high crash rate at such a late stage of development makes me wonder if it is worth it. Thankfully though the classic GNOME desktop will still be available.
Design-wise too it seems like Unity will get some getting used to. Only half of those participants figured out how to reveal the launcher when the Window is touching the left of the screen and how to rearrange items in the launcher. This is however not much of a concern since they will figure out such things after using it for a while.
On the bright side, most of the participants of the test figured out how to use the global menu - probably because it is something which Mac already has. Other interesting results from the test which are not related to Unity includes the fact that some of the participants thought that LibreOffice Calc is a calculator and that Ubuntu Software Center is the recycle bin. None of the participants could figured out what Ubuntu One is.
If you are interested, you can read the full result here.