User Research

Research we did

During the course Human Centered Design we conducted an exploratory user study to find out about the acquaintance of Creative Commons, potential pitfalls and caveats of its usage. Our probands were selected from students of the Bauhaus University Weimar from courses of studies ranging from Media Arts & Design over Visual Communication to Product Design aged between 20 and 28 years. All of them were selected for their unawareness of local copyright jurisdiction and licensing models (e.g. CC). The short interviews took place in their personal environment during the activity of publishing original content on their personal (micro)blogging platforms. In advance our group defined the basic premise of identifying the users motivation of publishing their works in the web. After each interview we presented the participants with the concept of Creative Commons and introduced them to the website and the function of choosing their own fitting license.

One participant gladly allowed us to publish the complete interview which you can download here: (German language)

(Participant #3, "Emily"):

Example assessment of an interview

Each interview has then been assessed by our group to identify the following problems, motivations and activities.

Problems we identified

One of the major problems we identified was inherent to our target group selection, which is the unawareness of Creative Commons. Most users did not know the full dimension of the rights they hold of their work and along with these how they restrict the usage of it to interested parties.

After the introction to the Creative Commons licenses and its concept most users were quite interested in using them, but as we found out were struggling how to continue from there. Some participants were not familiar with HTML[[HTML|Hypertext Markup Language]] and had no idea how to tag their content properly with their chosen CC license.

We identified the following Motivations and Goals of users

Before the knowledge of CC the users goals consisted of their wish to publish their project work to their models they worked with, friends and potential clients as an impromptu portfolio.

After the introduction to CC all of them were interested in opening parts of their work to the commons and using a less restrictive license.

We identified the following important acitvities

  • Usage of a web browser
  • Activity in online communities or social networks and especially (micro)blogging platforms (tumblr,, facebook, fotocommunity)
  • Performing image uploads on said platforms and adding tag information

Our Ideas

The non-bothersome CC educator

What is the essence of this solution?

We propose a software solution which is capable of identifying potential users who would be interested in CC and would benefit from it. This process should intercept at a strategically important point in the workflow of the user, for example right after a finished image upload to a website.

Why are current solutions unable to support users in this?

To address this problem domain usually campaigning through advertisements comes to mind. In contrast, our idea addresses only creative users who already participate in some sort of sharing. Furthermore, we pursue the goal of communicating with the user when his attention is focused on his personal sharing activity.

The license manager

What is the essence of this solution?

A piece of software which eases the access to the Creative Commons license generator with the capability of storing a default chosen license. It is a one click solution for tagging content he shares on websites without the need for the user to know HTML[[HTML|Hypertext Markup Language]] or Markdown.

  • It seems interesting to me, but it is not easy to imagine how exactly it will work. Could you give a brief scenario or some rough sketches to direct our thinking in the right direction? --JanD 22:24, 26 May 2013 (CEST)

Why are current solutions unable to support users in this?

We know of no current solution which addresses this usage scenario. Not all users are already familiar with a workflow using tabbed browsing to access the information on and know how to properly tag their content.


We propose a small browser addon which either asks the user of his sharing habits or analyses the history in a way to identify potential users who already publish their work in the web. If the user is a candidate the software would display a teasing comment if he knows about Creative Commons after which he can choose to be never bothered again or get a brief introduction about it. As soon as the software is aware that the user knows about CC it would provide an unobstrusive button on the navigation toolbar acting as a small license selector and manager.

  • the images of the paper prototype are nice!
  • if I get it right, the licence manager and the "educator" are combined in the same add-on?
  • how do you get the user to install the add-on in the first palace? What are advantages users could see if they are only remotely aware of copyright and CC? --JanD 22:12, 26 May 2013 (CEST)

Mentor's comments

Larissa's comments (Mozilla)

User Research

  • I like that you got specific in the target audience (students who didn't know anything about CC and were microblogging), instead of just interviewing any students. I also liked that you posted the interview with one of the students (even though I don't speak German)
  • I thought that your approach of interviewing the student while they were publishing content and then introducing the concept of CC was well thought out, and it yielded some interesting insights.
  • I would like to know more about how even the basic education about CC encouraged students to consider it an option when publishing their work. What value did they find in the CC model that they didn't have before?

Product Ideas

  • I think the ideas you presented are creative, but I would like to see a stronger connection between the user needs and the proposed solutions. One place you are starting to do that is in the "license manager" where the user doesn't need to know html to generate the license. What other features would a user who isn't html-savvy need in order to successfully use CC in their work?
  • I'd like to see more ideation around the user need for education about CC licenses. Why would user education at an important point in the workflow be a good solution for your users? What would this look like in practice?

Zhenshuo Fang's comments (Mozilla)


  • Well-summarized research goal and method!
  • The problem you identified is the unawareness of CC. I'd like to see more reason behind why people are unaware of it, do they have alternatives, etc.
  • In "motivations and goals" you mentioned after introducing CC to users, they were all interested in using it. What's the reason behind it? what made them change?
  • The important activities can be more specific. For example how and which part of "usage of a web browser" an important activity.


  • The add-on idea is interesting. Nice paper prototype!
  • Combining the educator and manager is an interesting approach. More questions to think about: Are these solutions solving the same problem? are they for same users? why people don't know about CC would install the add-on, and why someone already install the add-on need to know more about CC?

Bram Pitoyo's comments (Mozilla)

First idea: Thinking about something that fits the existing workflow is good. Of course, there’s two sides of the equation: the user/remixer, and the creator/owner. Your educator idea hits the user/remixer. How can you extend it so that it can also be used from the side of the creator?

Thought experiment: if imgur or Vimeo deploys an educator, what would it look like?

Second idea: There’s a bit of a ‘preaching to the choir’ quality going on here. People who care about CC will look up and install the manager out of active curiosity, but people who don’t care might not be interested enough to find and install license manager in the first place.

How would you build the manager in such a way that those who don’t know about CC will want to use it actively?

Tony's comments (Mozilla)


  • fantastic job defining your audience and then finding people in your student community that met those criteria. This would be a great study to expand with non students who are equally uninformed about copyright and see if your findings hold as you get a broader sample of age and occupation.
  • sharing and interview is a great way to make your research easier to understand for people who weren't there. It also makes your design ideas easier to sell later on.
  • are there other areas where these users' goals overlap the goals of the commons other than publishing?
  • what are the biases you have to take into consideration doing research with only students at your school?


  • I like the initial idea of an awareness campaign in places that it actually makes sense. How do you work around sites that automatically apply a license to uploaded content, like Facebook, does the alert still show there? If so, what does it say?
  • the license manager seems really useful, and I think it ties back to the things you learned from your research well. Again I have to ask about sites that don't let users choose a license, what does the plugin do then? Is there maybe some kind of activism for the commons component to this in these cases?