Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


Practical UX at OpenProject

Musing after 1½ years of working on the UX of open source software

User experience is often overlooked in open source projects, and this was the case with OpenProject too. In 2021, OpenProject hired two UX designers (including me) to improve usability and bring it to even more people. In this talk, we'll look at the challenges, processes and learnings gleaned from the past year and half of setting up a UX team within an established open source project.

One of the most common complaints about open source software is bad UX. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of people (and modern design isn't always great either) but generally, a lot of it seems to be designed for and by technical people who don't mind configuring, menu-diving and reading the manual. Open source projects also tend to not invest their (admittedly often limited) resources on UX and UX designers.

OpenProject is an open-project management and collaboration tool that's been around for over ten years. The software went through its many versions and iterations without a dedicated design team and did so without this necessarily being a problem. But in August 2021 OpenProject GmbH hired not one but two UX designers to improve usability and user experience. I'm one of them.

In this talk, we will look at:

  • Why OpenProject decided to invest in UX
  • The challenges of designing for (and around) a tool with lots of legacy code, architecture and design
  • How we're (slowly but surely) implementing a design system
  • How we balance a seemingly endless list of UX optimisations with new feature development
  • What we've learnt in the past year and a half
  • How we plan to go forward in 2023


Photo of Parimal Satyal Parimal Satyal