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Examining the Usability of Gnome, Unity and KDE

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the such-wimps-all-of-'em dept.

GNOME 228

gbjbaanb writes "TechRadar has gathered a few users and subjected the 3 main Linux desktops to some usability testing for both experienced users and some new to the whole concept." I'm glad to see such ongoing comparisons; they encourage cross-pollination of the best ideas. On the other hand, it's a little bit like trying to determine the "best" dessert; even the most elaborate attempts to find statistical consensus won't answer the question of what's best for any particular user.

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General usability should be one of the choices (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418482)

There's nothing wrong with ignoring the needs of individual users to tailor a generally good experience, _so long as power-users are still given the ability to pick the option best for them as individuals_. That last part is the important part that Apple has forgotten of late.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (4, Funny)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418546)

But Linux is open. Fork it and do it yourself! Given the ability, pffft.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (3, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418666)

Users can't fork Linux, they need something premade.
Further, users have computers skills by now, and have no desire to re-learn from scratch.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (2, Interesting)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418724)

So if they want something premade, why would they choose Linux instead of OSX or Windows? What else than customization, tweakability and programming the system does Linux offer over those two? It's a good question to ask, especially for Gnome/KDE/Ubuntu/Linux developers if they want Linux to become mainstream.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (3, Insightful)

sidthegeek (626567) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418752)

Well, because they don't have to pay any money to obtain a copy of Linux.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418858)

Well, because they don't have to pay any money to obtain a copy of Linux.

Do they have to pay any extra money for a copy of Windows on a new PC? No, because the makers of Windows-exclusive trialware subsidize OEM Windows.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420256)

> Do they have to pay any extra money for a copy of Windows on a new PC?
> No, because the makers of Windows-exclusive trialware subsidize OEM Windows.

Alright, that gets you a PC with Windows on it. Now you want to actually use it for something productive. With all the annoying "Windows-exclusive trialware" crap popping up and nagging you to buy-buy-buy, and burning cpu cycles like crazy, you first need to pay Geeksquad to remove the "craplets". Then you have to set up and use an antivirus. And then there's applications. True, many of the linux apps are cross-platform, and have Windows equivalants. But you then have to update each one manually. There are no "Windows distros" that I'm aware of. unless you count Cygwin. It's essentially a ful-blown linux sitting on top of Windows.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420774)

Well, because they don't have to pay any money to obtain a copy of Linux.

No-one pays "more" for a copy of Windows. They either get it "free" with the new PC they buy every 3-4 years, or they download it from thepiratebay.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

slackware 3.6 (2524328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418786)

Because it is free and mostly works out of the box. Especially for people that are constantly changing hardware on multiple systems, use older hardware etc and don't play many game. That is your primary desktop user.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (2)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418822)

Because I didn't want a Mac and (at the time) Microsoft's 64 bit OS was too expensive and too little supported for home use. I figured I had paid for a 64 bit processor and it didn't make sense to me to not use all of it's capabilities.

Now that I'm used to the *nix way of doing things, I won't go back.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

dead_cthulhu (1928542) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419080)

How is any polished distro like *buntu (including Mint), Fedora or OpenSuSE any less "premade" than Windows or OS X? And despite its small market share, Linux *is* now mainstream when I've had people ranging from random bikers at my local bar to grannies in a coffee shop come up to me and ask what distro I'm using and how happy they are that they switched. These are people who wouldn't know what to do if confronted with a command-line. The only reason more people don't switch is that they're resistant to change, and *won't* change their OS unless they evaluate changing their workflow as less of a hassle than what they already have.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419356)

We've been hearing about the fabled granny user for years, but well played adding bikers in a bar!

Oh, I see. You meant bicyclists in a latte bar. Carry onthen.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

dead_cthulhu (1928542) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419448)

Thank you, but I do mean the grizzled heavily-tattooed leathery skin beer and a shot of whisky Harley rider type of biker.

And I must admit I was wrong on one front, namely that I excluded another (perhaps more) important reason that more people don't switch. Windows 7 is actually quite good, to the point where I actually bought a copy to dual-boot my laptop. OS X is also an amazingly solid OS. There actually is less of a reason to change than there was during the Vista days.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419732)

Thank you, but I do mean the grizzled heavily-tattooed leathery skin beer and a shot of whisky Harley rider type of biker.

Well clearly if they ride a Harley they have no interest in reliable technology or things that just work :)

I kid, I kid. HD has come a long way since the 80s. Just a hint though, the average Harley rider is a 60 year old dentist from the burbs. Most of the grizzled, tattooed whiskey drinking bikers I know ride something metric that is more reliable and costs half as much or a chopped up classic. Harleys are like Cadillacs. They used to mean you were cool, now they mean you're old because you still think they are cool.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

dead_cthulhu (1928542) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419924)

Thread-drift aside (I'm no expert on bikes, but I presume some people buy those which are troublesome to maintain for the same reason people buy classic British cars, just so they have something to work on).

Mainly, I was just pointing out that *nix is actually known well enough and has come far enough on the usability front that people outside of the /. demographic are using it easily.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419194)

"What else than customization, tweakability and programming the system does Linux offer over those two?"

You are trying to make a joke, right?

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419772)

So if they want something premade, why would they choose Linux instead of OSX or Windows?

Because it's simpler. Distro maintainers can pre-make beautiful, elegant and very usable desktops that suit individual needs without compromising on stability, compatibility or security. Users can just pick the breed of Linux that suits them and be immediately productive.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420310)

Users can just pick the breed of Linux that suits them and be immediately productive.

Ignoring the 20-30 distros they may have to download to find the one that suits them, assuming they don't have somebody recommending things to them or installing it for them....

Linux *can* be super-easy, just install it and go. But it can also be a royal pain in the ass, if the distro you've installed doesn't fit the work flow you're used to, or that you need in a computer. Finding a distro that does everything you want it to do, and that doesn't give you a migraine trying to configure is a huge part of the impediment to switching for a lot of people. Most users basically can't do it without somebody to pick a distro for them, and maybe even to show them how to use it, or at least what's different from their old system.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420748)

Users can just pick the breed of Linux that suits them and be immediately productive.

And by "immediately" you mean 6 months after they start sampling all those different linux variants to actually find the one that "suits them", right ?

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38420094)

if they want something premade, why would they choose Linux instead of OSX or Windows? What else than customization, tweakability and programming the system does Linux offer over those two?

Well, for starters there's the fact that it costs absolutely nothing. (And upgrades also cost absolutely nothing, unlike the "free" copies of Windows or OS X you get with a new computer where you have to shell out hard cash every year or two if you want to stay secure.)

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420160)

I'd say it's the other way around, even if your name is Linus bloody Torvalds and you've pretty much written the Linux kernel and a hugely popular source management system, you probably don't want to try writing a desktop environment and all the applications you'd like to use too. This whole "sane defaults and a good out of the box experience doesn't matter on Linux because users can just customize it the way they like" ignores the fact that nobody has the time to customize everything. Nobody. Sure if you're happy with a premade system for everything then maybe Linux isn't for you, but the parts that you do customize are maybe 2% and those you don't 98%. And what those 2% will be varies so in reality no part of a Linux system should ever use that as an excuse. I don't think it's worth overcomplicating it, for the most part I just want my printer to print, my scanner to scan, my wifi to connect, my audio to play and so on. Just getting everything to work the way people generally expect it to work is a good start before you start dealing with what the "extras" are that make it even better than the competition.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

formfeed (703859) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420520)

I don't roast my own coffee and I don't spin my own yarn. But if an appliance breaks, I like it if it has screws on the bottom rather than the ones in a plastic welded case. I also prefer wooden toys and things I can modify with a hacksaw...

I get the linux distribution that is closest to what I want for everyday work and then I take a hacksaw to it till it looks like I want it, hoping that I'm done for the next three years.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420766)

So if they want something premade, why would they choose Linux instead of OSX or Windows?

Indeed. I spent the better part of ten years as a Solaris, FreeBSD and Linux sysadmin, and I can't think of any reason I'd switch from Windows to Linux on my regular desktop PC. Nor to OS X, for that matter, and our household owns four Macs.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (4, Informative)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418890)

They did fork Gnome, it's called Maté. [wikipedia.org]

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38419826)

I especially like how that article sidesteps the 'citation needed/original research' by including a 'see also' link to Baby Duck Syndrome.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418838)

That last part is the important part that Apple has forgotten of late.

Apple AND Gnome.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38419218)

This is why there is the MATE desktop

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

Forever Wondering (2506940) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419382)

There's nothing wrong with ignoring the needs of individual users to tailor a generally good experience, _so long as power-users are still given the ability to pick the option best for them as individuals_. That last part is the important part that Apple has forgotten of late.

Actually, Gnome 3 is trying to clone Apple--and that's the problem. If you look at the activities panel and scroll over an active window, you'll see a "dismiss" that is a white X with a black background with a white circle around it. This is so close to what an iPad/iOS does that I'm surprised that Apple isn't suing Gnome for patent infringement ...

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (3, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419630)

There's nothing wrong with ignoring the needs of individual users to tailor a generally good experience, _so long as power-users are still given the ability to pick the option best for them as individuals_.

The standards for people calling themselves "power users" really seems to have dropped. The people I think of as power users would have no problem hacking together a nice custom FVWM2 configuration that integrates all the GNOME3 libraries (including the internal notification and messaging systems -- they do have nice exposed interfaces after all) and applications while giving them exactly the custom experience they desire. I mean GNOME3 is pretty damn modular and broken into a myriad of different libraries and components after all; it's just the shell that they've stuck on top as gloss that lacks some customidability. But no, these days people that call themselves "power users" seem to run scared at the mere mention of hand-writing their own FVWM2 or xmonad configuration from scratch; or indeed, of bothering to actually have to get their hands dirty to create a custom environment at all. Today "power users" need to be able to "customise" their environment via pretty GUIs and checkboxes. Heck, I've heard people calling themselves power users who called GConf complicated.

Look, there's still plenty of extensive customisation and configurability inherent in these systems, they just require you actually be a power user and know what the hell you're doing, and not be scared of getting your hands a little messy and stepping outside pretty candy coated "configuration" utilities.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (3, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420756)

No.

To customise Gnome Shell you need to write javascript. I do not have the time or the inclination to write code to re-add functionality that was available with a right-click in the last release.

People who write custom FVWM2 configs in the way you talk about it were never power-users, they're obsessives.

Re:General usability should be one of the choices (1)

Andreas Mayer (1486091) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420250)

_so long as power-users are still given the ability to pick the option best for them as individuals_. That last part is the important part that Apple has forgotten of late.

Can you give an example? It's obviously true that there are features in Mac OS X where power users would like to have (more) options. I just don't see that this has gotten worse lately, as you seem to suggest.

Linux Format (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418596)

This is why I don't read Linux Format. The article provides no background on the users involved, and reads like something from a high school paper.

Configurability (5, Insightful)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418618)

You know what's best for everyone? Configurability. When the developers can't decide how something should work, when they have two what seem like equally good or equally bad ideas, why should they force one particular decision on the user? Why not just put an option on a big scary controll panel somewhere made just for that? Of course, for usabilitiy's sake, there'd be the normal slick and easy to read control panel, but Gnome used to have GConf (does Gnome 3 have it? I don't know). You could use GConf to configure ANY aspect of the interface, anything at all. It was a very powerful tool if you knew what you were doing with it. So set the defaults to the lowest common denominator, to the grandma standard, but at least leave the powertools where we can reach them! Put up a warning that it may break the interface, sour the milk or bring the rapture to scare off the grandma users, and only those who really know what they're doing need concern themselves with it.

Re:Configurability (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418660)

Given the flexibility and options available for Linux, anybody who bitches about Linux UI configurability should be forced to manually edit config files without a reference, for all eternity.

Re:Configurability (3, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418774)

one little problem with that, smarty pants, you can't configure GNOME 3 in many cases with or without config file editing. instead, you have to write a fucking app or hire a developer to do simple things that used to be GNOME user configuration actions

Re:Configurability (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418854)

Then use GNOME 2 or something else. Like I said, this is not Windows or OSX we're talking about here.

Re:Configurability (1)

gtirloni (1531285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419938)

Please explain how to install GNOME 3 on Fedora 16 or the latest Ubuntu.

Re:Configurability (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418882)

While I'd like to see more options exposed in the control panel out-of-the-box, "many cases" is pretty vague. All UI's, on all devices have "many cases" where you'd have to dig deep or write apps to change behavior. The trick is figuring out what should and shouldn't be easily configurable, and trying to make it as extensible as possible for things beyond that. Gnome 3 is weak in what's directly available, but very good about about extensibility. I just hope they improve the first a bit. And that's a good position to be in, because you can always add a control panel feature later, but extensibility is something you have to build for from the beginning. They did it right.

Re:Configurability (4, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418680)

Not really. OOBE is more important for the 95+% of users who are not hackers.

Re:Configurability (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418850)

But - 95% of users are on WINDOWS! 95% of Linux users are hackers. So - where do we go with this?

Re:Configurability (2)

bug1 (96678) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418860)

"Not really. Out Of Box Experience is more important for the 95+% of users who are not hackers." (fixed it for you)

And as software developers we should be incredibly ashamed about that.

The problem is when its more annoying to try and workout how change something than it is to put up with annoying features.

Giving users the ability to control their software should always be very important, its really arrogant for developers to always expect they know whats best for users.

Re:Configurability (5, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418736)

Configurability is nice, but defaults are very important. A good GUI has good defaults.

You could use GConf to configure ANY aspect of the interface, anything at all.

Not helpful to most users. And in theory you could use the source code to configure any aspect of the interface too.

1) Most people instead of making 1000 decisions to get a GUI that's 99% suitable for them, will make one decision to get a GUI that has defaults that are 80% suitable for them.
2) If you deviate too much from the defaults, you may have difficulty getting support. This may not be a problem for slashdotters but it is a problem for the rest of the world.

Re:Configurability (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419428)

Not helpful to most users.

But very helpful to distro maintainers who can offer a nicely customised version as a point of differentiation. Have you looked at Mint 12 yet?

Re:Configurability (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418792)

That's kind of the route taken by KDE. It's *hugely* configurable. Want a stock ticker widget in your task bar? Fine, just unlock it and drag one in there. Want the task bar on the right side? Just drag it over. Want to make caps an additional control? It's just a checkbox in the preferences. By and large, you don't even have to use obscure registry-style editors either.

KDE 4.7 FTW.

Re:Configurability (2)

Forever Wondering (2506940) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419026)

You know what's best for everyone? Configurability. but Gnome used to have GConf (does Gnome 3 have it? I don't know).

Gnome 3 does have GConf but it's probably not installed by default. I had to go look for it.

In Gnome 2, you could create an icon on your toolbar for your highly used shortcuts.

In Gnome 2, you could put a terminal icon on the toolbar and a single click brought up a new instance. To do this in Gnome 3, well, you can't ... To get a new terminal window, you click on "Activities", find the terminal icon (assuming of course, you've already added it to "Favorites"), then right click on it, slide right to the menu, and right click on "New Window"

So, something that used to be a single click operation is now a three step process. This is an improvement???

It's perfectly fine to make the starting configuration a simple one for the average user. But, it should be configurable enough for those that want more sophistication to have it as well. Gnome 3 developers have decided to dumb things down and then lock down that decision by removing as much configurability as they could.

Re:Configurability - need users first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38419036)

Unless Google forks, or buys, one of the Linux desktop distros and calls it Droid, no regular human has a clue not gives a rat's ass about Linux on their desktop or laptop computer.

Re:Configurability - need users first (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419234)

Unless Google forks, or buys, one of the Linux desktop distros and calls it Droid, no regular human has a clue not gives a rat's ass about Linux on their desktop or laptop computer.

Or Apple does the same with BSD. Oh wait....

Re:Configurability (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419808)

Why not... big scary controll panel... GConf... if you knew what you were doing with it... grandma standard... powertools... Put up a warning... may break the interface... scare off the grandma users... only those who really know what they're doing... need concern themselves with it.

Hmm. Interesting phrases.

When the developers can't decide how something should work, when they have two what seem like equally good or equally bad ideas

Do some user testing to see which works better.

why should they force one particular decision on the user?

Force is a strange choice of word. No doubt in your car, the right hand pedal is the accelerator, and to the left of it is the brake. The indicator stem might be on the right of the wheel, or it might be on the left. Do you feel "forced" by whoever it was that chose to put them that way around? Do you demand the ability to customise the location of those controls?

Imagine a car where you could customise everything. Hey you don't have to imagine. It's here. http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/9/homermobile.jpg/ [imageshack.us]

From the website that looks like this (4, Insightful)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418622)

Techradar wants to talk and judge usability of the all-time favourite linux desktops, and yet their own website looks like THIS: http://i.imgur.com/IOyKu.png [imgur.com]

I know other browsers render it centered, but that's not the (only) point, it's that their web looks awful: about 1/4 is margins, which is OK, and of those 3/4 1/4 is the content, which is split into 7 tiny sections (just give me the whole article and don't make me page every 3 paragraphs, it's almost 2012, for christ sakes!), tiny text, tiny images, and 3/4 of crap (related content, ads, menus, more related content, more related content).

It's not like they can't provide a very valid examination of linux desktops, but their site does not inspire very much credibility when they themselves get it so wrong, IMHO.

Re:From the website that looks like this (0)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418664)

I think their site is actually quite usable. Text area is not too wide, there's related news easily displayed and it shows other content from the site too. The inner pages are quite long and putting that everything on one page would be ridiculous.

You yourself maybe want to read print version only, but most users don't. It's also not user friendly for web format.

Re:From the website that looks like this (4, Informative)

Osty (16825) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418706)

I know other browsers render it centered, but that's not the (only) point

The site's punishing you for using an ad blocker. I just tested Chrome with adblock, Chrome without adblock, Aurora with adblock, Aurora without adblock, IE9, Opera 11, Safari 5 with adblock, and Safari without adblock. In every case, when adblock was turned off (or not available), the page rendered correctly*. When adlbock was turned on, it rendered like a steaming pile of shit.

The remainder of your points are completely valid. Fixed-width, fixed-font size, ad-spattered, split-for-the-sake-of-page-views "design" doesn't really inspire confidence about their ability to validate usability testing. At least they don't have an always-on-top floating toolbar like so many other sites are doing. But I probably shouldn't be giving them any ideas ...

* It's worth noting that the page is still a steaming pile of shit when rendered "correctly". The only difference is that it's centered.

What "usability testing"? (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418624)

Where's the "usability testing"? The linked article is just typical blogger blithering, spread over multiple pages for maximum ad insertion. They write "Since usability is a personal experience, we invited a bunch of people, from newbies to power users, to share their experiences with 3.2.". Which probably means "we asked for comments on a blog".

Real usability testing [wikipedia.org] is not market research. It's measuring how well people did on tasks, not what they said they liked.

Re:What "usability testing"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418782)

Except that just because someone does well on something, doesn't mean they want it that way. What people actually tell you they like is just as relevant.

I might be able to do something faster with a certain configuration, but that doesn't mean I like it that way.

Eventually this will descend into the interpretation of meaningful values, and whether people are really honest when they tell you something, or are they motivated by external forces toward an irrational decision.

What it comes down to is "who gets their way"?

The answer is: Those who possess control over the source code and hardware of a given system.

Re:What "usability testing"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38419804)

Except that just because someone does well on something, doesn't mean they want it that way.

What does that have to do with usability testing? You should've read the link in the post you responded to, because it sounds like you don't know what it is.

What people actually tell you [...] is just as relevant.

Wrong. It's well understood that relying on what people tell you will NOT give you good or accurate data for scientific studies.

Re:What "usability testing"? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418834)

And in the computer industry it's almost always done horribly. I've participated in such studies, and they mistake "ease of learning for a complete newbie" with "usability". They are not the same. You're only a newbie on some application for a few days or weeks, but you might be using it for the next 10 years. What makes a package *usable* is not something you can learn by watching me come up to speed on the damn thing for a few hours. Let me use it day in and day out and talk to me in 6 months. I'll have suggestions about whatever scriptability you have exposed, about keyboard shortcuts, about integration with this or that... none of which I will be able to tell you in your three hour usability focus session.

Re:What "usability testing"? (3, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420726)

I've participated in such studies, and they mistake "ease of learning for a complete newbie" with "usability". They are not the same.

But neither are they completely different.

Usability encompasses not just newbie experience and not just expert experience, but the whole range.

Because of that, I found this particular article's conclusions very interesting: KDE has long held the position of most scriptable, most configurable, most integrable, etc. In short, it's been a power-user's desktop (well, out of the major options, anyway). Now it is apparently the most newbie-friendy desktop as well.

Re:What "usability testing"? (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419272)

Real usability testing is not market research. It's measuring how well people did on tasks, not what they said they liked.

On the other hand, it's hard to blame TFA for their usability testing methods when Gnome, Unity, and KDE have done no usability testing at all. (And then tell their users that they're wrong for liking their old workflows...)

Re:What "usability testing"? (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419758)

It's measuring how well people did on tasks

Actually it's just measuring. Presupposing "well" and "badly" isn't part of it, if the tasks are designed to measure the software accurately.

But yes, you're right, the article is a crock, and doesn't measure anything resembling usability. User comments are very useful, but only in conjunction with some hard data.

Best dessert? (1)

johny42 (1087173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418654)

Can we please spare the bad analogies for comments?

Sure there is variety between users (which TFA accounted for, by the way), but usability tests (done right) usually show quite a bit of objective facts (e.g. something is consistently hard to find, etc.).

Re:Best dessert? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418676)

So, imagine there's a car, and you can eat it after dinner.

minus 4, tr0ll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418710)

pla1nly states that I read the latest

The real wtf (4, Funny)

ysth (1368415) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418734)

Statements in the article reveal it was written, or at least researched, 2 months ago.

There has been a lot of churn since then, including in the Gnome 2 fork MATE and the variety of Gnome shell extensions making Gnome 3 more usable.

Determining the best turd (0, Flamebait)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418742)

Ok, please don't mark this as a troll. But a study that compares each of these to Windows would probably be more useful. You can talk about many shortcomings of Windows, but they pretty much have usability figured out, right?
Why does Linux live in a separate world? I know everyone on slashdot claims that their grandma uses [some linux] for years now... but I bet that a usability study between any window manager and Windows (good Windows -- 2000/XP/7) will not go well for Gnome/Unity/KDE. Personally, I work on Linux, but my home/personal machines have always been running Windows.

Re:Determining the best turd (0, Troll)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418798)

windows does not have usability, I have to spend hours every week showing windows lusers where desired features are buried. This especially since Microsoft introduced that ribbon, which is the result of the same fundamental stupidity of mindset the GNOME and UNITY developers are aping.

Re:Determining the best turd (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418828)

I spent twenty minutes yesterday trying to get Red Hat to recognize my flash drive. Complain about Windows all you like. It is still orders of magnitude more usable than Linux.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419290)

I've never had to coax Linux to recognize a flash drive.

On the other hand, I recently had a problem with a thumb drive where it failed for no reason in Windows and could not be read again by any version of Windows until it was first mounted on Linux (which happened automatically).

It wasn't even mine. It belonged to someone I do "Windows support" for.

And don't get me started about the page full of options that Windows throws at you when it does actually decided to acknowledge removable media. Granny just can't handle that sort of thing.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419632)

I've never had to coax Linux to recognize a flash drive.

But you must recognize that you are an exception to the rule? I mean, if not my grandma, then certainly my parents (who did not grow up with computers) do regularly use flash drives to transfer/backup files.
Contrast it with me having problems (on SuSe) mounting a drive last week. Yes - it recognized the drive, but "unable to mount". Yes - eventually I got it to work. But if the solution required opening a shell, calling mount command, figuring out where in command line to say "ntfs" and guessing which /dev/sd? matches the actual flash drive, then I say Linux lost already!
Do you really believe that Linux is easier to use?

Re:Determining the best turd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38419866)

Contrast the ease of use of Windows, where if you have a Mac-formatted (HFS+) flash drive, then you have to...oh wait, Windows doesn't do that.

There are dozens of ways to transfer files between computers. NTFS-formatted flash drives happen to be a stupid one, as that filesystem is only 100% safe to write to on windows. However, some years back the open source community reverse-engineered the filesystem enough to be able to write to it fairly safely, and this was ported over to Mac OSX. You're welcome.

Most people are actually smart enough to use FAT on their flash drives, which works perfectly in every single device manufactured since 1995. You are the exception to the rule, and in that middle range where you're just knowledgeable enough to be dangerous to yourself.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419872)

When it's working correctly, yes, a modern Linux GUI is, generally speaking, easier to use than Windows or Mac OS X.

But when it's not, it is at least usually fixable on a non-geological timescale, whereas Windows and OS X are not.

Linux is trying to be all things to everyone, and it's failing some of them. Personally, I quite like Unity (OK, so whip me :-) but I'm an end user with modest requirements: I use Linux because it provides the programs I need to use, and it does so in a usable manner — for me — which Windows and OS X don't.

I have an abiding respect for and debt of gratitude to the vast majority of developers who provide the software I use, and I sympathise with them if they feel they are being asked to emphasise eye-candy interfaces for end users when they'd rather leave it all in the config file. I also have a curious dislike of a very tiny fraction of developers who appear to be on another planet, and who include features that no-one will ever use, and omit key facilities because they themselves would never use them. Fortunately these dinosaurs are getting fewer.

Because of this, Linux will never be a mainstream end-user desktop OS like Windows. It's too clever and powerful, and that's why I prefer it. Most of it is usable: a few corners are not, and still need work.

Re:Determining the best turd (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420894)

Contrast it with me having problems (on SuSe) mounting a drive last week. Yes - it recognized the drive, but "unable to mount". Yes - eventually I got it to work. But if the solution required opening a shell, calling mount command, figuring out where in command line to say "ntfs" and guessing which /dev/sd? matches the actual flash drive, then I say Linux lost already!

Oh, right. Because Windows will just oh so happily mount an ext4-formatted USB drive?

No-one who cares about interoperability would use a proprietary filesystem like NTFS on a USB drive. Or, at least, they wouldn't go whining about how no other computer can read it.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

ysth (1368415) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419418)

Could we talk about UI when we're talking about UI?

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418950)

I'm not sure Windows's usability is that good, though I can believe it'd beat out some of the Linux desktop environments (at least for a certain class of users). To the extent that Windows turns out to be usable, I think it's mostly just through age: lots of Windowsisms are now familiar to a large portion of the computer-using population, and therefore that population is able to use them reasonably well, whether or not the features were actually good ideas when first introduced 10, 15, or 20 years ago.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419698)

I'm not sure Windows's usability is that good, though I can believe it'd beat out some of the Linux desktop environments (at least for a certain class of users).

Oh, my, I always get a sense that I am talking with someone from another planet when I hear that. Almost any solution in Linux involves command line. Have you ever tried to install drivers for hardware on linux? I once tried to get a wireless (USB) card to attach to my desktop. In Windows, I think the driver was included (or I may have looked up/downloaded it). Linux boards have first suggested that I validate that my hardware will support the card in question (the recommendation is to check before you buy). Then I found honest suggestions involving recompiling the kernel with modprobe. Bottom line is that I eventually gave up.
Just one example. I can give many more
Yes, many people successfully use Linux. Yes, Windows has many flaws. But I am regularly stumped by software installation/driver configuration/multi-monitor support in Linux. These are things that I have been using in Windows for about 7-8 years now, all the way from Windows 2000 (of which I am very fond).
You can moderate me into oblivion now.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419742)

In my experience, the average person can't do any of those things in either Linux or Windows, unless you give them very precise, step-by-step instructions (and even then it's pretty iffy).

Re:Determining the best turd (3, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419148)

You can talk about many shortcomings of Windows, but they pretty much have usability figured out, right?

No, no they do not. And to talk to any typical Windows user, Windows is confusing to many users.

I can't wait for a fully-enabled Metro desktop to be unleashed by Microsoft. It caters to the absolute lowest common denominator of user. The rage it induces in power users is hilarious.

Why does Linux live in a separate world?

Because imitating the Windows UI is stupid and possibly lawsuit-bait. And I didn't go to Linux to just move to a cheap version of Windows.

--
BMO

Oh really (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419286)

Guess you haven't seen Ubuntu lately. Its a complete rip off from OSX. Down to the icon style and placement.

Re:Oh really (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419612)

First off, how is anything you said a reply to what I've said? I didn't even mention OSX

>ubuntu is a ripoff of OSX

Explain to me how Unity, the default desktop, rips off OSX "down to the icons" when it clearly doesn't.

Explain to me how KDE or Gnome3, which are not the default desktop, is a ripoff of OSX.

>I haven't seen Ubuntu.

http://i.imgur.com/eUo63.jpg [imgur.com]

What now, bitch?

--
BMO

Re:Oh really (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419882)

Placement? My Unity desktop has the icons down the LH side. My Mac OS X desktop has them along the bottom. Unless you're in some kind of parallel universe where these things are the same, those are called "different placements".

Re:Determining the best turd (1, Interesting)

lakeland (218447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419292)

Windows does not score very well in usability tests - generally worse than Linux. Last I heard 7 scores better than Gnome 3, but I don't follow these things closely.

However you alluded to an important point "my home/personal machines have always been running Windows". People find it much easier to use something they're familiar with, and anybody who uses Windows fairly regularly at home or work will almost certainly find that easier than Linux.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419752)

Windows does not score very well in usability tests - generally worse than Linux. Last I heard 7 scores better than Gnome 3, but I don't follow these things closely.

Really? I'd be interested to see their metrics
If they consider things like a) flash drive recognition/use, b) any USB device (most notably wireless cards) and generally driver support, they may have to revise the results
Note that I am not blaming anyone here. I am aware that drive issues have to with manufacturers not providing proper drivers. I am talking about the end user result only. Although I struggle to understand why my relatively fresh SuSe installation forced me to manually mount an external hard drive a few days ago. I eventually figured it out (through guesswork of which /dev/sd? is the device in question), but Windows tends to "just recognize" a flash drive.

Re:Determining the best turd (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420826)

Windows does not score very well in usability tests [...]

Can you provide a link to these tests ?

New user ? (1, Insightful)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418762)

Where do you find somebody who's never used a computer nowadays ?!? Either it's a complete idiot who will NEVER be able to use a computer properly and hence we should NOT hear his opinion on the matter. Or it's something as rare as somebody who's never drunk a coke. Now that reminds me of a Coca-Cola ad campaign a decade or so ago... But they had to look.

Re:New user ? (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419892)

I drank Coke once, and hated the stuff. I am nevertheless available for a fee to act as a taster for the Coca-Cola Corporation.

Article is crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418770)

Writer is on everyone's jock and touts how good everyone's new crippled and dumbed down desktop is. Yea, people don't like it but look how shiny it is type of misdirection.

I will not support turning desktops into dumb terminals.

Re:Article is crap. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419052)

Explain, in as few words necessary, how KDE is crippled.

The article came down on the side of KDE, the most configurable desktop with the most tools. KDE has the opposite philosophy that Gnome and Unity have - expose all options to the user.

And if you're going to rage about dumbing down of interfaces, I suggest that you aim your rage at Metro.

--
BMO

Re:Article is crap. (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419656)

Yeah, KDE4 was pretty buggy at first, but lately it's been great.

gnome 3 though... what happened there.

Never mind the usability tests (3, Funny)

rbrander (73222) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418924)

...how do I get in on these scientific experiments to determine the best dessert?

Unity is one of 3 Main Linux Desktops? (3, Insightful)

Glasswire (302197) | more than 2 years ago | (#38418990)

KDE and Gnome obviously yes, but Unity is one of the top 3? Just because most recent Ubuntus foist this on users (and most feedback I've seen has been negative) - is there any data to show that Unity has even 10% of Linux desktops? While Ubuntu is popular, that just means it's bigger than any other. My totally unsubstantiated guess would be that Ubuntu is less than 30% of all desktop Linuxes installed and of that, not all are 11.x gen and many of those users have installed another desktop. So...
I would be SHOCKED if Unity is running on 5% of Linux desktops - does anyone have any hard evidence to counter this?
I wouldn't be surprised if Enlightenment or Fluxbox had bigger install base.
(I can't believe no one else has pointed this out)

Re:Unity is one of 3 Main Linux Desktops? (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#38420804)

Just because most recent Ubuntus foist this on users (and most feedback I've seen has been negative) - is there any data to show that Unity has even 10% of Linux desktops?

I would not be in the least surprised if the majority of Ubuntu users never change the default UI

or do any significant customization whatever.

The problem with "feedback" to tech sites like Slashdot is that the ordinary user is unrepresented and strong negative opinions draw an instant response.

There are really only two. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38418996)

1) Gnome is KING.
2) kde nice effort I guess.

unity does not compare for it is not a desktop environment. It NEEDS Gnome to run.

Vague rubbish. (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419056)

Article is very vague and made up of vague anecdotes, none of the research seemed to be empirical or scientific in any way.

Overall it's rubbish.

Researchers often showed users how to achieve their goals - this IMHO means the OS has failed because the user couldn't find their way without assistance. In reality this would of entailed lots of frustration and swearing as things didn't work as expected.

KDE the replacement for Gnome 2? (2)

Duncan J Murray (1678632) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419142)

I'm not one for shunning the new, and certainly kept an open mind when I switched from WinXP to Gnome 2 those years ago. I appreciated the quick and direct access to various folders, and the multiple desktops, not to mention all the other benefits of using linux apart from gnome 2 (repositories, updating, stability etc..)

However, I've given quite a bit of time to gnome 3 and unity, and I really think these two desktops have lost a lot of the functionality I originally enjoyed when I switched to gnome 2 - that loss of functionality combined with the increased graphics requirements of gnome 3 is a real setback.

Specifically, try dragging and dropping files from a file browser on one workspace to a program on another workspace. In gnome 2 it is easy to use the workspace switcher to perform this task, but in gnome 3 it requires something like twice the time and fuss. The other problem I have with gnome 3 is the lack of 'places'. Unity's problem is I just don't get on with the slide-out dock - I find it interferes with any content I'm working with on the left side of the screen.

I haven't given KDE4 a proper test, but it looks like it might be worth my while!

Re:KDE the replacement for Gnome 2? (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419278)

KDE still feels overly complicated whenever I go to configure things. Too many options makes it hard to find the one I want... And this is coming from someone who likes buying things with too many knobs.

XFCE has been treating me well. You might want to give it a try.

Re:KDE the replacement for Gnome 2? (2)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419332)

KDE does have a lot of options I don't need or that don't quite satisfy. But it also has more of those I do need (or want) than any other desktop I've tried...

No fair selection (1)

allo (1728082) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419156)

As Gnome3 and Unity are still very new and KDE 4.7 is a matured desktop nowadays, so its not fair. just wait for gnome 3.7 and it will be as nice as kde. remember kde 4.0? It was the biggest crap. since kde 4.2 its good again. And just like this, gnome3 will just need some time to become good again.

Usability of the Article? (5, Funny)

froggymana (1896008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419174)

Resizes automatically to fit my screen? No.
Has everything on one neat page? No.
Allows you to click on the small pictures to get a higher resolution picture? No.
Is uncluttered by random links and pictures not relating to the article? No.
Is completely free of annoying social networking buttons that track pages you view? No.

Verdict
The article is annoying and not very usable.

How about they're all awful now? (not you, xfce!) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38419364)

It's gotten so bad in the last couple years as all the popular distro makers try to slavishly ape OS X after years of trying to slavishly ape Windows that I just run my Linux boxes headless and use Win7 with CygwinX to do the desktop management. It's a much superior, polished, and above all far more powerful and configurable experience.

  I know this sounds trolly, but it's just true for me - Win7 desktop is so much better than what they've done to Linux desktops that I've just given up.

When I do need Linux desktop there's always good old xfce or icewin. Very good for simple stuff. And I'm not hardcore enough to program my own desktop with swm.

Question (1)

chemindefer (707238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419374)

Do any of these offer column browsing like OSX yet?

Gnome? KDE? Unity? (1, Informative)

Tanuki64 (989726) | more than 2 years ago | (#38419480)

Could not care less. WindowMaker is my choice. And that's the reason I don't care much about such 'usibility tests': I don't need to care. On Linux I am not stuck with good, bad, or idiotic design decisions. There are plenty of alternatives for almost everything.

Fir57 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38420116)

in a head spiiMning The Cathedral
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