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Jakob Nielsen Talks About Usability in FOSS

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the editing-text-files-suck dept.

GUI 327

dokey writes "In an interview with Builder AU, usability expert Jakob Nielsen gives his opinion of usability in Free and open source software. The article echoed what Jon "Maddog" Hall said earlier this year in a keynote at Linux.conf.au -- "Programmers Are From Mars, Users/Managers/Companies are from Venus". Is it time to pay more attention to end-users?(who aren't geeks)"

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Let us all learn from him (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046459)

I suggest Slashdot copy his website's color scheme [useit.com] for their next section.

Re:Let us all learn from him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046671)

You know, if you swith back and forth really quickly, it.slashdot looks almost black-and-white, in a turn-of-the-20th century way.

And, of course, IT is only the second worse color scheme here...Games is the one which rots my eyes.

Re:Let us all learn from him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046872)

And, of course, IT is only the second worse color scheme here...Games is the one which rots my eyes.

Well, there's always... [slashdot.org]

purple and mustard - what where they thinking?

Re:Let us all learn from him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046971)

Argggggh my eyes.

it is what IT is (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046460)

Don't expect usability from a programmer.

Separate program logic from design and let a designer do the interface. Much happier for everyone involved

Re:it is what IT is (3, Insightful)

slungsolow (722380) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046944)

Its sad that most peeople don't realize how simple something like this is. As a former interface designer I tried to push this on a day to day basis. Most programmers couldn't grasp the concept of architecting a system so it fits into layers. These are the folks who should have been left behind after the .com bust.

But what do I know, I'm just a glorified HTML guru.

And people complain about a lousy job market! (4, Insightful)

Rikardon (116190) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046998)

I appreciate your attitude; it makes it easy for me to steal your job. =)

Seriously, I just can't understand this kind of thinking, although I encounter it all the time. If you're writing utilities for yourself or for a group of people very much like yourself, it's no problem. But if you're writing commercial software, you're not writing for yourself. Your whole livelihood revolves around solving other people's problems. Expecting your customers to adapt their way of thinking to your way of coding is just piss-poor customer service. You want their money; that means you make it easy for them, no matter how challenging that may make the coding task for you.

Oddly enough, I came to these convictions not through coding, but through years of work as a DJ. No kidding. When I started out, I had all these pretensions about educating the great unwashed in what good music was. And you know what? I got the conceit beaten out of me very quickly, as I cleared dancefloor after dancefloor for the first two months.

I soon realized that my job was to play what the crowd wanted to hear. And if their tastes had been informed by 30 years of top 40 radio, tough luck for me. My job was to figure out, at any given gig, what kind of crowd I was dealing with and play accordingly. And it's worked wonders.

Interestingly, I came to learn that if I do that well enough, the crowd learns to trust me. They're so happy with what I'm playing (after 13 years, I virtually never have a bad night) that if I slip in something new, they'll usually give me the benefit of the doubt enough to dance to it anyway. That's right: I have more success introducing new music now, than I ever did when I was looking down on the people who were cutting the cheques.

The same applies to software. I seem to be a rare case: someone with real interaction design chops, who has also written a C compiler. But it seems like a natural marriage, because what proper usability research does for me is confirm that I'm solving the right problem in the right way.

I think Eric Sink has an article or two about this where he distinguishes between what he calls developers and programmers, but I'm too lazy to Google for it.

Re:it is what IT is (1)

shish (588640) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047296)

Separate program logic from design and let a designer do the interface.

As it happens, that's what's being done with Edje [enlightenment.org] , one of the new enlightenment foundation libraries. Very nice it is too :)

No. (4, Funny)

mfh (56) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046473)

> Is it time to pay more attention to end-users?(who aren't geeks)

Uhm... No, not really.

Re:No. (5, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046603)

That's not funny, it's correct.

There's nothing wrong with an OS/application that only geeks can use. Just don't try to market it to non-geeks, and there's no problem whatsoever.

I personally don't want my OS and applications dumbed down to the level of other OSs. The lack of control and options in metacity, for example, is shocking. It's almost getting to the point where you have to swallow default configs if you want the "user-friendly" distros to even work right at all.. For example, I can't turn off Nautilus unless I don't care that my background doesn't get properly set to my root window, something that should not depend on nautilus at all. (and doesn't, I can go manually reset each time I restart X, without starting nautilus).

I won't even get into the hassles if, god forbid, you want to run a second X session on :2.

If anything, the lame attempts of programmers to second guess what the end-users want, locking them into defaults, and not testing non-default configs, is a horrible trend in general.

Re:No. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046687)

There's nothing wrong with an OS/application that only geeks can use.... For example, I can't turn off Nautilus unless I don't care that my background doesn't get properly set to my root window, something that should not depend on nautilus at all.

If you're whining about the inability to maniuplate how bloated GUI app X interacts with bloated window manager Y then you aren't much of a geek, are you? Get back to your command line, n00b.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046788)

Mod AC up! While your at it -1 that elitist fuck of a GP!

Re:No. (3, Insightful)

lcsjk (143581) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046785)

"lame attempts of programmers to second guess what the end-users want" --

(sig) "I think the [MS Word] paperclip is a great idea. - Miguel de Icaza"

Your sig could not have said it any better!

No.-Derelection of Duty. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046921)

I think the better question is. Why aren't more distributions handling these issues? Remember way back when? When programmers coded for their itch. And distributers pick and packaged what they needed. Sanding down the rough edges, and doing the jobs no one else wanted? So whatever happen to that? Were's the articles holding their feet to the fire? Why just programmers?

Re:No. (2, Insightful)

TedTschopp (244839) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046942)

Repeat after me:

Usability /= dumbed down
Usability /= lack of control

Usability is the process of making something usable, not making it unusable. Usability is the process of giving control, not taking it away. Usability is elegance in interface. Your uninformed attitude is exactly the problem computer programmers and users have these days. There is a process of making something useable, and from what it sounds like you are confused as to the desired outcome.

The sad thing about people with this attitude is that you would rather see a program with elegant code and an inelegant interface because you somehow think it's more powerful. We as coders should be sticklers on elegance in Code and in Interface.

This all ties into a more basic problem with computer programmers; communication. We need to learn how to communicate with the rest of the world. I don't know how many times I've been in a business meeting where I have had to deal with users, managers, and sales people and after the meeting they have told me how amazing it was to speak with someone who was technically trained, yet knew how to speak to a layman.

This is the exact same thing here, we expect the layman to learn our vocabulary and now you want them to learn our esoteric ways of using programs. We spend years learning how to break complex problems into small logical problems which can be solved. We solve these problems using complex logical diagrams and patterns. Now as it is our job to break these problems down into solvable problems, it is also our job to synthesize the results into a useable dataset. Part of that usable dataset is actionable results, as well as useable interfaces to access those results.

Please, for the sake of your job learn some usability. If you don't someone else will end up maintaining your code and getting your job, and they will be asked to make your code more useable. Heck, they might even be asked to make the code do something you already have it capable of doing, but no one can figure out how to make it do that. Have you ever heard of that problem (MS WORD).

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046808)

No, and I'll tell you why. Computer programmers aren't the problem. Computer users are the problem. If users got smarter about computers, programmers wouldn't have to spend so much time on making it nice, pretty, and easy, and they could spend more time on stability and security. Computers aren't supposed to be friendly, they're supposed to work properly consistently, and the more people that understand that the better software will be in general.

Re:No. (Yet another /.er who doesn't understand) (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10047294)

Sigh. I don't know where to begin on your misinformed rant, so I'll just address some points that stand out at me:

If users got smarter about computers, programmers wouldn't have to spend so much time on making it nice, pretty, and easy
Usability does not automatically mean pretty. Usability means that the interface behaves as expected, and in a consistent manner. (ie. you don't make a widget that looks like a check box but behaves like a radio button) Pretty is for graphics designers to worry about, not for usability designers. In fact, often the prettiest interfaces aren't the ones that are good in terms of usability. Think of all the nice looking Flash websites you've seen, now think of how easy to use some of those were.

Computers aren't supposed to be friendly, they're supposed to work properly consistently
And that is a large part of what usability is. The application performs properly and consistently given user interaction. Quick, what's the command line option to read config options from a file in program foo? Is it -o? Better hope that's not the command line switch to output the results to the file. How about getting help in program bar? Is it -help or -h? Or how about --help or --h? These are the types of things usability is concerned with -- consistency.

Yes, ease of use is important, and it can't be stressed enough. But, laying all the blame on the users is misguided at best. Most people don't use computers the way programmers do, and they don't want to spend the time to do so. Besides, I'm sure there are plenty of programmers who'd prefer a nice consitent and intuitive interface when they encounter a new program.

Maddog @LCA (4, Informative)

laptop006 (37721) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046486)

Was a great speaker (and signed a friends Tshirt), had the view of someone between a total geek and Bdale, with enough business experience not to make a fool out of himself, but still enough of a hacker to not be out of place.

Any aussie's who havent been to an LCA before I highly recomend it, the next one is on in April 2005 in Canberra.

howdy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046489)

fp

Is it TIME for End-Users? (5, Insightful)

grunt107 (739510) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046506)

This is the core focus for applications. The End-User must always be factored in, regardless of who that is.

For example, I may develop a quick little utility that let's me interface w/all the X10 in the house. I make it text-based commands, since I need no fancy interface.

Now, change that to Ma and Pa Kettle. Try to sell them the text interface and they call it crap. Add a whiz-bang interface showing all the connections in the house as the appliances/rooms they reflect and M&P buy it.

More IT apps fail from lack of interaction with the end-users.

Re:Is it TIME for End-Users? (4, Insightful)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047288)

And also remember, just because you have a gui to access the program doesn' mean you can't still have the command line access to the program.

A lot of people seem to think that the more usable the UI the more control must be restricted. I belive there is no reason why anyone should ever need to access a config text file to change a setting. But I also think there is no reason why they shouldn't be able too.

Usability benefits geeks too (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046510)

"Is it time to pay more attention to end-users?(who aren't geeks)"

Not only is this mentality wrong, it's also holding OSS usability back. Geeks are end-users too. If good UI design is targeted at computer novices, as is widely assumed, then why do so many technically talented people love OS X? Answer: Because usability gains for "our grandmothers" are also usability gains for we geeks.

Re:Usability benefits geeks too (4, Interesting)

Epistax (544591) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046701)

I prefer a geek switch, or rather, a series of geek switches that turn the software from being a usable piece of software into a controllable piece of software. You must understand some people will NEVER want to switch into geek mode. I know my parents would never sacrifice usability for features. By the same token some geeks may know the author of the software well and be able to guess how to control the software and may never use an easier mode. Many games have this feature (RTS) so I'd really like to see it in programs.

The one mistake many programmers make it requiring people to accept things they do not want. Perhaps I want control X but not control Y. Many programs would force you to take both or neither. This must always be circumvent-able without resorting to geekhood.

Re:Usability benefits geeks too (2, Insightful)

linguae (763922) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046932)

If good UI design is targeted at computer novices, as is widely assumed, then why do so many technically talented people love OS X? Answer: Because usability gains for "our grandmothers" are also usability gains for we geeks.

The beautiful, mouth-watering interface isn't the only reason why geeks (like myself) love Mac OS X. Geeks also love OS X because it has a Unix core, meaning us geeks could work on the command line, use our Unix tools, and do our work. Not only that, but while we are doing those things, we can be listening to songs from our iTunes collection and painting in Photoshop. The proverbial "Grandma" likes Mac OS X because she could do what she likes to do, whether it is typing a letter on Word, browsing the web on Safari, or browsing her photo collection on iPhoto, without the fuss and worrying about other things, such as going through a hard to learn interface or worrying about viruses, malware, 5cr1p7 k1dd135, and other perils of computing.

Re:Usability benefits geeks too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10047160)

"The proverbial "Grandma" likes Mac OS X because she could do what she likes to do, whether it is typing a letter on Word, browsing the web on Safari, or browsing her photo collection on iPhoto, without the fuss and worrying about ... viruses, malware, 5cr1p7 k1dd135, and other perils of computing."

The point is that we geeks also like Mac OS X for the exact same reasons. I don't know about you, but I'm a typical "Grandma"--writing emails, browsing the web, organizing photos in iPhoto--at least as much as I am a programmer.

re (4, Insightful)

computerme (655703) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046515)

And this is way I use OSX. Usability beyond compare, commercial and open source apps, java, and windows integration.

The power of Unix, the ease of use of the Mac.

OSX makes me money today with increased productivity and access to best of breed apps.

Linux may get there one day...In the mean time i need to get work done TODAY.

Dunno about you (3, Insightful)

Azureflare (645778) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046789)

But linux is already there for me (mandrake 10). The gui is very usable, and I have CXOffice for my windows app needs, as well as the OSS solutions as often as possible. I VPN into work with pptp-client, and I do work with photoshop/dreamweaver mx or bluefish/acrobat.

I find this kind of article mystifying. I find mandrake 10 to be oriented towards the end-user, for I AM an enduser. And I get work done.

I bet all the posts on this page could be found in the previous articles harping on the "linux needs to be friendly to end-users" meme; but people just haven't realized yet that there ARE distros out there which are friendly to the end-users.

Re:Dunno about you (1, Flamebait)

computerme (655703) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046931)

For you. That's great.

For anyone in the creative industry. No.
For anyone that needs Office. No. (and please don't say OpenOffice is the same)
For anyone in Video. No (please don't say GimpFinalCut is around the corner)
For anyone that wants a consistant interface. No. (copy and paste != sort of copy and sort of paste)
For anyone doing dvd production. No.
For Grandma. No.
For Photoshop Users. No. (Gimp != Photoshop)
For elementary school kids. No.
For plug and play wireless networking. No.
For people that don't want to rebuild kernals with new revs of linux. No.
For people that want features like expose and searchlite months or years before the competition. No.
For people that don't want to use Wine to run commerical apps. No.

I am happy its working out for you...for people that fit into the above, its not.

Re:Dunno about you (1)

prockcore (543967) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047126)

For anyone that needs Office. No. (and please don't say OpenOffice is the same)

Did you even read his post? He specificially mentions crossover office. You know... MS Office.

Photoshop also runs just peachy under Wine.

Re:Dunno about you (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10047159)

fuck. I just threw up. what a whore. jeezus you mac guys are getting desperate.

all that shit runs fine on windows.

expose is no better than the taskbar except in "looks and coolness".

searchlite, who knows what it is and who cares? i "search" for files once a month at most. I'm organized unlike you.

consistent interface? metal vs aqua etc.

my friends in the creative industry are buying Dells in droves. Photoshop is the same on ANY os and is better supported on Windows.

OpenOffice isn't the same as MS Office, it's BETTER.

Video? I tried to bring my home movies off my Sony digital camera into iMovie and lo and behold, iMovie won't allow me to unless I buy QuickTime Pro! iLife is a fucking LOSS-LEADER!

Same with DVD production. Buy extra shit, and lots of it. Every DVD I make with iDVD has a big-ass Apple logo on it. Nice home movies Apple. It's a fucking trojan horse ad machine.

Grandma wants Windows so when it breaks the kid next door can fix it and show her how to do stuff.

Elementary school kids get what they get, which are computers that don't cost extra because they have a glowing Apple logo and keyboard that lights up in the fucking dark.

Plug and play wireless? That's because the big companies, INCLUDING APPLE, support Broadcom ONLY if they won't release specs so the Linux guys can write their own drivers. Apple doesn't WANT Linux to work, they'd become competition!

I've used Linux 20% of the time for years, and I never rebuild my kernel. That's FUD.

And you don't need wine if you're running a $500 Dell that outpowers the best Macintosh for a tenth the price.

Plus OS X is still buggy.

Re:Dunno about you (4, Insightful)

Welsh Dwarf (743630) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047190)

Would you mind justifying your post, all I can see here is that you think this/that or the other.

From what I read, the GP post was in the creative industry, and I can't see how you justify a lot of your examples:

'For anyone in the creative industry. No.'

The GP seems to prove you wrong there. (If I(m mistaken, please flame away)

'For anyone that needs Office. No. (and please don't say OpenOffice is the same)'

OpenOffice, no but a lot of non profits and governmant agencies where I live seem to think StarOffice on Linux is just fine for their needs.

'For Grandma. No.'

Mabey, never tried, but my non-geek gf (a literature student) gets on with Mandrake 9.2 just fine, and no I'm not there 9-5 everyday fixing things.

'For elementary school kids. No.'

Because it hasn't got word? I can't see what's missing here, or mabey I'm just completely out of touch with the kids around here...

'For plug and play wireless networking. No.'

Can't comment, never used wifi at home or at work, never needed to.

'For people that don't want to rebuild kernels with new revs of linux. No.'

Have you used Linux in the last 4 years (and no, typing ls in Debian doesn't count). None of the End user orientated distros require this any more.

'For people that want features like expose and searchlite months or years before the competition. No.'

Don't know what it is so I can't comment.

'For people that don't want to use Wine to run commercial apps. No.'

Depends on what commercial apps you want to use, and I can't say that I'd pack pure wine in the same categorize as CXOffice or (purchased) cedega here.

Please tell me what I've missed.

Some errors (2, Informative)

hummassa (157160) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047240)

For anyone in the creative industry. No.

If this means what I think it means, you better go see what Maya does.

For anyone that needs Office. No. (and please don't say OpenOffice is the same)

I don't use anything Office has that OpenOffice has not. YMMV.

For anyone that wants a consistant interface. No. (copy and paste != sort of copy and sort of paste)

Copy (Ctrl-C) and Paste (Ctrl-V) both work OK in my machine. _And_ Select (left-mouse-button-drag) and Paste-Selection (middle-button-click) work too, to make some things faster.

For Grandma. No.

My Granny can't operate a Windows machine, too.

For elementary school kids. No.

My son Lucas (5yo) uses exclusively Linux on my machine (he even has his own account on it, with RonaldMcDonald bg and all) and in the last two years he learned: how to log in, how to start gcompris and his other games, and how to log out.

For plug and play wireless networking. No.

My laptop had Sarge installed on it a month ago and my USB-Drive/WiFi combo worked out of the box.

For people that don't want to rebuild kernals with new revs of linux. No.

It's been a year or two since I compiled my last kernel

ok?

Funny you should mention Mandrake... (1)

gosand (234100) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047232)

How funny you should mention Mandrake. I just downloaded and installed it this weekend on a laptop. I had previously had Knoppix installed to the hard drive. It was working great until I tried to update to KDE 3.3. I later find out "Knoppix = Debian+" and that apt-get in Knoppix (installed) doesn't work 100%. Instead of taking the suggestion to try pure Debian, I thought I'd try Mandrake. What follows is my experience installing it. I have installed several distros, and have been a Linux user since Redhat 5.something.

1. During the install, while selecting packages, the OK and Cancel buttons disappeared. I have no idea what happened. In order to finish the install, I had to tab around the screen until I found whatever button it was that would let me continue. Rather annoying. Other than that, I liked the way the install groups packages into categories. 2. Configuring X. Ugh. Why is this such a pain? Luckily, it was configurable via a GUI, where I can just choose and test options, but it is still annoying. I was installing it on a Dell Inspiron 8000, and it auto-detected it as a flat panel. I didn't see any options for a laptop, so I had to assume this would work. However, setting the resolution to 1024x768 just made it a small box in the middle of the screen. I had to set it to 1600x1400 or something crazy like that. That was the only way I could get the display to go to the edge of the screen. But now everything is unbelievably tiny. Sure, it can be configured, but I thought we were beyond those days. Knoppix seemed to get it right the very first time. Is this hardware detection closed source? Why can't other distros adopt this? Knoppix is no longer "new and revolutionary", distros should have this implemented by now. 3. Tapping the touchpad isn't recognized as a mouse click. I didn't find a mouse option for "touchpad" either. Did it not recognize it, or do I have to download something and install it? I can solve this one, but it is something I shouldn't have to worry about solving. Overall, the install was nice, except for the disappearing buttons. And the X config. Maybe those were just my issues with the laptop. I haven't really used it much, but I did download and install WINE. I tried to launch a simple program that I knew worked under Knoppix/WINE, and it failed. It said something about not being able to find Xmessage. More searching on the internet I guess. Oh, when I installed WINE, I downloaded the rpm and installed it from the command line. I had tried to launch Mandrake's software installer, but after providing the root password when it prompted me, the application never came up. I tried it a couple of times with no luck. Not sure what is going on there. At this point, if I can resolve the current issues without too much trouble, I may keep Mandrake on this laptop, but I can't say I am itching to pay money to join the Mandrake club though.

Re:re (2, Insightful)

molarmass192 (608071) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046827)

... and windows integration.

You love your Mac, fantastic, I think Apple makes some sexy hardware and OSX is a cherry OS. However, "windows integration"? How so? Using VirtualPC? That's emulation (PPC X86), hardly integration. Don't get me wrong, I dislike Windows but, for those uncomfortable situations when I'm forced to do some Win-specific work, I can launch a Win4Lin session on Linux that brings up a *native* Windows environment in about 5 seconds flat.

Re:re (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046911)

I think by "integration" he means mounting and accessing Windows Servers, and opening Word documents. I can't think of anything else I'd need to do that wouldn't require buying a PC. *cough* Games *cough*

Re:re (1)

computerme (655703) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046964)

as the other poster wrote:

accessing Windows Servers,

this is what i meant.

It's not just FOSS (5, Interesting)

SpiffyMarc (590301) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046525)

The attitude of "It works, don't care if you don't like how it works or if you think it's ugly, I like it, if you don't like it than don't use it" is not just in FOSS, it's the attitude of many, if not most, programmers. Despite what it may look like, this isn't flamebait, I'm one of these guys myself. At the company I work for, this attitude is prevalent to a degree in most of the developers. It takes someone outside their heads (and usually, pressure from someone who makes the decisions) to put a friendly face on the application, and, dare I think it, reduce or refactor functionality to present a better interface to the user.

It's not that developers aren't to blame, but rather, it's how you'd expect developers to be. What FOSS needs is a free, open-source equivalent of the QA/Validation/UI Design department.

Re:It's not just FOSS (3, Insightful)

danheskett (178529) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047097)

It's not that developers aren't to blame, but rather, it's how you'd expect developers to be. What FOSS needs is a free, open-source equivalent of the QA/Validation/UI Design department.
This is one of the things that I've always said FOSS isn't good at doing - QA/Validation/UI design.

Most FOSS programmers work on projects for the love of coding. A break from boring work projects, home life, and to show thier geek pride. A mental workout.

QA, UI design, etc are often the ultimate in repetitive drudgery. Designing and coding test frameworks for larger apps is often more challenging than coding the application to be tested. It's slow, tedious, detail orientated work. The payoff is small, measured, and non-glamorous.

The big FOSS projects - I call them the "name brand" ones - get some of this just by sheer number of volunteers. The Linux kernel. Firefox. OpenOffice to a lesser degree.

But the thousands of other projects - they get a programmer who just programs 100% of the time. A seperate volunteer to write up some minimal docs and a man page. That's it. Refactoring code to be more user-effective? Eliminating ambiguity from documentation? Producing high-quality production level software packages for many platforms? Nope. Rarely done. Why? It's the crap work that FOSS programmers are trying to avoid in the first place!

Many of the Microsoft developer bloggers have reported that they spend less than 50% of their time coding. The rest is designing and documentating, refining, refactoring. After that, it's off to a team of testers and documentators.

The point? Who wants to volunteer to work that you normally have to pay people very well to get done in the first place?

This just in... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046529)

In other breaking news, Slashdotters also discover that grass is green.

Well, duh.

This cracks me up (4, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046536)

is it time to pay more attention to end-users?(who aren't geeks)?

Welllll.. considering that without end-users IT wouldn't have a job, it does seem fairly important to pay as much attention as possible to end-users.

If you have to ask that question as an IT person, you are already a few steps behind.

Re:This cracks me up (1)

rokzy (687636) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046633)

maybe you missed the FOSS part - not very many jobs in that.

just make it work and work well. that should be enough. so long as you aren't going out of your way to make things difficult, end-users have nothing to complain about.

and even if you are going out of your way to make things difficult, they can only complain about you being a dick and not about your FOSS since you're not forcing them to use it.

Re:This cracks me up (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046805)

maybe you missed the FOSS part - not very many jobs in that

That's the point. As long as the interfaces remain sh*t, there will never be many jobs in FOSS.

Too true! (5, Interesting)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046553)

> The reason is, the motivation for open source is
> not because the person gets paid but the person
> gets prestige. The developers are designing for
> each other and they are so feature rich--geeks
> love features--and you get more prestige by adding
> features. For the average person fewer features is
> better and easier to understand.

This has been a constant battle on POPFile [sf.net] . People are forever asking me for this option, or that option, which are useful to a user community consisting of themselves and the two other people in the world who want the same thing. I've been argued with strenously for not adding various features and in general to innovating in the UI really slowly, but the lesson is clear: the average user should be guided by the software to the right behaviour. POPFile does have 100s of special options and they are available in a cfg file that a geek can get at.

The other problem with open source and GUIs are all the people who want things in very specific places. e.g. I got constant "Put button X at the top, no, put button X at the bottom, no put it at the top and bottom" type conversations. Finally, we've boiled the UI down to the things that most people like and anyone else can hack the HTML templates and make the UI just as they want it.

Overall, we've settled on:

1. Lots of flexibility exposed at the geek level
2. The every day functionality exposed in the UI.

There's still a lot to do to make POPFile's UI really friendly, but the biggest lesson has been to resist the power users when it comes to adding UI widgets.

John.

Too true!-The Pleasure Principle. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10047035)

Three things that help make the conflict easier. Highly modular design with good API's. A good scripting capability properly exposed. And plugins, plugins, plugins.

You can't please everyone, but you can make it easier for people to please themselves.

Depends... (4, Insightful)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046555)

Is it time to pay more attention to end-users?(who aren't geeks)

Most OSS is written by geeks as a personal hobby - just because they like writing code.

IMHO and experience, designing and implementing a GUI is one of the more boring, cumbersome and uninteresting parts of programming, something like writing office or business applications (atleast for me).

I don't see why a hobbyist would do something he didn't like.

Re:Depends... (5, Insightful)

zangdesign (462534) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046643)

There is no reason for a hobbyist to do go to the trouble of making a gui for end-users.

However, many people do FOSS development as a means of creating software to supplant commercial software, or as a means of creating new ideas in software. Those are the ones that should be paying attention to non-geek end-user needs. Furthermore, those that wish to be taken seriously as developers for end-user solutions need to do so as well.

A lot of it comes down to understanding who you're writing software for. If it's for yourself, who cares? If it's to attract other users, then you have to consider your target audience and if the audience includes the basic non-geek user, then you need to plan for their needs.

Time for some Nick Burns (3, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046561)

At times like these, it can be helpful to watch a little Nick Burns [bakermedia.com] (Your Company's Computer Guy).

He fixes your computer, and then he's gonna make fun of you.

Who? (5, Funny)

MyShinyMetalAss (788814) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046563)

Who are these 'end users' you speak of?

How to serve customers (1)

yow2000 (763256) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047243)

I, for one, welcome our new overlord end users.

They are delicious.

"Poor OSS UIs" (4, Interesting)

harmonica (29841) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046577)

I think the state of OSS GUIs is better than he claims. A lot of work with regard to usability has gone into the major (!) projects like Gnome or KDE. That still does leave us with quite a few crappy OSS GUIs, but it doesn't really make sense to try to come up with some average value in this case.

A study on this could be interesting.

Usability (2, Insightful)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046600)

Really, I think end-user usability is an area for companies like redhat, mandrake, suse, etc. (even Lindows). Not that it wouldn't be great if more programmers were able to consider the non-geek users of their programs (or if they have trouble doing that, getting someone to help), but honestly, that's not the real way good usability with open source programs is going to develop. Companies like redhat are the ones that are really capable of pulling together hundreds of open source projects and making a product unified enough that a non-geek can manage it. Sure, there are non-commercial distros like Debian that do a good job at this, but it requires a lot of volunteer work and I would argue the end result of distros like Debian still isn't appropriate for many "regular users" (not that I'm putting down Debian, there are plenty of advantages to it and it's actually my distro of choice).

Cloners (5, Interesting)

Donny Smith (567043) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046601)

From TFA:

========
The second problem is that open source when they turn to the general tools they tend to be in the line of "let's implement what we already know" so they will take Microsoft Office and they will clone it. Since we've been criticising Microsoft for years for cloning Apple it is only fair to criticise open source for cloning Microsoft. The point being that you don't move ahead but you have to do something new.
========

Very nicely said - he's not the first or the last to say this, but I am puzzled how many in the OSS community and on /. still dispute that view.

Of course, that is not only obvious but potentially dangerous from the legal perspective.
If/when OSS software gets close to endangering some big commercial software, I think this cloning thing will be the first the ISV will present to the court.

BTW, the Pope said something against cloning yesterday - was he complaining about OSS?

Re:Cloners (2, Insightful)

wings (27310) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046983)

I don't see an easy solution, because if you don't clone, then reviewers and users complain that the app is missing feature X, or that it works differently than in Microsoft Office, and therefore the app unuseable or unsuitable. If you do clone, then the critisism is about perpetuating the bad UI. If you offer the feature, but change the UI, then the complaints are that the learning curve is too high.

Which is the better of the evils?

Re:Cloners (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047032)

Ok, lets start writing some OSS software, so that things are free..

For starters, well make it really usable, by making it nothing like anything anyone has ever seen, word processor.. puff... I'm going to have an fully heuristic based, hierarchical machine intenegance that is voice and gesture operated. And I'm going to run it on a 386 with 4mb of ram..

Then I'm going to invent a whole new language to speek to my machine in, because I wouldn't want to clone any of the existing languages.

Could he be anymore wrong? (5, Insightful)

SilentStrike (547628) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046605)

From the article...
The developers are designing for each other and they are so feature rich--geeks love features--and you get more prestige by adding features.
Could he be anymore wrong on this? I am totally the opposite. Give me minimal over bloated anyday. What am I running now? fluxbox, irssi, pine, gaim, firefox. I guess gaim and firefox are rather large programs, but firefox itself is a leaner mozilla... and gaim at least isn't distractingly bloated, where the interface gets in the way of wanting to just send some IMs.

Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046608)

What's a foss?

Re:Hmm... (2, Informative)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046830)

FOSS = Free Open Source Software

Why do you need to ask this? (4, Insightful)

pixelgeek (676892) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046632)

Sorry but the fact that this question still needs to be asked is a damning criticism of FOSS development.

Despite aiming to extend the reach of FOSS distros into the desktop developers still write software that most users can't use.

This gets brought to the community's attention quite frequently and despite this the core point remains unexamined and unanswered:

Geeks who write FOSS software aren't the ultimate market for those tools (or at least they aren't if you want to help spread FOSS) and until tools and software is written for a broader market then Linux will remain a server OS.

And while we're at it can we all drop phrases like "Joe User" and its ilk? Perjorative terms describing what is your actual target market don't help you create better software for them.

"Joe User" != pejorative (2, Insightful)

sczimme (603413) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047086)


And while we're at it can we all drop phrases like "Joe User" and its ilk? Perjorative terms describing what is your actual target market don't help you create better software for them.

"Joe User" is not a pejorative term. "Joe Luser would be, as would "Joe RatB*st*rd", but there is nothing inherently negative in "Joe User". He represents the canonical end-user (go figure) who doesn't care about how the computer works so long as it does. Actually, when it doesn't work he still doesn't care about the inner workings, he just wants the IT guy to get in there and fix it. This, believe it or not, is a completely reasonable approach.

Lighten up, Francis.

Step 1 is easy. (5, Insightful)

Murmer (96505) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046634)

Step 1) For the love of God, stop making skinned applications. Use the UI-consistent widgets, they're dirt cheap, I promise. Skinned apps make me want to scrape my eyes out.

Is it time to pay more attention to end-users? (5, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046652)

....asks Hemos as he blinds us with another blast of beige-on-white text...

Was talking about this just last night. (3, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046658)

Just last night my wife and I where talking (read "arguing") about this.

To give a little background, we're going to be expanding our suso.org web hosting business to start offering Linux Support and prebuilt Linux systems in Bloomington. We'll be opening our office early next month.

She is worried that most people's expectations for functionality will be too high and will just end up throwing their machines away. However, we understand that Linux isn't for everybody yet and that we will have to turn somepeople away for the time being because they will have too high of expectations out of it. For instance, say that a family comes by and wants to by a new family PC so that the kids can play games and the parents can do their taxes, word processing and look at all those multimedia attachments that their family sends them. We'll we'll have to be up front with them and let them know that Linux probably isn't for them because those kids aren't going to be able to play off the shelf games yet (without fooling around with wine a lot or vmware) and they would get frustrated when some of those cute attachments don't work. Or TurboTax doesn't work.

That all said, I feel that OSS has come far enough that it is ready for the first batch of non-technical adopters. You know, the ones that like to tinker around with the latest technology.

Hmm... look at this guy (2, Funny)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046662)

He's so predictable he's even got a drinking game [rc3.org] I think that means he's got high levels of usability.

His web site? [useit.com]

well, just take a look. /. games section [slashdot.org] has a better choice of colours.

anyhow, enough of that.

This guy could do to take a look at OSS for a change and stop contradicting himself (familiarity is good, oh, but don't clone)....

kde look [kde-look.org] has got more usability hanging off of it than, well, Nielsen I suppose.

OSS Firefox has create standards support (not excellent though), which is really handy if you trying to design a web site for dis/abled people.

Maybe OpenOffice does have more features than Office, but can't you just turn them off, or ignore them. Maybe I can preview sounds in Konquror, but not in Explorer. Maybe were all pissed of with the likes of Microsoft and Nielsen trying to dumb the world down, to the point where people stop thinking all together.

Most kids are coming through school with a high level of computer literacy, I'm sure even the ones who aren't geeks can get to grips with a Mandrake install.

Jakob Nielsen, shut the fuck up and fix you web site, and try to practise what you preach, before telling other what to do.

Re:Hmm... look at this guy (1)

dmh20002 (637819) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046794)

I agree. Jakob Nielsen is all about self promotion. You too can have usability if you will just pay him $$$$ for his seminars and consulting. He has a vested interest in trashing anything he didn't have a hand in.

Re:Hmm... look at this guy (2, Informative)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046838)

I thought I'd take a better look at the "the king of usability" [useit.com]

Lets do a little search [mondosearch.com] on his web site. (very important).

Search: things I should do
Categories: 7 categories
Found: 475 pages
Count: 126 pages contain all 4 search words

Cool 7 chategories, can you tell me what they are so I don't have to scrole all the way through the page... cheers....

(they could be put in the empty space to the right)

The layout:

A list with 4 vertical headings, .
1: white space between headings and data is too large.
2: Headings are too techincal for Joe user,Found and Count? what's going on there.

3: "Categories: 7 categories. " Yes, I know there categories, you don't have to tell me twice.

Categories: 7. Is better, and more gramaticly correct.(not that my gramma is greate, but then I'm not the king of usability).

4: Found + count, again. Just combine the two you fool.

5: why not just combine the whole lot

Label data

Searched for 'things I should do'.
475 pages were found accross 7 categories.

Ok, enough of that, now look at the source.

No doc-type, well done the king.
Look at the body tag, those BGCOLOR, LINK, ALINK etc.. attributes should be in the CSS, Mr King.

Look a bit further down, FIXED WIDTH Mr King, Haven't you read bobby and 503 like any self respecting web guru.

Ok,no more, it's too fucking horrible for words.

Re:Hmm... look at this guy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046844)

I label thee "stereotypical FOSS person"

Previewing sounds in Konqueror is a feature, not usability
Having all those features enabled by default in OO.o, cluttering up the place, is not usable.

What's wrong with his Website? Looks nice to me - simple layout, clear differentiation between dynamic and static data, search box well-placed, headline stands out, and no seizures from looking at it.

kde-look... man, that's confusing. Too many choices, some instances of dark text on a dark background (thank heavens for my new monitor), and it's designed around a minimum resolution. Yuck. Not the worst I've seen, but far from good.

Re:Hmm... look at this guy (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046884)

1: Usability is a feature, and features can be usability.

If I'm blind then the previewing of sounds when I more the cursor over them is 100% usability.

If I can't be bothered to click on the files to play them then previewing of sounds is 100% usability.

If I've been out of the piss all night and can't manage to work XMMS then previewing sounds is 100% usability.

Anyhow, lets look at his 'perfect' web site......

I thought I'd take a better look at the "the king of usability" [useit.com]

Lets do a little search [mondosearch.com] on his web site. (very important).

Search: things I should do
Categories: 7 categories
Found: 475 pages
Count: 126 pages contain all 4 search words

Cool 7 categories, can you tell me what they are so I don't have to scroll all the way through the page... cheers....

(they could be put in the empty space to the right)

The layout:

A list with 4 vertical headings, .
1: white space between headings and data is too large.
2: Headings are too technical for Joe user,Found and Count? what's going on there.

3: "Categories: 7 categories. " Yes, I know there categories, you don't have to tell me twice.

Categories: 7. Is better, and more grammatically correct.(not that my grammar is great, but then I'm not the king of usability).

4: Found + count, again. Just combine the two you fool.

5: why not just combine the whole lot

Label data

Searched for 'things I should do'.
475 pages were found across 7 categories.

Ok, enough of that, now look at the source.

No doc-type, well done the king.
Look at the body tag, those BGCOLOR, LINK, ALINK etc.. attributes should be in the CSS, Mr King.

Look a bit further down, FIXED WIDTH Mr King, Haven't you read bobby and 503 like any self respecting web guru.

Ok,no more, it's too fucking horrible for words.

Re:Hmm... look at this guy (2, Informative)

Ruggiero (597572) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047021)

Too many people are confusing being easy to use and being "pretty" and bitching at Nielsen's website because they don't like the colors or whatever (I don't like them either)--but face it, if you can't find anything on his website easily then you're just a dumbass. The two columns are clearly labelled and all the imformation is stacked in a logical manner.

There are waaay too many pages out there where everything looks nice and smooth but finding information is just a pain in the ass. Maybe Nielsen sucks at graphic design, but at least he knows usability. I'm not saying to completely disregard graphic design--instead, find a way to follow both disciplines at the same time.

Re:Hmm... look at this guy (2, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047157)

Ok, read my followup post. The guys a monkey.

Asthetics is an important part of usability, and can be worked out techinically with no need for 'graphics design'

If something looks tactile then the user is going to try an use it.

If something looks 'gareish' then the user is going to avoid looking at it.

If something is large, then it's going to draw the users attention.

If something flashes (like a TV) then the users brain is going to think that it is a possible danger (a panther just about to pounce) and the user will look at it.

Calming sympathetic colours or voilent clashing colours set off moods in the brain, this will then make the user tend toward one form of operation.

If you make good green and red bad then people tend to pick more extream values than if there was no colouring. (try it).

etc.... Colour is just as much a part of usability as making sure the letters read left to right for english readers.

Usability is a big deal! (5, Insightful)

bigberk (547360) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046691)

Apache [apache.org] impressed people with its English-style configuration directives that have influenced other developers to switch to such logical formats. Another example: the Postfix MTA [postfix.org] is becoming more popular and many users say they enjoy using it because of the straightforward configuration, compared to the m4 mess of sendmail [sendmail.org] . "It has to be complicated to be powerful" is no longer an excuse.

The beauty of ... (3, Insightful)

Laser Lou (230648) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046702)

free/open source software is that the original developer does not have to focus on the user interface; Since the code is freely available for modification, someone else with better UI skills can improve it.

Is it time to pay more attention to end-users? (1, Funny)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046737)

Let themk write their own damn software.

Re:Is it time to pay more attention to end-users? (2, Funny)

mhesseltine (541806) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047104)

Let
themk write their own damn software.

Would that include a spelling-checker?

Re:Is it time to pay more attention to end-users? (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047262)

Yes, they should. I've measured the keys on this keyboard, and the M and K keys are fully 39 feet, 2 7/8th inches apart. There is no way in the world that this mistake could be due to say, my fingers being fat or sloppy, rather than the obvious explanation which is: I don't know how to spell "them" properly.

Worse than just a spelling error though, I committed the unforgivable sin of making my post impossible to understand. The variations in meaning for english words like this are enormous, and by including that errant "k" I caused the entire nation of Themkia to think that I, and by extension all americans, am anti-themkic. The people of Themkia have suffered from discrimination and degradation for far too long to put up with this one last insult.

Please forgive me.

Jakob Nielsen lacks insight (3, Insightful)

hey (83763) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046751)

This guy has a big UI name but this "genious" paint all open source with the same brush. Personally I think Apache has best GUI every - its easy to read flat file. Open Office, KDE, Gnome are very polisished but lots of stuff isn't.

Delicate balance (2, Insightful)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046765)

If you churn out idiotware you will invariably lose the interest of developer types, and the end result might be less code.

Also, the reality is that people need to think more like computers. You cannot be a blathering idiot and expect and optimal experience from any piece of electronics or software. Don't cite OSX or Windows, they also manifest deep system details at high levels.

Yes we can hide, obscure and wrap in metaphors, but this implies a loss of control, which I am not sure most of the actual users of this code want.

Re:Delicate balance (1)

ormoru (121922) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046961)

ever notice that the world is FULL of idiots? Shouldn't you try to have as large a customer base as possible? This would be the difference between base options and advanced options - don't let the idiots get to the things they shouldn't but have them there for those who have a clue to use.

As for people thinking more like computers - you should be shoved off a short pier. Computers are tools, to be used by people. I don't think like a car (or have to) to drive one. Same thing for console games - any moron can put in a cartridge (cd, dvd, whatever) and press 'Power' and play a game. Maybe not well, but they can function in the environment.

Re:Delicate balance (1)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047150)

ever notice that the world is FULL of idiots? Shouldn't you try to have as large a customer base as possible?

Unabashed NO!

Most of the people in the US can't drive a stick, but if you want a BMW M5 to perform optimally you had better learn!

I would rather have performant software that meets my needs, and judging by the number of linux/gnome users out there, many others feel the same.

For everyone else there already is Windows. I want an alternative to Windows, not a clone.

Re:Delicate balance (1)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047291)

Also, the reality is that people need to think more like computers.
01010100011010000110010100100000011101110110100001 10111101101100011001010010000001110000011011110110 10010110111001110100001000000110111101100110001000 00011010000110000101110110011010010110111001100111 00100000011000110110111101101101011100000111010101 11010001100101011100100111001100100000011010010111 00110010000001110011011011110010000001110100011010 00011000010111010000100000011100000110010101101111 01110000011011000110010100100000011001000110111101 10111000100111011101000010000001101000011000010111 01100110010100100000011101000110111100100000011101 00011010000110100101101110011010110010000001101001 01101110001000000111010001100101011100100110110101 11001100100000011011110110011000100000011000110110 11110110110101110000011011000110010101111000001000 00011000110110000101101100011000110111010101101100 01100001011101000110100101101111011011100111001100 101110
Translate here [nickciske.com]

Cloning Microsoft (5, Insightful)

linguae (763922) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046802)

The second problem is that open source when they turn to the general tools they tend to be in the line of "let's implement what we already know" so they will take Microsoft Office and they will clone it. Since we've been criticising Microsoft for years for cloning Apple it is only fair to criticise open source for cloning Microsoft. The point being that you don't move ahead but you have to do something new.

Good point taken. I hope I'm no troll or flamebait here, but have you seen KDE or GNOME lately, as well as their applications? They almost look like replications of the Windows interface. Isn't leaving Windows and learning something new part of the "benefits" of switching to Open Source? I think that the Open Source developers should build a brand new interface from the ground up, that is different from the other interfaces out there, but also useable enough so that way non-geeks would be able to use it with minimal trouble.

What I mean is this. Say you're a hypothetical non-geek Windows user who is using KDE or GNOME. You notice that the interfaces look very, very similar; the minimize/maximize/close buttons are in the same spot, the bar where your applications go works quite similar, and everything has a bit of familiarity. But say you want to go further. Then you'll hit some rough spots, because KDE/GNOME doesn't work exactly like Windows does, even though it looks very similar to it.

But what if I gave that same user a completely different user interface, one that the user has no experience in. Yes, the user would have to learn how to use the new interface, but if the interface is well designed enough for usability, the user will master most, if not, all of the aspects of the user interface in very little time. Plus, because the interface doesn't look like anything that he or she seen before, the user wouldn't expect "well, it worked here in this environment, so it should work the same way here."

Re:Cloning Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046912)

windows users barely notice the rough spots.

its akin to clingin on to the back of a train.

Re:Cloning Microsoft (2, Insightful)

Mornelithe (83633) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047106)

While the point about not straight-cloning an interface may be a good one, what do you suggest?

"OSS should stop cloning MS and do something completely different, only it should be more usable." That's great, do you have any visionary ideas? How many ways are there to make a word processor or e-mail client work?

As for your window buttons example, you can put them wherever you want on the window. By default they're where they are on Windows presumably to take advantage of user familiarity. You can have as many panels as you want and put them wherever you want, and have buttons or start menus or whatever. You can even remove all desktop icons and have a right-click menu like fluxbox in KDE. Or you can turn off the desktop all together.

So, is your suggestion that the default setup should be arbitrarily different from MS? Or should people magically come up with totally revolutionary ideas? Then the projects will get flamed because "it's too hard for people to learn to use."

Re:Cloning Microsoft (2, Informative)

Dracolytch (714699) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047178)

Well, you have two problems.

The first you already mentioned: re-training. Let's face it: people don't want to spend the time, and businesses don't want to spend the money on re-training. It's a royal pain in the butt.

The second problem is one that's a bit more difficult to change. The fact is, the current methods of interfacing with Windows have proven themselves effective technologies. Bad user interface pratices have gone by the wayside, while newer ones (start-bars, etc.) have taken precidence.

So, not only would you have to create a whole new interface, your new interface would have to be superior for people to want to switch over to it. An exceptionally difficult challenge, to be sure.

~D

Re:Cloning Microsoft (1)

jtpalinmajere (627101) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047251)

While I agree that the cloning option stifles any kind of exploratory drive for people moving to new software, I would disagree that learning something new is any kind of benifit in and of itself. If I were to learn "underwater basketweaving", which is just as foreign a concept to me as reading heiroglyphics, I daresay that I would not have benefitted in any way for having learned it. There has to be purpose behind learning something new that makes it beneficial.

Also you have to note that companies like Microsoft and Apple have spent years upon years doing interface useability/likeability research and have both come up with and refined their product. Essentially the FOSS community is so behind in doing their own independent research that they simply HAVE to rely on the research done by others as a starting place. The conclusions (and thus interface design) may end up different, but there will be so many similarities that it will seem like 'cloning' in most places. The only way to get away from the 'cloning' is to do your own independent research with existing research as a basis and years down the road we will finally see something that is sleek, usable, consistent, and yet noticably different from the other options.

Then of course there's the beast of familiarity. Even if years from now the FOSS has a dream interface it will still have to rival with the familiarity of the Windows and Apple platforms to existing users. You have to find some way to convince them to come out of their nice, cozy comfort zone. This means that in addition to a very refined interface standard, the FOSS has to remain better (power/efficiency/security wise) at doing job X than the other platforms.

It is not an impossible feat by any means, but it won't be a cakewalk either as it would likely mean some sort of consolidation of all the existing distros and applications where all functionality is dealt with comprehensively by a very small set of "standard" applications. BTW, application choice is often an interface problem that is often overlooked... and the "good" interface tends to defy the general feeling of most FOSS devs/supporters of "give me options and my ability to change them how I see fit"

8-Ball Nielsen (5, Insightful)

rokali (785706) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046822)

This guy keeps saying the same things over and over again. Why anybody would pay him $10,000 (his starting price) to review their site is beyond me. Instead, someone should make an 8-ball with his 30 stock tips in it: "Don't have a link to the homepage on the homepage." "Don't have dark text on a dark background." "Have a search field in plain sight on the homepage." "Make your pages liquid." and so forth

n/t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046847)

Once upon a time, Kris Kringle stole a beat-up Maverick parked by my house
He used a screwdriver to jimmy the lock
After that, he then jumped into the stolen car and started up the motor
He drove away the stolen car in hot pursuit

Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle was a car thief

Kris Kringle sped down West Fullerton Avenue in hot pursuit looking for hookers
He was firewalling the throttle
When the Chicago police officers spotted the stolen Maverick as it zoomed past them, they turned on their siren
Then they went after the beat-up stolen Maverick

Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle was a car thief

The police pulled Kris Kringle over
Kris Kringle tried to escape from the police
He was arrested for auto theft
He was whisked away to jail

Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle was a car thief

Kris Kringle was a car thief

Kris Kringle was a car thief
Kris Kringle was a car thief

Mitsubishi, the word is getting around

Venus.. (0, Offtopic)

BaronGanut (780013) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046857)

Everyone know those venus people are stupid anyway

Jon "Dr. Phil" Hall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10046858)

There's no way I'd name a keynote address after a pop psychology book like "Men are from Mars". If nothing else, I'd worry that people think I like that book, or (worse) would give my own ideas the same amount of credibility. Don't get me wrong -- I love Maddog and think he's a great icon for the community. More like the Santa Claus than the Dr. Phil, though. And certainly more lovable than that mean ol' ESR.

Bloody Soviets... (2, Funny)

McDutchie (151611) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046864)

from the editing-text-files-suck dept.

Oh yeah?? Well, my editing text files rock! You had better believe it, or they might just edit you!

(Guess that's one way to solve the end user problem...)

Nah (3, Interesting)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046888)

Is it time to pay more attention to end-users?(who aren't geeks)

No, just keep writing software like you always have, with astoundingly complicated UIs, impossibly obscure configuration options (when it's not just a damn text file buried under /etc or ~/) and completely non-standard behavior that throws people who've used other GUIs off to hell.

Yeah, the software is "cool" because it has that neat bayesian algorithm that was harrrd to implement in Malbolge and it's "free", so that must make it better. Anyone who complains can either a) Go to hell b) Write their own version; c) Submit a patch; d) Ask for their money back; or b) STFU.

Keep copying Apple and Microsoft and everyone else instead of coming up with your own UI designs (badly, too), while snickering at said companies on Slashdot and IRC.

That's fine. Just don't yell at me when I question your claims that your app is "ready for the desktop" and is "better" than what the "evil proprietary" companies can come up with.

Make a difference (2, Insightful)

Maljin Jolt (746064) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046945)

Is it time to pay more attention to end-users?

It depends on your target audience. For a specialized library maintainer, a user means another specialist in coding.

But some people do not care about others in normal life, why shoud we expect from such to be different in software design? If you are a nerdish geek, you don't value a distorted reality of Clicky'n'Picky ordinal users much high. So there is a need to develop some spiritual qualities, empathy and compassion. Without these, there is no mastery of any craft, not only of software. Craftsmanship maybe, but no mastery.

But certainly I never had compassion for corporations and corporate users. They understand only money. Let them pay for features they want.

God yes... (4, Insightful)

Dracolytch (714699) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046954)

Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes.

As a software engineer myself, I find the lack of attention to the user interface with end users (even other geeks) terrible.

Let's face it: I don't have the time or energy to learn the ins and outs of all the possible software out there. 90% of the time, I want the base functionality, and don't want to have to learn how to set 10 things, just because I want to do 1.

I'm sorry, but most of you programmers that think that an effective user interface isn't important are either ignorant, lazy, or both.

Take a User Interfaces class. Not only will your end-products improve, but you will also get some insight as to how other users may be thinking, and what they're looking for.

The most important thing you need to do before you begin the act of creating anything is to Understand Your Audience. I guaruntee, your audience will not follow the same thought processes you do.

~D

We need to make UIs easy to code (4, Insightful)

iabervon (1971) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046962)

UI designers aren't any more likely than programmers to hate their work and never want to do anything similar in their spare time. The reason that OSS projects don't usually have UI designers as regular contributors is the amount of knowledge necessary to change a program's UI that isn't in the standard graphic design curriculum. In the commercial world, UI designers generally work by having the authority to tell programmers what to do; in the OSS world, they have no way to get this authority, because they don't have the skills for the entry-level gathering of respect.

In order to have good UIs, we need to involve people who can design them. In order to involve them, we have to empower them to make patches on their own. And that means arranging for UI coding to be completely obvious, and separate from the inner workings of the program.

Usability is absolutely unimportant to my goals (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 10 years ago | (#10046995)

My goal is to have a system that works for what I need it to do. Therefore, for me as an individual, it will never be time to take up arms with a crowd of usability experts and make Linux more user friendly. I can do what I need on it. If your goal is to push Linux onto other people's desktops, then yes, it is time to do that.

The only REAL benefit that I see to that is a restoration of competition in the desktop market, not the destruction of M$. The industry could benefit from a real 3 or more desktop market. It could also benefit from a 3 or more processor market. For that matter, it could benefit from a market where not everyone must speak Intel in order to succeed.

The TRUE benfit will come when everyone communicates to each other using open standards, and the choice of platform becomes a real choice again. Open Source is a good idea, but the whole thing will suck just as bad if everyone uses Linux as it does now when everyone uses Windows.

How to code usability (1)

Bandit0013 (738137) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047020)

My company focuses on applications that are very easy to use. To achieve this we jam two concepts into our developer's heads:

1. Have a goal of the average person being able to figure out how to use a feature without any documentation.

We achieve this by turning a few users loose in our test bed, giving them a task to accomplish, and seeing how they go about it.

2. If it is a complex feature that requires some documentation, it should be designed so a user can figure it out in less than 10 minutes.

If you can't do #1 or #2, you need to shift your thinking. Yeah, this causes alot of pain to some developers, because in general developers have a pretty hard wired way of thinking of things. But in the end we get high praise from our end users about how intuitive and clean our interfaces are.

The Geek Paradox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10047103)

Linux and most FOSS software is for geeks, plain and simple. Now, with FOSS trying to compete with commerical grade end-user apps, this creates a paradox for the developer: if I dumb it down for the end-user, why the hell would I still want to use it? Also, most Mac OSX guys (myself included) use Mac OSX mainly as a jab in Microsoft's eye, or because they're a freakin' Mac zealot.

The point is, is that innovative consumer (grandma) grade apps will be very difficult for the FOSS community to develop, because FOSS developers build apps for other nerds who want more functionality (especially low-level access) that your average consumer would not need or want. Think of a distro of Linux that is as dumbed down as Windows... Would you use that distro? Would you even want to create it?

My two cents...

Chicken or Egg? (2, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 10 years ago | (#10047108)

Being the old-fart that I am, (ok I'm just 30 but I feel like an old fart) I started with BBS's, a 300 baud modem and a C=64 around 1986.

I eagerly upgraded to a 386DX/40 and started using DOS v5.

From there I went to Win3.11 and then an addon called Dashboard (made by HP IIRC).

All this time my computer and UI upgrades were fun, and something that I looked forward to.

Then I tried Win95. Ack, I hated it. I couldn't uninstall it quick enough.

I got used to Win95 (never really "liked" it), and followed to upgrade path like everyone else.

Win98 was better, Win2k was good. I enjoyed how 'tight & clean' everything felt, and I still thinks it's the best looking OS that MS made (including XP in classic mode).

XP (default) made me gag, and I couldn't change the settings quick enough.

I have always 'tweaked' my OS (from DOS days of hacking the io.sys, msdos.sys, and command.com, all the way through till now)

I have tried using most of the linux distro's and it feels anymore like it's just more work to try to turn all crap off that Joe-Programmer "thinks" that Suzie-Soccermom will like.* I have tried using a Mac,and I don't like it. I have heard that it's the best UI for folks who have never used a PC before, and I must admit that this 'old-fart' won't ever touch it if he has the choice.

Anyhow back to my point, I left it somewhere around here. I have recently tried using iTunes.

Untill now I have been using WinAmp v1.8 and then I moved on to FooBar2000.

Tight, small, simple, no fluff. I loved that program, but I thought i'd try something new.

iTunes:

It's great for searching, (even better if you have good ID3 tags)

I still need to learn/use it more, but I think I like it. (The secret is to forget that the DOS world ever existed, don't you dare use Windows Explorer to do anything usefull, and be a Suzie-Soccermom x For Dummies idiot.)

But other then that, I think I like it.

What I want to know: Am I just an old-fart who is stuck in his Carmudgenly ways, or are good UI options being dropped in favor of candy-coloured eye-goop, that serves no enhancement of the computing experience other then the "I wanna see if it can do this" mentality?

*I have tried using XFCE but I couldn't figure out how do do much. The terminal with vi & links & mutt were more intuitive. =)

What needs to come first: A geek writing for a geek. An artist who see the vision that the original geek wrote. Or a geek writing for his sister. (not mother, that is why we have all this eye-candy and Help-Wizards)

My vote: leave the art for the artists
the code for the programmers,
and the easy to read files for the hackers to hack.

Between those 3,a good combination will be met.

ta3o (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10047116)

time I'M done her;e,
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