GNOME and the way forward
Posted Aug 18, 2005 2:43 UTC (Thu) by coulamac
In reply to: GNOME and the way forward
Parent article: GNOME and the way forward
Deciding what the boundary line for "too simple" is the tricky part of what you're saying. Different users will have different boundaries for as simple as possible/too simple.
This trickiness is compounded by figuring out who gets to decide what is "as simple as possible." The developers and maintainers do, of course, but as this article pointed out, if the developers and maintainers do not listen to their user base, the project might fail. So, who do the developers listen to?
That is, who is the targeted user base? If it is the power user, you might end up bewildering the casual user with too many options, bells, and whistles. If it is the casual computer user (i.e. non "power" user), then a simple desktop without too many distracting options is a good thing. Even some power users find this refreshing.
Some users, especially power users, on the other hand, enjoy fiddling with their desktop until it's just right. These users will become frustrated with the very simple desktop targeted at casual users. It appears that some vocal LWN readers (and many KDE users) fall into this latter group.
The next question is how you satisfy both groups. GNOME has tried (and at least partially failed, obviously) to satisfy the power users by placing many configuration options in a place hidden from the casual user but hopefully accessible to the power user: gconf-editor. Whether it is the fact that these options are partially hidden or whether it is the design of gconf-editor, power users do not appear to be satisfied. If it is the latter, one would hope that some power users would pitch in to make gconf-editor more user-friendly to the power users. It should also be noted that there are other, very under-publicized GNOME tools out there for the power user. See GNOME Power User Tools.
Lastly, making everything configurable-- even with hidden configuration options-- comes at a cost to the developers and can make the software unusable. See an article by Havoc Pennington with a section entitled The Question of Preferences. See also the recent blog by Matthias Ettrich, the founder of KDE, regarding having too many preference options, with the header entitled Configurability. So, having "too many" options (whatever that is) is also not the answer.
Getting the desktop just right for both casual users and power users is very, very tricky. OSX seems to do this well, by all reports. Does anyone have any insight as to why?
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