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Ubuntu debates usability changes

Ubuntu debates usability changes

Posted Mar 5, 2009 1:27 UTC (Thu) by ctwise (guest, #10952)
Parent article: Ubuntu debates usability changes

Coherent design requires coherent vision. Committees are lousy at it. Engineers want black-and-
white guidelines but design is opinion. And good luck getting the open source community to agree
on something as vague as an opinion. Linux has been lucky to have a "benevolent dictator". I don't
see Gnome agreeing to the same thing.


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Ubuntu debates usability changes

Posted Mar 5, 2009 4:35 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668) [Link]

Perhaps the Gnome project should adopt the process used in architecture.

There are a huge number of stakeholders in a significant building (the client, neighborhood, city government, tenants, etc) and they all want a say in the building's design. But if the building was actually designed by comittee, it'd be atrocious. So instead a single architect (or a small team) is hired to produce the best design for everyone.

Meetings are held with all the stakeholders and they provide their input, and the requirements are then turned over to the architect who tries to fulfill as many as possible while maintaining a unified design. During the process, designs are produced and shown to the stakeholders, who provide more feedback.

For very large or high-profile projects the architect is chosen through a design competition.

The idea is that even if everyone is not completely satisfied, they all had the opportunity to provide their input (assuming the process isn't railroaded, which doesn't always happen, of course) and therefore have some ownership, but the design-by-committee problem is avoided.

Ubuntu debates usability changes

Posted Mar 5, 2009 21:39 UTC (Thu) by lab (subscriber, #51153) [Link]

Very smart observation, and I think you are absolutely right. I suspect the ideal designteam consists of 1 (one) person, up to a maximum of 3.

Ubuntu debates usability changes

Posted Mar 7, 2009 12:10 UTC (Sat) by rwmj (subscriber, #5474) [Link]

This is about usability, and usability is definitely not an opinion. You can measure it - it's tedious and can be expensive, but you can measure it, you can compare different choices objectively, there are even formulae based on human perception and abilities that you can apply.

Ubuntu debates usability changes

Posted Mar 12, 2009 13:42 UTC (Thu) by renox (subscriber, #23785) [Link]

[[ This is about usability, and usability is definitely not an opinion. You can measure it ]]

This is a gross over-simplification: you can measure it on a certain population okay, but I doubt that all the participants in the discussion prioritize in the same order the needs of different target population..

Ubuntu debates usability changes

Posted Mar 13, 2009 10:07 UTC (Fri) by linuxrocks123 (subscriber, #34648) [Link]

<Cue my standard rant about HCI>

Usability most certainly /is/ an opinion. Yes, you can have people in white coats in a lab stand over people while they try to use whatever new interface you came up with and you can time how long it took them to figure out what to do. That tells you approximately zero about how good your user interface is.

Why? Because a person has to learn how to use your interface exactly once. A person usually has to use your interface much more than once. So, you should optimize a user interface for speed, not intuitiveness. Once people have figured out how to use your interface, they won't have to do so again, and they'll want to use your interface to interact with the program as quickly as possible. This is why vi is, in my view, one of the most usable programs ever written.

"But wait!", you say. "Nontechnical users might never figure out how to use your program in the first place if it's not intuitive!" That's absolutely right, which is why so many nontechnical users use text editors other than vi. So, you have to trade off between intuitiveness and literal "usability" in your UI design.

What's the appropriate weight of each of these factors in the tradeoff? Well, uh ... it's an OPINION! My opinion is that I want the programs I use to have intuitiveness weighted at 0 and usability at 100%, because I'm smart enough to learn from and patient enough to read a manual when I encounter a new program, and I don't want the speed at which I am able to use that program to be negatively affected by those who lack my intelligence or patience. I do not suffer fools gladly.

An emphasis on usability as opposed to intuitiveness was part of what attracted me to Linux in the first place. I had experience with DOS and wondered, "Why does Linux use 'cp' instead of 'copy'? 'copy' is more intuitive!", and was then able to answer myself, "because 'cp' is fewer characters, of course!" Open source developers tend to write software that they wish to use; since they are intimately familiar with their own software, this promotes the development of usable and not intuitive interfaces. I like that.

However, I am exactly one user, and I have no more moral right to dictate the design of software I am (generally) not paying for than the fools I do not wish to suffer. Interface design is a judgment call that each individual project will have to make based on the type of user the project wishes to attract.

They should remember I'll probably give more informative bug reports :p

</end rant>


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