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Author Topic: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it  (Read 5859 times)

mouser

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I'm just making my way through this, but i like what i'm reading.. Not exactly mind-blowing stuff, but a very nice description of some problems and ways they can be ameliorated.

Quote
When I wrote the first version of this article six years ago, I called it “Why Free Software usability tends to suck”. The best open source applications and operating systems are more usable now than they were then. But this is largely from slow incremental improvements, and low-level competition between projects and distributors. Major problems with the design process itself remain largely unfixed.

Many of these problems are with volunteer software in general, not Free Software in particular. Hobbyist proprietary programs are often hard to use for many of the same reasons. But the easiest way of getting volunteers to contribute to a program is to make it open source. And while thousands of people are now employed in developing Free Software, most of its developers are volunteers. So it’s in Free Software that we see volunteer software’s usability problems most often.



from http://delphi.fosdal...-poor-usability.html

simakuutio

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Re: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2008, 04:36:16 AM »
As a software test engineer, I have seen how easily usability testing is being skipped (for various reasons) when functionality and everything else might be covered quite well... especially when schedules are tight, user experience is least important aspect when trying to get maximum test coverage to minimize amout of real bugs... sad but true...

And when we are talking about free software, this problem get even worse...

Gothi[c]

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Re: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2008, 02:33:47 AM »
I hate usable software....

let me rephrase...

I hate software that assumes i'm an idiot, with big buttons and limited functionality.

I like things just the way they are :p

zridling

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Re: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2008, 05:56:54 AM »
This was one of the better articles I've read on the subject because its author delineates people like me who approach an app with design in mind compared to a programmer who's building for function (not form). He notes that designers are almost never coders, and vice-versa.

lanux128

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Re: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2008, 06:59:14 AM »
i guess i'm lucky that i can come to the DC forums to request and get the software designed just the way i want. :)

Dormouse

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Re: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2008, 07:05:05 AM »
I think the big problem with the essay is that it confuses big projects, medium projects and small team/single developer projects. In my experience the problems of each of these groups are quite different.

tomos

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Re: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2008, 08:18:03 AM »
This was one of the better articles I've read on the subject because its author delineates people like me who approach an app with design in mind compared to a programmer who's building for function (not form)
coming from the same place as Zaine,
and from the article:
Proprietary software vendors typically make money by producing software that people want to use. This is a strong incentive to make it more usable. (It doesn’t always work: for example, Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe software sometimes becomes worse but remains dominant through network effects. But it works most of the time.)
-
I disagree there, to an extent, - there is the pressure for upgrades to introduce new features (discussed elsewhere here) and the interface & design in general comes a big second I think

if I had enough money (well I do, but it's way down my shopping list), I would change from e.g. Acronis True Image in a shot - even though it seems to be ahead of most similar priced competitors in terms of features ...
it just really bugs me to see a programme at version X - V.#11 in Acronis TI's case and to see an interface that has obviously grown over the years with the programme but little or no obvious priority given to it's ease of use
Let's see, same with most printer drivers, Microsoft OS's, I'm not that familiar with Adobe's more recent stuff so cant comment there but from what I've seen Illustrator could do with a re-write but that's more to do with efficiency/speed than interface in particular.

Ease of use is so important, well, to a lot of us out here. Ironically not so important to bigger companies but to smaller business's / self-employed time is money.
If something takes 10 mouse-clicks when you can see an easy option to make it 2 or 3, that's when I want to jump ship ;)
Tom

zridling

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Re: Essay: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2008, 06:06:50 AM »
Often, the more people for which a program is design, the worse it is. Take enterprise software, for example: it's unusable half the time!