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Linux Evangolist Speaks Out About Linux Usability Problems

Started by Bryan, 2005-08-05T09:34:55-05:00 (Friday)

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There's always a ton of usability articles flying back and forth through my office.  Most of them I don't think about posting here, but this one really caught my eye.

Linux and Usability - strangers in the night

This is an article spawned from the comments made by Eric Raymond who is a rather well known Linux Evangolist (though mostly in essay form).  It is centered around some difficulty he had connecting a shared printer on his wifes home computer from his linux box using CUPS.  This article takes what he said and adds a bit to it.  Claiming that Raymond, while acknowledging the great need for usability, fails to acknowledge just how important it is.

QuoteI was expecting a fair amount of feedback...the dominant theme, too, was a bit of a surprise. Not the hundreds of iterations of â€Ã...“Tell it, brother!â€Ã,, nor the handful of people who excoriated me as an arrogant twerp...No, the really interesting part was how many of the letters said, in effect, â€Ã...“Gee. And all this time I thought it was just meâ€Ã,¦Ã¢â‚¬Ã,

QuoteIt wasn’t A.T. (Aunt Tillie..the archetypal nontechnical user) who couldn’t connect to a shared printer. It was Raymond himself who couldn’t figure it out. Yes, I see the point that if it were so easy and obvious that A.T. could do it, a nerd like Raymond could do it too.

QuoteBy focusing on A.T., Raymond is ignoring the actual depth of the problem. It’s easy to say, The open source community needs to do better, we need to create software A.T. can use. But they’re so far away from this right now that even an expert like Eric Raymond can’t figure out how to use their software.

QuoteThe problem is that the CUPS designers’ attitude was wrong. They never stepped outside their assumptions. They never exerted the mental effort to forget what they know and sit down at the system like a dumb user who’s never seen it before â€ââ,¬Â and they never watched a dumb user in action!

QuoteUI development is the hard part. And it’s not the last step, it’s the first step. In my estimation, the difference between:

    * software that performs function X; and
    * software that performs function X, with an intuitive well-designed user interface

isn’t just a little bit of extra work. It’s not even twice the work. It’s an entire order of magnitude more work. Developing software with a good UI requires both aptitude and a lot of hard work. Raymond acknowledges neither.
Bryan Grubaugh
Quickly aging alumni with too much time on his hands
Business Systems Analyst, Scripps Networks.


I think some of the problems listed here about UI development happen all to often in both Linux and Windows distributions.  Its something that needs be seriously addressed in al levels of software development.

President of CAOS
Software Engineer NASA Nspires/Roses Grant