Re: [Usability] Re: [Desktop_architects] Printing dialog and GNOME

On Dec 13, 2005, at 10:12 AM, Mike Shaver wrote:

On 13-Dec-05, at 12:03 PM, Pedro M (Morphix user) wrote:

Easy to use and one command for more often task or action is not subjective.

"Easy to use" is very subjective. If you don't believe me, ask 10,000 people if a given GNOME app is easy to use or not, and then tell me which objective measure will pick out the wrong answers from the right ones.

I had my mom try gnome. I had my mom try os x. I gave her my old powerbook when I got the newest model 3 weeks ago. She's in love with it. Why? Why is it supposedly easier to use then gnome, where one of the large ideas behind gnome is usability?

I feel part of your next statement is the question that we have to ask. On top of that, we should ask this: Why did people who switched *away* from GNOME (me as an example) switch from GNOME, what did they switch to, and what are the advantages of the system they switched to.

Honestly, I don't think graphics drivers or anything else would have kept me using gnome at the time I switched. Device support was a non- issue. Application support wasn't even that much of an issue since there were apps that were good enough (I'm a programmer, so good enough for me is *very* subjective) for everyday usage and some that were stellar. I think the underlying problem is the overall feel of GNOME, and I think it applies to KDE as well. They just don't feel very good. Windows isn't exactly the best example of a "feel good" interface either, but for most people they are so used to it that it doesn't matter anymore. Vista, from what I've seen is much more user friendly while still allowing quite a bit of customization.

I think it's very important for everyone involved in some form of Linux desktop thought-leadership (even people like myself who have no leadership role whatsoever, and are just ISV reps) to step away from "I would like". You and I are not interesting GNOME users, in part because we already _are_ GNOME users. The interesting GNOME users are the ones that haven't tried it yet, and we need to figure out why they haven't. There are lots of things that I want in GNOME, but if they aren't going to bring a hundred thousand of my closest friends along as well, I would hope that nobody goes out of their way to do them.

I personally think that one should look at the successes of various opensource applications and compare them to the commercial alternatives and examine why certain interfaces are better. Personally, I ditched using any kind of linux based desktop for opensource development awhile ago for os x (I was a NeXT user before that when I was in high school) and although one can argue that OS X is constrictive in nature (Steve Jobs has been quoted that he doesn't want too many advanced features or whatnot) there is still enough wiggle room from a user standpoint that the system can be customized nicely and still allow people to have that underlying unix feel. That in my opinion is why we see so many opensource enthusiasts programming for os x (the interfaces and code for some os x apps such as adium are far ahead of more mature projects such as gaim) - at least in my opinion.

Why is it that a younger application with fewer developers feels and looks more clean while offering the same apparent functionality as a, in general, quality application? Is it the underlying window manager or is it the thought process of the developers and their general usage of a system that somewhat pushes good usability design in applications? From my experiences, after learning the cocoa and win32 api's, I feel that I am a more apt UI developer on other platforms as well due to my usage of other systems. I think there is the possibility that people are becoming too focused on a single api and neglect the lessons we learn from other applications and their interfaces. On top of that, I think that the GNOME/KDE developers tend to lose focus on what the average user feels. Yes, in the business world good enough suffices as long as the applications on top of the system are valuable (see anything put out by sun). However, more and more home users are looking for something that just works, looks pretty with its antialiased text, but can scale to the level of power they require out of their computer.

I'm sorry, but Linus saying that something doesn't focus correctly in his opinion is a poor example of what mom and pop will want. They just want it to work. They want it clean, slick, and functional. The ipod is a great example of this. The xbox 360 is trying to follow this route. It's hard to be the jack of everything (look at windows and how it fails at *many* things but is highly successful at others, OS X and how it is somewhat a niche product that really won't make its way into the enterprise server area anytime soon, and then linux - which is somewhat limited to the server room at this point or to programmers who feel comfortable with it. I can't name a single parent of any of my friends who has ever used linux. I've had my parents try it and honestly, they aren't stupid and hold college degrees (and advanced degrees such as medical), but really disliked the interface.

I'm not suggesting one would copy aqua's window manager, but it does have it's positives and negatives. However, from a "user feel" standpoint it's quite possibly the most enjoyable experience. Now in all honesty, I wish GNOME or KDE were that, because I'd rather not have to pay apple for updates.

The best way to solve the issues presented is to have non-linux developers develop the UI. You may say, that sounds ludicrous and this reply is getting extremely long and pointless about things that have most likely been repeatedly touched upon. However, for linux to be successful on the desktop for normal users, normal users have to feel comfortable with it. Who better to have design it, point out the flaws, etc. then normal users? If it would be possible to get everyday people involved in the UI design (either via feedback, drawing pictures of what they think it would feel like, etc.) I think a lot of headway would be made. You don't need 3034045$ and usability experts to figure this stuff out. You just need to ask your mom what she thinks and at the same time allow methods for people to get more power out of the manager.

The interesting gnome users are your mother, your grandparents, your neighbor, your doctor, your dentist, your cleaning lady, etc. THOSE are the people that purchase computers in their homes and fuel the market. Those are the people that will decide whether or not linux is accepted on the desktop or not. In all honesty, I see very little input from that side of the fence in any opensource project.

People wonder why mac fans are so rabid. It's because OS X is geared towards meeting the needs of the end users vs. the needs of the programmers.

</end rant> (sorry for making this so long - I hope I made some sort of sense. If not, I apologize.)

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