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Are Usability Studies Hurting the Free Desktop?

May 11, 2011, 23:07 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)

[ Thanks to James Maguire for this link. ]

"Not too many years ago, the question would have been absurd. Built on the free and open source software (FOSS) principle that developers worked on whatever interested them, the free desktop used to be a hodgepodge in which just getting a dialog to have the same name when it was opened from different places was a major achievement. Back then, the idea that too much attention could be paid to usability would have been unthinkable.

"But, beginning with Sun Microsystem's detailed user study of the GNOME desktop in 2001, free desktop developers have been becoming increasingly aware of usability issues. Almost always, the result has been interfaces that are easier to use, more efficient, and more aesthetic.

"Nor am I completely convinced that KDE 4.x, GNOME 3, and Unity are exceptions to this steady improvement. However, at the same time, as someone who has grappled with usability issues many times in his career, I have watched the newfound interest in interface design with a growing concern. "

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