Christian: Some people claim that
since most Free Software projects are created by someone who needs
it to solve a problem of their own, free software projects
automatically receive good usability since the hackers actually use
the application themselves. Do you agree with this?
Suzanna Smith: I think this is only true if
hackers will be the only people to ever use the software. If the
goals for the software include reaching out to a wider, more
mainstream user population, then I do not agree. At least in Sun's
eyes, bringing GNOME to a different user population is definitely a
Hackers are so close to the applications they develop that they
might not see how these implementations could trip up someone who
is not as familiar with the underlying code. Often user interfaces
mimic the code that lies underneath. Most users do not think about
accomplishing tasks in the order that a computer system would
approach the task. They need a user interface that masks the
underlying system architecture from the user level. But hackers are
so in tune with their code that their user interfaces are often too
revealing of this underlying architecture.
We are not here, as usability professionals, to tell hackers
that they are wrong. Rather, we are here to offer another set of
eyes and a perspective that is not so tied to the underlying code,
to try to bridge the gap between the hackers' ideas and
applications and users' tasks and their ideas of how to accomplish
them. Some of the reactions to our report included the sentiment
that improving the usability of GNOME would equate to "dumbing down
the interface". I don't believe this has to be the case. Usability
does not just make the system more usable for novice users; it
improves the system for all."
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