FW: UX and OSS (open source software) on behalf of Jess McMullin

9 Mar 2004 - 11:30am
896 reads
Dave Malouf

-----Original Message-----
From: Jess McMullin [mailto:jess.mcmullin at nform.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, March 09, 2004 11:58 AM
To: David Heller
Subject: UX and OSS (open source software)

[snipped personal message]

Alain said:
"Open source is all about the code. All about software developers
interacting with the code. Not about users interacting with an

Well, maybe. More like - most OSS is about scratching an itch. Someone wants
to build something for themselves, because existing solutions aren't an
exact fit. This often translates into building software for other
developers, and gets into issues of "chooser centered design" where the
chosen center of the project, the driving priority, is functional code (that
center being chosen by the lead developer). So usability, beauty, etc. takes
back seat.

The center of OSS projects sometimes changes to be aesthetic (see the
various windows managers that are largely exercises in skinning prowess).

The common center that comes closest to a UX perspective is "we're going to
rip off...errr...duplicate the functionality of an existing application".
Since commercial software has more UX involvement, there is opportunity for
OSS clone projects to adopt UX principles and contributions. The GIMP (a
photoshop replacement) could certainly use it, as could a significant number
of other clone projects.

There are some notable exceptions to the lack of UX in OSS:

Michael Angeles and Keith Instone have both contributed to the Drupal
project (Drupal runs iaslash.org).

Mike Kuniavsky has contributed to Open Office.

Chandler, Mitch Kapor's OSS Outlook replacement, is being designed by a team
that appreciates UX, though from his talk at DUX I'm not sure he gets the
role of UX practioners in developing requirements.

Jef Raskin is doing the THE project to vindicate his views of application

The Gnome and KDE teams have usability efforts, but are crippled by constant
effort to displace Windows on the desktop.

There have been a couple OSS projects dedicated to HCI / usability
evaluation / etc. mostly coming from grad students.

I'm sure there are others, but that's a few places where there's an
intersection between UX and OSS.

Dave asked:
>Are you suggesting that we aren't invited to the table?

Often, yes. Unless you're prepared to work with the existing center of a
given project, you're really not welcome. And there are no OSS projects I'm
aware of that have a user-center, though Drupal comes close - Dries, the
project maintainer, is a regular reader of IA blogs, etc. (Jef's project is
*not* user centered - it's "Jef's view of the world" centered - which is
probably more valuable for that specific project).


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