Saturday, May 17, 2008

Usability and More

I'll explain a bit. It's very simple.

I use tools every day that most readers here wouldn't know which end was up. The are eminently usable because they allow me to do the job I'm paid to do. New and better ideas are always heavier or more fragile. Neat ideas that end up sitting in a box. They were designed by someone who doesn't use them.

In fact, 'usable' tools are designed to allow inexperienced people to do basic work. A fine goal, but not mine. Thankfully I still have the ability to choose my tools.

To suggest that people who use a piece of software extensively are somehow unqualified to have an opinion on how it should work strikes me as misguided.

That gets to the crux of the matter doesn't it. Satisfying new user's needs will more than likely make the software unusable or less usable for an experienced user. Is it possible to have it both ways? No, because catering to the new user involves controlling or limiting the experience. And I can't run apt-get install kde-for-experienced-users. There is only one.

The tendency is to satisfy the new users. I realized long ago that my needs and desires in software don't correspond to the interests of those who want to grow markets. I have stated before that software leaves me as it 'progresses', as it attempts to gain a wider audience. In other contexts they lost my purchase, but there were many more willing to pay. We will see if the same thing happens here.


Comments:
Wow... That's far more eloquent than my rant in your previous post, and probably what I should have said in the first place :) Your original post hit a nerve... Apparently it was the same nerve, somewhat crassly articulated, but from a long time user POV.
 
I think the only problem is that Users just want more functionality, they don't real care about usability until they recognise that they can't use the functionalities they wanted.
And Usability Designers are also ARTISTS as all other Artists they don't real like external input where they create their work of art. It's real difficult to bring Artist and the OpenSource thoughts (mind) together. Artist like originality all Work OF Art is an unique print.

Darwin
 
> In fact, 'usable' tools are designed to allow inexperienced
> people to do basic work.

This is not the case; if you read the blogs of celeste you'd notice that a big part of her work in KDE is to go to the individual app owners and let them state "who is your user". An answer like the above is specifically not accepted by her.
Bottom line; an application has to have a target user and that user can be very experienced. The trick is to aim it squarly at that user-type. In practice this will make it be liked by a quite broad group of people. (lots of literature on that claim).

> To suggest that people who use a piece of software extensively are
> somehow unqualified to have an opinion on how it should work strikes me as misguided.

It would be, very much, yes. Luckely nobody is saying that.
I think the confusion has started by a different set of assumptions. A communications problem between people from different backgrounds, really.

Any designer will *always* have lots of talks with actual users of a piece of software. He will typically make a new design and show it to get feedback. Feedback is used to make a better version or go in a different direction. This is what most engineers do in programming as well, but they do it alone whereas a usability engineer does it with users.

When you take this into account the blog that celeste wrote suddenly becomes more clear. You need user input and you need a real designer. But beware of the people that say the user should be the designer.
 
Any designer will *always* have lots of talks with actual users of a piece of software. He will typically make a new design and show it to get feedback

Thats what should happen but in practice some designers have a vision of what THEY want and only accept feedback that agrees with that.

E.g
pidgin
http://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=154535
etc

the important thing is to give the users choices so that kde doesnt end up like gnome or apple, unfortuantly so far KDE4 doesnt seam to be doing this, but i hope this will change somwhere around 4.2.
 
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