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04 August 2008, 13:42

Canonical web designer talks free software usability

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Matthew Paul Thomas, who by day is a developer on Canonical's Launchpad, has posted on his personal blog a short essay which looks into Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it. The essay, in some ways, echoes Canonical's founder Mark Shuttleworth's challenge to the Linux community to develop a better desktop experience for Linux.

Thomas looks at the fundamental forces that restrict usability, such as a lack of incentives and of good designers. He then looks at the attitude issues which shape these problems, from the lack of input from the wider community on design to the difficulty of measuring usability and suggests challenging the "Code first" attitude of free software developers and the limitations of coders who write to "Scratch their own itch".

Thomas makes practical suggestions for solutions to all fifteen problems he identifies making the essay a worthwhile read for anyone interested in improving the development process, whether it is an open source project. We note that many of the issues also have an effect on any project with a large number of stakeholders, for example, in-house enterprise application development.


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