A convoluted Mambo: Why open source software needs usability Nazis: A good rant over at TeleRead about the state of usability in open-source software — Mambo, in this case.
I also wonder if the Geek Snobbery Factor may have been at work. So often, leadership within open source efforts is based too much on programming ability and not enough on the ability to empathize with the end users. The uber geeks may care more about the number of minor features, and so on, than about general ease of installation or use. In awarding influence among collegues, open source teams should place more emphasis than now on software ergonomics.
This was a major topic in Spolsky’s essay “Biculturalism”.
I’m in a middle of a project now with a commercial content management system, and it’s interesting to see the differences between that and the open-source stuff I’m used to. There’s less emphasis on conceptual elegance and more emphasis on giving the users what they want.
Menus, for instance — in the open source world, the concept of a “menu” would be distilled down to its data model and implemented elegantly along with everything else, because — after all — a menus are just another type of data, and why should we make an exception and treat them differently?
That’s the geek talking. The end user just wants a link called “Menus” where they can go administrate them. And that’s what this system gives them. The software architect in me shudders, but I can’t argue with the simplicity of it.