Designed By Geeks For Geeks

I keep abreast of and have a decent grasp what is happening in the free/libre software world. I am not a distro junkie, but I am aware of what is available.

A cornerstone focus in my observations is usability. One of my common complaints is how distros are designed by geeks for geeks. Seldom are non technical users included in any kind of testing.

I use some simple observational tests when evaluating distros.

Is a terminal button anywhere on the desktop? My personal usage is dependent upon using a terminal. The command line is a feature I enjoy. That is not the case for non technical users. Will non technical users try to use a terminal even in emergencies? Most will not, instead taking their computer to a repair person. Look at smart phones and tablets. No sign of a terminal. Windows and Macs support terminals but only when digging into the menu.

Work spaces, also known as virtual desktops. The standard geek default is four. Look at smart phones and tablets. One work space. Non technical users do not use multiple work spaces. Most non technical users cannot conceive why people want to work that way.

Window tiling. Most desktops are designed to tile open windows. While possibly useful to geeks and self-appointed power users, non technical users use one app at a time. They want the app to open full screen or centered on the desktop.

Installing IRC and torrent apps. These tools are used by geeks and not non technical users.

Not including some kind of app description in the panel menu. Free/libre software developers are horrible at naming apps. Most non technical users have no clue what most apps do based on names.

Printers. Many distro maintainers do not make this easy for non technical users. Most are designed with silly — and anal — security requirements. Most non technical users do not need this overhead.

System updates. Most non technical users are not going to spend time configuring updates. Updates need to happen automatically and quietly. Security updates need to occur without bothering users. While a nice gesture, being a member of the kernel-of-the-week club is a good way to irritate users. Most kernel patches address corner case usage. The updates are unnecessary for most users. Needing to reboot because of kernel updates smacks of Windows. The Ubuntu folks seem to somewhat understand the problem by presenting a dialog that allows rebooting later, but the fact that the kernel is updated almost weekly is annoying.

A presumption of working online.

A presumption of unlimited bandwidth.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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