Linked by David Adams on Mon 24th Aug 2009 09:21 UTC
Linux A reader asks: Why is Linux still not as user friendly as the two other main OSes with all the people developing for Linux? Is it because it is mainly developed by geeks? My initial feeling when reading this question was that it was kind of a throwaway, kind of a slam in disguise as a genuine question. But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I felt. There truly are a large amount of resources being dedicated to the development of Linux and its operating system halo (DEs, drivers, apps, etc). Some of these resources are from large companies (IBM, Red Hat, Novell). Why isn't Linux more user-friendly? Is this an inherent limitation with open source software?
Thread beginning with comment 380218
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
user-friendly
by l3v1 on Mon 24th Aug 2009 10:09 UTC
l3v1
Member since:
2005-07-06

User friendliness?

It depends: who are the "users"?

What do we need more: user-friendly tools, or user-friendly interfaces? Do (should, might) they exclude each other?

Friendly means nice and easy clickety, or friendly means powerful, flexible, lots of options, high customizability?

Are users developers? Are developers users?

Friendly to me, to you, to newbies, to devs, to pros, to grandma, to whom? Here flexibility and versatility can and can't [at the same time, even] mean friendly.

Friendly as flexible, or friendly as tight-wrapped with limited usage and options? Some can feel cozy moving around in a limited environment, some won't.

If I am the user, then I say it's friendly enough. But I'm not the user, I'm just a tiny portion of the user, if we think of the user as a humongous entity comprising all computer users on this planet.

A hope should be that convergence is a part of the process, development, polishing, and time maybe will provide a result that most would call user-friendly. And again, it might not. But, during that time even the meaning of user-friendly might change enough (given enough improvement and change in user behavior and knowledge and expectations) so that convergence happens faster.

Reply Score: 8

RE: user-friendly
by kenji on Mon 24th Aug 2009 15:56 in reply to "user-friendly"
kenji Member since:
2009-04-08

Thanks for saying that for me. 'User-friendliness' is not quantifiable because it is very, very subjective. There is absolutely no way to claim a piece of software as universally 'user-friendly' or not.

"Often, user-friendliness is conflated with beginner-friendliness, and this is a grave error."

Yes, but that is exactly what the initial question was pertaining to.

I use linux BECAUSE it is user-friendly to ME. I use Mandriva w/ GNOME and Fedora 11 w/ GNOME because it is user-friendly to ME. I would never claim that they are user-friendly to anyone else.

I would also like to add a philosophical point. The old saying, "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime." holds wieght for software too, in my opinion. Dumbing down user interfaces only helps new users and only for a finite time. Eventually even new users become proficient and holding them back with lame hand-holding doesn't make sense in the long term.

Make interfaces logical, consistent and efficient. That is the way towards user-friendliness in my opinion.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: user-friendly
by vivainio on Mon 24th Aug 2009 16:30 in reply to "RE: user-friendly"
vivainio Member since:
2008-12-26

I would also like to add a philosophical point. The old saying, "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime." holds wieght for software too, in my opinion. Dumbing down user interfaces only helps new users and only for a finite time. Eventually even new users become proficient and holding them back with lame hand-holding doesn't make sense in the long term.


This holds true for a certain set of applications (esp. server side software). However, some software is meant for "one-off" operations where you are not all that interested to learn to fish in the first place. X configuration with multiple monitors is such a thing, as well as setting up your wlan (or rest of the network). Incidentally, this is not a problem with ui design but rather your usual buggy software that can be corrected by finite manpower.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: user-friendly
by l3v1 on Tue 25th Aug 2009 07:20 in reply to "RE: user-friendly"
l3v1 Member since:
2005-07-06

I use linux BECAUSE it is user-friendly to ME.


No problem with that, you can make your choice. Fun explodes, when people come about with demands of their own user-friendly criteria, thinking they can represent somehow the general user public. Also, for a lot of people user-friendliness means that everything works (and sometimes looks) the same as things used to work on some other OS they are accustomed to. Ehh, I can't see an end to this question, no light at the end of the tunnel. All devs can sanely do is work towards consistency and logical behavior and hope for the best ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2