There Is No Open Source Community
Subject:   What about good design?
Date:   2006-01-13 21:56:03
From:   jtidwell developers have two choices when trying to win over users: (1) add features not available elsewhere, and (2) release the source code. There is no other currency of value that developers can extend to users.

No other? What about a good user experience?

In some market niches, people will pay extra for a product which is more fun, easy, and rewarding to use. And user experience is not just about adding a bunch of features; it's about knowing your users, and designing the right kind of product and interface for them. That's often resource-intensive, but it doesn't have to be. Skill and knowledge can give a developer an edge.

When users treat good design as a differentiator, the software-as-commodity model can break down. It doesn't always, but enough that you might want to take it into account.

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  • What about good design?
    2006-01-14 07:23:25  rancor [View]

    You're making an assumption that there are no decent "designers" (what-ever that might be) that are not willing or able to utilize the Internet in the same way that FLOSS developers have.

    I believe that there is evidence to the contrary. Consider the Appeal project for KDE (, an Internet-enabled effort to make KDE 4.0 beautiful and, well, appealing.

    I presume that it was this kind of "design" that you are speaking of because there is plenty of examples of good software design (as well as bad software design) in FLOSS projects.

    But, in the end the "design" you are speaking of is a "matter of taste" issue. For instance: I find the Mac OS X stuff to be visually very nice (but I tire very much with the "brushed steel" look) but at the same time I find them to all have frustrating and annoying quirks and limitations.
    • What about good design?
      2006-01-15 16:12:47  jtidwell [View]

      But, in the end the "design" you are speaking of is a "matter of taste" issue.

      It's that, and more. A nice brushed-steel look doesn't mean that a piece of software is easy to use. (As it happens, a lot of OS X software is easy to use, but that's because Apple spent a lot of time on all aspects of their design.) Something can test very well in an objective usability test -- it can be learnable, memorable, efficient, etc. -- but still look like crud.

      ... no decent "designers" (what-ever that might be) ...

      "Designer" = "someone who specializes in design." It's a fairly large set of skills that might include:

      • product design -- what is it, what does it do, and who is it for?

      • information architecture -- the organization of data, feature groups, and vocabulary

      • interaction design -- the design of user workflow and progression through tasks, navigation, widget-level interactions
      • visual design -- look-and-feel, icons, imagery, typography, colors, etc.; includes cognitive aspects as well as "taste"

      Also, let's not be too quick to denigrate "appealing" or "a matter of taste." The Stanford Web Credibility Project (google it) found that users' perception of trustworthiness depended heavily on the professionalism of sites' visual design, for instance. Just FYI.