Selasa, 24 Januari 2012

On the Topics of Software, Average Users and User Friendliness

The term "average user" is something you hear thrown around a lot with regards to software. Pro-Linux, on the desktop, people often make claims on why it Linux ready for this "average user" (shoot even I've done it on occasion). There are also those who feel Linux should be pigeon-holed into a server room and on to mobile devices, they will make the exact opposite claim. They say Linux on the desktop isn't ready for this "average user".

My question to you all is:

Who is this "Average User"?

I've often been told I am not one of these "average users" because I create and distribute software. Who is then? Is my brother the level designer an "average user"? Is my fiancée the accountant an "average user"? Is my mother the tutor an "average user"? What exactly is the criteria to be in the group of people so many seem to be trying so desperately to make software for?

Often hand-in-hand with this idea of an "average user" is the concept of "user friendliness". In fact a drive to make our user interfaces even more "user friendly" is what has caused the radical changes in the Gnome desktop (and of course the creation of Unity).

What is "User Friendly"?

From what I can gather, something is only "user friendly" if an "average user" can sit down in front of it and do exactly what they want with zero direction.

Where on earth did this idea come from?

When you first learned algebra - was it expected to be something you could just "figure out" with no guidance? How about learning a language? Science? History?

Why is the standard different for learning software?

Actually, I take that last question back. There are lots of classes for learning about software. I've seen classes for learning how to use Windows, Photoshop, Microsoft Office... the list goes on! Are these pieces of software considered "user friendly" and ready for the "average user" even though we offer classes to learn how to use them? Yep.

Why is the standard different for Linux then?

Some food of thought. Please give me some input on any/all of my questions by dropping a comment below.

~Jeff Hoogland

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