Ultra Choice vs Generic Usability

I wrote a UI article yesterday for Beryl on OSNews and it’s quite interesting to read the comments. Basically, the opinions were polarized although feedback was mostly positive. They either liked it because it was very “gnome-ish”, or the few who hated it was because they “prefer the KDE way of having choice”. I found this interesting because the disliking of the mockups was not a matter of their favorite feature not listed, but just because the mockups were “too simple” to even consider it as an alternative.

It really makes me wonder. Do people want to have a garabazilion of settings and asphyxiated sub-settings of a setting, or it is just that they are too young and they like to play with cool things all day long? I wonder if the KDE way is the young people’s way and Gnome’s the older, bored, just-works kind of people’s. What I am trying to say is that I am wondering if this polarization has to do with age and energy rather than real valid UI preference.

But then again, Havoc put it best once: “If cool was everything, we would all be hacking Enlightenment instead“.


Luis wrote on March 21st, 2007 at 11:16 AM PST:

I missed the osnews discussion, will check it now. But anyway, what I’ve noticed in real life is that about 90% of the people never _ever_ use the menus to customize their applications to behave as they want. They just accept defaults, and that’s why defaults are _so_ important. And Gnome has a better approach there than KDE.

That said, if you realize that menus are then targeted at those 10% that do care about changing defaults, it’s not a bad thing to have most _reasonable_ options there. Even if it takes you 1 minute to find what you want, it’s better than a menu where you either find what you want in 10 seconds or you don’t find it at all. And after all, you don’t have to go there every day, just once.

Beryls settings are a thing of their own, anyway. They are certainly too complicated and a refactoring would be welcomed. But even in this extreme case, I never found it too difficult to just change the basic things I wanted. And I can safely ignore the rest of the options. Much worse would it be, for example, if by default it had a transparent cube and it didn’t have an option to turn it off.

Bottom line: Give the highest priority to having the best defaults possible, but let menus give you most, if not all, of the reasonable options.

By the way, can you change your video output driver in Totem? I can’t check now, but I have the feeling you can’t do it anymore (and being able to change between Xv and x11/Xshm is important for me, for example).

Jamin Gray wrote on March 21st, 2007 at 12:31 PM PST:

I would have to think that most reasonable people would have to agree that, even if they prefer choices, the Beryl Settings Manager is insane. I mean, I don’t know what the hell half the things do, I have trouble finding what I want because the thing is divided into essentially tabs and subtabs. Someone needs to come along and make it more palatable to normal human beings. I think your mockups were a nice start.

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