Theory: Open source software is terrible to use because design can't be parceled apart like development can. Design has to be holistic and design by committee results in awful stuff.

@imani coincidentally, i think this is also why megacorp software trends towards terrible design

@imani i think there is no correlation between the used software license and the design "by comitee" or by an individual. i am also pretty sure there is not a single major prorietary software out there which is designed by only one person.

@benni @imani Probably not one person but most designs are done by a small concise group of designers.

@sphinxc0re @imani yeah, and i bet this is the case in major open source projects as well.

@benni @imani I don't really know. I can only speak from experience. The OSS projects I worked on had like one or two designated designers.

@benni @imani in major proprietary software however the developers are paid to follow the direction of the design lead whereas on decentralised #FOSS projects every dev pulls towards his vision and the design lead needs to push back with mere persuasion.

Especially in projects starved of contributors that's a really hard thing.

@qwazix @imani the last point is real for sure, but it is the same for proprietiery software which is short on budget.

@imani @Gargron Unfortunately true. I’ve not really seen any good counterexamples.

@imani your theory is based on either a fallacy or gross generalization or simplification.

@imani also, majority of developers cannot wear an end user hat.

@andyeb It is my experience that often a lot don't care to try and even if they can't perfectly expect an end users needs trying does count for a lot.

@imani I suggest you read on design systems. There are many that work very well, like HIG and Material.

@imani I'm pretty sure most open source software, especially #foss, are done by individuals and then get forked over and over until people like one of them. Then, there are members. But... because GPL is what it is, even the "committee-fied" version can still be forked by any individual. So, however "deep" your wording may sound, as someone who actually involves themselves in these things 24/7, I'm confused at what your point is. It sounds like a millennial web dev problem.

@imani I just hope to get some help with my ISS app. I am really bad at UI etc...

@schmittlauch @imani design can absolutely be parceled apart. That's what styleguides are for. :) And many projects have big design teams with lots of different people working together. Also check out

@schmittlauch @imani it's terrible to use cause:
- it's difficult to get into all the complicated tools to work on it
- the culture can be toxic
- design work is not valued so much
- people think settings and options are great
- … and other reasons

@imani I think you may be on to something here!

But I also think often OSS is terrible to use, simply because nobody made an effort to make it otherwise.

The really successful OSS, the OSS that has funding and full time devs, is mostly developer or admin tooling and user interface is relatively low in the priority list for such things. Techies are used to figuring stuff out.

OSS end-user facing software is created by a much more constrained and limited talent pool.

@imani I think that's mostly true. There are a few exceptions to the theory, and maybe I have that view point because i'm witnessing the holistic process and it feels like design by committee?

I'll cite the work purism is doing to upstream UI/UX on the gnome platform.

@chuck any examples you can point me toward? I’m curious to see how this is manifesting.


(a demo of phosh)

The one part of this thats the most compelling is the Guadec talk by Tobias about upstreaming the responsive work, and the resulting QA. You get a real sense of the design by committee, and its continuing to mature but its looking good imho. Has room for improvement, but as all things, its experimentation until its finalized

There's a few progress reports on the blog:

@imani most FOSS is developed by a small core team. Only some large projects have big teams, and likely also a company backing them, so their design is created the same way as proprietary software.

FOSS usage is however often optimized for experienced users, not for newbies, because the experienced users contribute.

@imani I don't think I agree. FLOSS is usually less seamless because it doesn't need to hide the underlying functioning of the code. It can be awkward at first but that's not necessarily a bad thing. And seamlessness can be a very infantilizing, manipulative commercial concept when taken far enough. (I'm kind of paraphrasing Femke Snelting¹ here.)


@imani I think the sheer volume of FOSS makes this an impossible statement to make. That's like saying "toilet paper is terrible to use" or "plates are terrible to use". Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Open source just means the source code is open not that there is no funding or organization. This blanket "FOSS is ugly and worse" idea tends to be a trite popular refrain and it'd be more useful to focus on the specific software.

@kavbojka @imani I will say though, each piece of FOSS software is designed in isolation, ignoring other software that will interact with it or be used alongside it.

@Pyretta @kavbojka @imani

> each piece of FOSS software is designed in isolation, ignoring other software that will interact with it or be used alongside it.

Not in the fediverse or in the

@bhaugen @kavbojka @imani Yes, and that's an example of good FOSS development and I appreciate that. They just don't take the holistic approach ver often

@Pyretta @kavbojka @imani

Pretty much the same in the Linux operating systems; See

Everything is supposed to be able to work together.

Microsoft can't even keep a consistent look for system settings inside it's own operating system. Even with all their resources...
@kavbojka @imani

Another way to think about it is that a certain (very high, actually) proportion of software is horrible. It's just that horrible open source software can find niche users that keeps the project going. Horrible commercial software probably won't make much money and is therefore more likely to be dropped.

We're just seeing the survivors, and open source software is more likely to survive.

@imani pretty much correct. Each piece of FOSS software is designed in isolation, ignoring other software that will interact with it or be used alongside it.

Interesting perspective, although the beginning statement is a bit too categorical. So we need more visionaries, but maybe a different kind, open source design visionaries?

@imani oh yeah.

Believe me, I tried.

There’s also some contempt for the user there... some disrespect.

@imani It's true that many open source communities tend to devalue UX as "trivial"-- and there are a lot of factors at play there. But there are plenty of open source projects with great UIs-- @krita is a great example.

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