OSS Interface Elegance

Steve Garrity made a post on interface elegance back in April, and a number of people commented. I think that it provides a good view of the design and development process in open source, and not being much of a geek I found it enlightening. Steven discusses the issue of feature creep in open source, and how this has been addressed in Firefox. I am a recent convert to Firefox. The conclusion of the article sums things up nicely:

Rather than adding more and more features for the mythical “power user”, or swing to the other end of the spectrum and dumb-down the interface for the mythical “average user”, smart developers are learning that good defaults and elegant interface design makes software better for everyone to use, regardless of their level of experience.

We are seeing the open source development community becoming much more market-sensitive (in its own way, in accordance with its own values) and I think that this bodes well for the future. With better interface design, open source software will be more acceptable to the average user, thus levelling the playing field for software developers.

If open source ever gets significant market penetration it may also change the dominant business model. In the near future, any software without customer support (proprietary or open source) may have no financial worth, and only the support services will have any market value.

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