KDE (vs GNOME)
frans.englich at telia.com
Wed Nov 9 17:12:35 GMT 2005
On Tuesday 08 November 2005 01:09, Paulo Moura Guedes wrote:
> I was just reading the news about Novell and noticed some people are having
> an identity crisis about KDE.
> I think the KDE desktop has an history and a way to do things and that it
> would be a petty to lose the users that just love the things they do with
> KDE and can't be done with any other desktop environment.
> Though, this doesn't mean we can't target to other kinds of users.
> It is said a lot that KDE applications are bloated with actions and
> configuration options.
This debate, "GUI simplicity versus complexity"(or, replace with appropiate
words depending on what team you cheer on), has gone on for years. I think
one can find interesting points in it.
One can find somekind of consensus along the lines of "Alright, maybe not a
complex GUI is good for beginners and normal users." The idea that Powerful
and Flexible GUIs is delivered through an interface which is complex with
tons of knobs, is still present, it's just that beginners & normal users
needs to be protected from it.
When an API becomes complex or a code path inefficient, developers takes for
granted that it needs fixing -- because good code is beautiful & simple --
and that it simply needs lots of work and iterative improvement, hundreds of
When it comes to GUI design one rarely sees the questions "How can this
mechanism be generalized such that it fits more than one user type?", "Can
the program be made smarter and take the decision by itself?". I think
currently the no.1 solution to GUI design problems is to add more: instead of
making the program smarter, another knob is added. In other words, back to
stone age: the software's inadequacy is compensated by the user baby sitting
This GUI debate gets quickly emotional, and I think it's because it is not
about engineering. It's about identity.
The average geek gladly puts on display his three remote controls, his modded
PC-case with builtin lights, or all the knobs on his surround system. I think
this complexity geeks like is transferred to GUI development. Thus, no wonder
simplifications meets resistance, regardless of actual implications.
One can surely find many points in men's happyness for toys in how today's
technology looks and is marketed, but a good example is one of Bang &
Olufsen's first hifi systems which was designed to look "scientific" in order
to appeal to men(and it worked).
How to solve the problem of KDE's complexity is another topic. I don't think
the start is to look at it as a practical usability problem of the type "What
color should this widget have?", but to acknowledge that some actual like
when a GUI looks complex and mean.
1. That's one of the paradoxes with good engineering. A good design doesn't
look spectacular and advanced, it just is there for the user. Thus, one can't
satisfy a silly ego with good design because it doesn't look grandiose.
Engineering is a service oriented business, it's there for consumers, users,
not the creators.
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