Use of library names (Akonadi, Solid, Nepomuk, Phonon etc.) in user interfaces

Krzysztof Lichota krzysiek at
Tue Jun 10 12:34:09 BST 2008

2008/6/7 Albert Astals Cid <aacid at>:
> A Dissabte 07 Juny 2008, Dotan Cohen va escriure:
>> Users don't care about words or names, they avoid things that confuse
>> them. Avoid, as in "don't use and do not want to learn".
> Depicting users as idiots that don't want to learn and can't understand
> options is not a good idea. That's what Gnome decided to do and resulted in
> incredibily dumbed down programs that noone i know likes.

This discussion AFAIK is not about cutting down features (like Gnome
does), but about naming them, so that users can _understand_ what they
are about and intuitively use them.
Creating user-friendly user interface does not mean you have to teach
people, it should be easy to use without teaching.

>> No one wants to understand what it is. Users want to tag in their file
>> manager. They don't want to tag in Dolphin (they don't want to know
>> that Dolphin is the name of the file manager). They certainly don't
>> want to know what a Nepomuk is.

I couldn't agree more. Technical names are even worse than application
names, because people do not know technical details. Try asking your
non-technical friend what a "library" is. Then you will know why they
see message "Cannot load library X" as "Cannot load building with
books X".

The whole trick in creating user-friendly environment is to avoid
using technical stuff.
It is possible, but requires reading the messages by non-technical
people and reformulating them so that they have an idea what they are
told about.

While I am not a fan of Windows at all, example will be from Windows (Vista).
When some video players are run, Windows must turn off 3D desktop and
message for users appears.
In developers speak it would sound like that:
"Windows had to turn off compositing manager" (I suppose in Linux it
would be something similar to "Compiz had to be switched off", because
you want to use branding, right?)

In user's mind it would look like "Windows had to turn off BLAH BLAH".
But why are my windows not transparent any more and 3D effects are not working?

Instead, the real message is:
"Windows had to change color scheme to classic Windows" (or similar)

It does not dive in into technical details, but gives user enough
information so that he knows what to expect, without knowing what
compositing manager is.

And technical user (like me) at once knows what happens, even though
the message is not in techno-speak.

> Again this is not about users but about KDE, we WANT people to know they are
> using KDE programs, so let's say "KMail" and not "Mailing application"
> and "Okular" and not "Document viewer"

People don't care how it is named as long as it does the job they want.
If you really want branding, you should use descriptive names - "KMail
mail application", "Okular document viewer".

Even such self-descriptive names as KMail stop being self-descriptive
when they are used by non-English speaking users. For them the menu

looks like:
Blahblah 1
Blahblah 2
Blahblah 3

Now try to choose application which has the calendar...

>> We should not ignore the problem that has been already identified,
>> deliberately waiting for users to complain.
> No, KDE has a very wide audience, while each distro has a much smaller one,
> there's no ring to rule them all, sorry.

The difference is that users of distros for "power users" will
understand what "PIM settings" really is, while casual users will not
understand what "Akonadi settings" is.

>> > It's all about branding. First we create a hype and then we are going to
>> > deny those words to be used in the interface?
>> KDE enthusiasts have heard the branding. Not end users.
> That's why we have to communicate that branding to end users. Microsoft did a
> good work here and lots of users think "Internet Explorer" is the only way to
> get to the internet.

No, because the name contains "Internet", so it gives hint to users
what it does.
And even Microsoft withdraws from some branding - for example "Outlook
Express" (which for user, who does not know what it is, looks like
"Blah Blah") has been replaced by "Windows Mail".

>> > Obviously I will vote against it.
>> Obviously you do not understand users.
> Or maybe is it you? Tom has been participating a long time in KDE programs
> widely used by users, sorry, but your name does not feel familiar so in my
> head Tom's experience and opinion has much more value than yours.

This is really cheap argument. Tom, with all due respect, has more
experience as developer and talking to other developers, but does he
work daily with people who try to switch to KDE?

This whole naming issue is really job for usability people to decide,
not for developers. Let them put a few people who never used KDE in
front of computer and see how they will be able to cope with
completely new interface.

Will they know that Kontact is where they should look for addresses?
Will they run Dolphin to browse their files?
Will they know that to change PIM settings they have to search for Akonadi?
Will they know that they should browse Internet with Konqueror, or
even, Firefox?
If you don't know these names they mean _nothing_ to you.

>> How about something descriptive? I would post examples but I do not
>> want to appear cynical.
> Why did our ancestors invent the "tie" word when you can say "That item of
> clothing consisting of a strip of cloth tied around the neck"? Just because
> it's easier to say "tie".
> Something descriptive for Akonadi would have like 100 words, not a good idea.

Maybe the name should not describe everything what it does, but give
you general hint.
Or maybe, if it does so many things, it should be split in user
interface into different pieces, to avoid using "Akonadi", for example
"Addressbook settings", "Calendar settings", etc.

PS. I am developing distro for Polish users (beginners) and I am using
KDE as desktop environment, so I have quite good insight into problems
related to naming from their point of view.


	Krzysztof Lichota

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