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

David Jarvie djarvie at
Tue Jun 10 17:07:24 BST 2008

On Tuesday 10 June 2008 12:34, Krzysztof Lichota wrote:
> 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.
[ snip ]

I agree 100%. Even though I know more about computers than a lot of
people, there are times when confronted with an unfamiliar operating
system or user interface, I might as well be a newbie and get very
frustrated if unfamiliar terminology is used for stuff I normally
understand. The effect of being presented with terms which one doesn't
understand is that it hides non-essential functionality - you expend
whatever effort is required to find the essential functionality, but the
rest tends to be only slowly discovered, if at all.

Much better to use easily understood terms (i.e. descriptive text instead
of implementation-specific technological terms like library names). As
others have suggested, by all means introduce brand names once users have
found what they are looking for, but don't put in stumbling blocks which
make them give up before they even start.

David Jarvie.
KAlarm author & maintainer.

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