Open Source Usability

John Gruber has written an excellent essay on the state of usability in open source software. The essay is a response to Eric S Raymond’s recent essay on being unable to use the Linux CUPS interface to connect to a printer. Gruber does a fine job dissecting Raymond’s arguments (distilled version: developers have to dumb down interfaces so non-technical users can use the software). His most important point? Interface design is quite different than writing software. Lots of folks can write printer drivers, or print sharing systems, but few understand the concepts of design well enough to create a usable interface for them. Hence the reason why top technical schools like CMU have Human Computer Interaction schools.