Re: [dev] Interesting post about X11

From: Connor Lane Smith <>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 05:02:12 +0100

On 16 June 2010 02:32, Kurt H Maier <> wrote:
> Using the term 'user experience' at all, much less abbreviating it
> 'UX,' is every bit as snotty.  A lot of programmers don't give a shit
> about 'user experience' because they are competent users of a
> complicated machine, and they expect other people to be able to
> maintain respiration while remembering which button to press next.

I think one of the problems you're having is that when you read "user
experience" you think "graphical design", which means you sort of miss
the point. (Apologies if the term is snotty, but we don't really have
any others. If the term "these days means" something else, that's
unfortunate - a lot of terms we use around here these days mean
something new. "Unix", for instance.) Think of it more as how the user
interacts with the software, not on a graphical level but a
psychological one.

The Unix philosophy, creating simple tools which can be easily
combined in new ways, isn't an engineering improvement, it's an
interactive one. It's about allowing the user to more efficiently use
their software. That's why we have stderr (hey old thread), why we
prefer fewer flags, and why "silence is golden". It's more about usage
than machinery.

> Try to keep that in mind while we all ignore your glowing buttons and
> dynamic menus with pastel gradients.

Talking of pastel, have you ever used Acme? You should read the paper
on it [1]. The "nuances and heuristics" section is all about is how
Pike tried to make the user interface simple and efficient. But- but-
that's a user interface for Plan 9 programmers! Could it be that we
too need well-designed user interaction?

This may shock you, but we are mortal. Programmers cannot understand
the entire machine down to the last transistor, and computers are
becoming ever more complex. Some software we use may assume that it
has the undivided attention of some infallible user (*cough* vi), but
generally we try to use simple software which just lets us do whatever
it is we want to do.

However, you are right about one thing: a lot of programmers don't
give a shit about "user experience". That's a huge shame. That sort of
thinking will get us closer to vi and emacs and further from acme and
sam. None of the editors I've mentioned are perfect (please no holy
war), but the latter two are designed to be simple both internally and
externally. (If only internal simplicity mattered we would have stuck
with ed.)

I hope that someday more programmers will care about user experience.
I also hope that they realise programmers are users too, and aren't
perfect either.


Received on Wed Jun 16 2010 - 04:02:12 UTC

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