Simpleface progress

One of the guys on the Simpleface project sent out this list of things that we've covered in the mailing list so far. The project has been moving along slowly but steadily since April and though sometimes it seems we haven't produced much, we've defintely been THINKING and debating a lot. That's good. Well it wouldn't be if we kept going around in circles, but I don't think that's happening I think there's some consensus forming and a focus developing. Once that tipping point comes when we're all on the same page, we'll start to get some real momentum, I'm sure.

Here's the topics we've covered so far:

General outset of Simpleface:

  - broad goal: improve usability of OSS/Free Software (Visions)
  - refinement of goals as people join (Goals)
  - focus on small, specific projects to get things done and
    gain reputation but keep the big picture in mind (Projects)


  - Make use of the Simpleface Wiki and mailing list
  - (1) brainstorming, (2) categorization, (3) working out the details
  - specific examples

Simpleface to become the central place for OSS/Freesoftware HCI concerns

  - web site:
    - list of good hci books / book reviews
    - links
    - tools/software
    (and other things mentioned below)
    - HCI glossary

Target audience

  - Developers of OSS software in general
  - Developers of Free Software and proprietary apllications on OSS platforms
    (specific guidelines and 

GUI evangelism and educating developers

  - raising awareness of usability issues
    (e.g. UI guidelines should be linked on top-page of desktop projects, ...)
  - pick a project and suggest improvements

GUI standards and guidelines

  - HCI taxonomy and cognitive psychology background (background, goals of UI)
  - UI principles (means)
  - interface guidelines
  - GUI standards and check lists

Lack of consistency ("Linux")

  - review GNOME/KDE/other OSS UI guidelines, summarize and point out
    where consistency can be improved without compromising individual
    projects' goals.
  - aim to work together on a common guide (Simpleface) or subset
    in the long run or provide a super guideline for developers who want
    to integrate neatly with any desktop environment (X11)
  - raise awareness of differences between KDE/GNOME guidelines, point
    out pitfalls and make suggestions
  - invite GNOME/KDE/... UI experts to join Simpleface

  - application menu structure
  - keyboard equivalents, keyboard navigation, accessability
  - translation effort (translated commands should be the same if English
    commands are.)
  - common icon themes/widget style (aid for integrators such as RedHat)

UI patters/patterns of interaction

  We've dicussed finding common patterns in good human-computer
  dialogue design in order to facilitate a common language among HCI
  practioners and implement a design process centered around user needs.
  (based on ideas of the structuralist/architect Christopher Alexander)

  - potentially very high impact (community)
  - but long-term effort (time-frame)
  - patterns are related and form a hierary (dimension hard to
    identify for UIs ?)
  - thus find patterns (good practice) and structure the pattern language well
  - high-level of abstraction, needs some instruction/training so
    users can participate in the design process (central to the
    design patterns approach)
  - design patterns should work well for design principles and
    general solutions guiding a user-centered design process but
    trying to codify specific standards such as menu structures
    or particular icons into patterns only adds obscurity (limits).

Educating developers

  - has limits, many deveolpers don't want to become UI design experts
  - guidelines, examples, ...
  - check lists
  - assistence, advice, ...

Simplecface "business opportunities"/carreers (long-term)

  - certification/branding for proprietary applications on / ports to OSS
    platforms (standard compliance)
  - UI analysis/consulting of commercial applications for OSS platforms
  - training for developers
  - public/community funding ("consortium")
  - publications such as books (dead trees), paper magazine(s)
  - "usability experts in Free Software"-guild
  - if everything fails sell domain to someone
    in the only industry which still makes money with the internet ;*)

Awards and reviews

  - "Great GUI" awards (for Free Software projects)
  - develop and publish guidelines for application reviewing
    including general structure of reviews, feature checklists for common
    application types, etc.

Go beyond the boring contemporary GUIs (widen the scope)

  Many problems of today's GUIs are intrinsic to the WIMP approach and
  thus can't be solved by better design within the existing framework or
  at least by braking standards and guidelines (to close the circle).
  (thanks for pointing out, cool site - will Tony join the
  Simpleface list ?)

  - identify problems of existing interfaces and device limitations
  - use a normative approach and list what computers should/could
    do for users
  - point out possible solutions/directions, including long-term and
  - guide research and build prototypes (not anytime soon)
  - catching up should only be the first step, then lead the crowd :)


  Set up RL user interface labs as places for:
  - HCI innovations and research, information visualization, ...
  - usability testing
  - developer training
  - OSS development of innovative applications applying
    Simpleface principles and ideas
  - Simpleface meetings (face-to-face interaction) and conferences

It's a bunch, huh? Now we need to focus that a bit, and we're all set to go! ;-)


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