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Re: User is always right (was Re: Merger not Merging -- What I would like a merge process to do.)

From: David Waite <dwaite_at_gmail.com>
Date: 2005-01-26 18:18:35 CET

I am not a user interface expert by any means, but there seems to be
one rule that people sometimes forget about software that all user
interface guidelines stem from:

If it takes longer or is more complicated for a user to use your tool
than it was using their previous non-computer process, you have
totally failed.

Subversion took the right approach, and continues to take the right
approach, by eliminating special cases and enforcement of any sort of
process within their basic tools. At the core, subversion is a
filesystem; a versioned, user-replicated filesystem. There are several
built-in functions for dealing with replication, but as far as
learning the tool goes, it isn't much different than learning about
offline network filesystems.

Someone needs to know enough about process to dictate usage patterns
if there is a group, but subversion is also very adept at dealing with
people getting setup wrong and changing it later (since you can move
directories around into whatever structure you want).

-David Waite

On Wed, 26 Jan 2005 12:20:18 +0100, Ryan Schmidt
<subversion-2004@ryandesign.com> wrote:
> On 26.01.2005, at 09:31, matthew ford wrote:
>
> > What I am trying to convey is that the software is ment to serve the
> > user (not the other way round).
> > [...]
> > Good software tries to maintian the dignity of the user, not pull them
> > down or show them up.
>
> I think there are different kinds of software -- software designed for
> regular people, and software designed for geeks and developers. Unix is
> an operating system catering to geeks and developers, and consequently
> the tools available on it (such as the Subversion command-line
> programs) assume a high level of knowledge and feature a minimum or
> total nonexistence of assistance. The user is assumed to know what
> she's doing.
>
> Regular users, however, want assistance, want a pretty GUI that has all
> the options laid out logically with checkboxes and buttons and menu
> commands, that prevents the user from making mistakes, that makes it
> easy for the user to do what she wants. The creation of such an
> interface is something best left to other developers, those with
> experience in interaction design. TortoiseSVN is such a project, and
> while I've never used it so I can't say whether it succeeds in meeting
> this goal, it is at least an attempt.
>
> An example of where such a model has succeeded is Mac OS X, which puts
> a consumer-friendly wrapper over a Unix-like foundation of utilities.
> The Apache web server, for example, has a zillion options to configure
> which takes time and knowledge, but in the consumer operating system
> Mac OS X, Apple has provided a reasonable set of defaults and a single
> button to turn "web sharing" on and off. Joe home user can understand
> and use that. And in its server operating system Mac OS X Server,
> there's a much more comprehensive configuration application with which
> virtual hosts can be added and deleted and configured in an intuitive
> way. Joe server administrator still needs to understand what vhosts and
> document roots are, but thanks to Apple's simplified user-friendly
> documentation, this is easy too.
>
> So, I guess the point is, let's let the Subversion developers
> concentrate on creating the base functionality necessary to do the job,
> regardless of whether the commands are completely intuitive or not,
> because one day someone will make a fantastic easy-to-understand GUI
> with just the right amount of consumer-friendly documentation.
>
> \r
>
>
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Received on Wed Jan 26 18:22:15 2005

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