where web content management and user experience collide

Great open source user experiences

So software is (finally!) in the Age of Experience, where the world’s biggest tech company could plausibly be described as a user experience business, and where better UX is helping drive millions of dollars of market growth.

In that light, I’ve compiled a bulleted list of open source apps that offer a truly great user experience, with screenshots and  detailed notes:

Now I’m pretty sure I’ve missed one or two there. Please do set me right in the comments. But it’s going to be a pretty short list however you cut it. Why is that?

My first guess is that it’s about the social organisation of open source projects, that makes it difficult for people who aren’t hardcore devs to get involved. But I could be totally misinformed on this.

btw, this is NOT about being anti-OSS. It’s a good model that has produced a lot of great code, some of which I use every day. But nothing very user-facing.


Filed under: Design,

5 Responses

  1. Jon Marks says:

    Can you do a list of non-OSS products that offer a great experience?

    • Michael Kowalski says:

      Sure. A few of my favourites: Keynote, iOS (even in its “beta” state), Photoshop 3 (been on a downhill trajectory ever since). But I see your point: there’s still loads of room for improvement in the world of non-OSS UX. Good news for product designers!

  2. Simon says:

    how about:

    1. Ubuntu
    2. Drupal 7
    3. WordPress
    4. Agave
    5. Inkscape
    6. Android
    7. Firefox
    8. Meld

    • Michael Kowalski says:

      Not sure how serious you are with this list. I haven’t used many of these, admittedly, so I’m mostly going off screenshots. Ubuntu has that slightly clunky vibe that says “I am OSS”, so depends how you feel about that. I know Drupal 7 is supposed to be a big improvement on the famously poor UX of earlier versions, but I just don’t see it from the screenshots I’ve looked at. Firefox was a breath of fresh air once, but now offers perhaps the weakest UX of the major browsers.

  3. Simon says:

    Pretty serious ! I’m not sure you how serious you are when you say you’re “going from screenshots” ??

    Ubuntu, clunky ??? When was the last time you used it, 2003?

    Agreed that Firefox is no longer quite “cutting edge” UX, but it was once unquestionably great (or great enough). Suspect Firefox 4 will re-dress the balance.

    Also, depends on how you define “great UX”. If you think it’s all about gradients, reflections and animated menus then I think you need to reconsider?

    If you take a realistic view of what “user experience” means then how could Drupal 7 or WordPress (or Drupal 6 for that matter) not be considered “great”. Awesome software, that provides huge value, looks good, just works and is *free*.

    I hate to use the “free” argument, but price is a big part of the user experience and if you include that measure, not much closed source software even remotely competes with OSS.

    Also depends how you define users. As a developer, the ability to mount FTP servers in Ubuntu, or “apt-get install” something or use Drush in Drupal are stunning user experiences. They just don’t photograph well.

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