Design in OSS

Aug 29, 2022
Increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time logarithmically – Hick's law

User interface design in open source is often hard to do. There are very few design-centric and end-user programs that appear organically. So why does OSS struggle with GUI design? It's a key question because it might help determine how far up the stack OSS can permeate. Some reasons why you don't see many GUI-driven OSS projects:

  • Less technical end-users don't care whether or not it is open source. Less technical users might be unable to compile or use open source programs as easily. Infrastruct, CLIs, and other tools used by technical users are often the most open-sourced.
  • Decentralized decision-making falls apart when there are too many subjective decisions. As a result, initial decision-heavy periods of open-source projects are often led by a "benevolent dictator" (not so much, for life, anymore.)
  • A key advantage of open source is the ability to customize the application to your needs (through interfaces, design systems, or even modifying the code). While this method covers most use cases, it will suffer from being the least common denominator API – you can't make everyone happy.