May 15, 2008

Usability matters

Posted in GSoC tagged at 10:21 pm by fadinlight

Beside any technical insight, beside any coding technique, beside any great tech solution… 99% of times usability can write in the stone the destiny of an application.

My concern for usability has always been a primary concern: you can write the best application in the world, but still, if deadly lacking usability, no one is going to use it. The primary goal of my project is OSM spreading thanks to its inner power of open customizability of everything.

But… OSM innersights (all features, key/value pairs) and the great Osmarender’s ruling power are probably highly complex for newbies: how to get a simple way to interact? At the moment, after inspecting a lot, I think that probably there is no silver bullet: advanced users probably want all ruling/CSS power, while intermediate users (whom don’t want to bother with CSS) want however the whole OSM tagging/Osmarender power at hand, while newbies probably just want a nice map, with some color/font size tweaking. How to join these three worlds together?

I’ve drawn a little hand-made mockup, just to fix some GUI ideas, but I’m not so satisfied with it. It’s intermediate-user-oriented, but would be probably confusing for newbies. However, I’m starting to think that, during SoC, I should deal with them. After the deadline, however, I already have some idea to improve usability for newbie users: for example, there could be a sort of templating facility, where newbie users could select a template thing (street, rail, power lines, ferry, etc…) and then tweaking them a bit, changing all colors/font sizes, etc. In the meantime, during SoC, I can develop some facility in the wiki for intermediate users to propose such templates to be included in the “next release”.

More on that later…