Should GNOME have a “design team”? Well, I don’t think there should be any elite group of folks locked in a room who design every window we see on our screens. I do think it would be cool to have a core group of experienced usability folks whose primary role was to act as consultants to individual projects, from start to finish, responsible for whatever task analysis, requirements gathering, design and usability testing is needed along the way. And then maintaining the HIG in their copious spare time 🙂 But that’s not too far from what the GUP originally set out to do, and the UI Improvement Project before it, and neither really gained any traction in that particular area. (Nor, to the best of my knowledge, have any other big open source projects had any more success– I’d love to hear about any that have.)
FWIW, I do think there’s sometimes a downside to having two of our most experienced usability folks work for the same company, because especially with the creative sort of work those guys do, it’s always tempting (and, frankly, a lot easier) to bounce ideas around and work together face-to-face, than to seek approval and feedback from the community at every step along the way. That’s not a personal criticism of Seth, Bryan or anyone else… at the end of the day, those of us who are lucky enough to be paid to work on open source software have a duty to our employers as well as to our community, and occasionally that means not being able to do things exactly how we’d like. Unfortunately that can lead to accusations of closed-ness from time to time.
(I’d also love to see the Novell usability folks participating more… we all know they do great work from their GUADEC presentation, but personally I miss their regular input elsewhere in the community.)
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that HCI work is as subjective as Joe says, either, although nobody could claim it’s a science. But there are certainly recognised methodologies for measuring usability, both quantitavely and qualitatively, provided you know your users. That’s where we still have a bit of an issue, I think, and despite Havoc and Jeff’s pleas in the past to develop personas for the GNOME project, we still haven’t got around to it.
Finally, as for Jeff’s “haranguing” me to lead the GUP… well yes, it’s true I don’t really have the time, and I doubt I’d live up to the expectations set by Seth anyway. But as Sun are moving more towards shipping less-customised versions of GNOME in OpenSolaris and as the basis of JDS, I certainly hope to be channelling a lot more of my energies directly upstream in the not too distant future. So maybe one day 🙂