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Instrumented GIMP To Identify Usability Flaws 416

Posted by kdawson
from the phoning-home-in-a-good-cause dept.
Mike writes "New users of the GIMP often become frustrated at the application's unwieldy user interface. Now Prof. Michael Terry and a group of researchers at the University of Waterloo have created ingimp, a modified version of the GIMP that collects real-time usability data in order to help the GIMP developers find and fix its usability problems. Terry recently gave a lecture about ingimp and the data it collects. During each session, ingimp records events such as document creation, window manipulation, and tool use. A log of these events is sent to the ingimp server for analysis. The project hopes to answer questions such as 'What is the typical monitor resolution of a GIMP user?' and 'Is the GIMP used primarily for photo editing or drawing?'"
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Instrumented GIMP To Identify Usability Flaws

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  • representative ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tregetour (903016) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:37PM (#19817055) Homepage
    I like the idea, but will the folks who use ingimp be at all representative of the user population at large? ... Especially of the user population that would complain about accessibility / usability. Is it worth it or is anyone talking about making such a thing an integral part of any project?
    • Re:representative ? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by NumaNuma (905254) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:40PM (#19817093)
      This poses interesting questions. Those who are integrated enough to be willing to engage in the ingimp project are very likely to have differing behaviors or preferences. Additionally, one of the chief complaints people tend to have about usability is the inability to do something. By looking at the behavior of actions rather than desired actions, those actions which are easy to do in the current iteration will be seen as more desired, rather than simply more accessible. Meanwhile, those actions which are difficult to preform due to actual problems with the interface will be more likely to be overlooked.
    • Re:representative ? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jeevesbond (1066726) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:51PM (#19817241) Homepage

      I like the idea, but will the folks who use ingimp be at all representative of the user population at large? ... Especially of the user population that would complain about accessibility / usability.

      My wife does Web design for University of Waterloo and she's always moaning about the usability of the GIMP. I too am more into design than development these days, so that makes two people who're--more or less--ideal for the task.

      Not to mention we have both customised our GIMP's to look and behave more like Photoshop (the missus was fiddling with the keyboard-shortcuts for ages). It seems this data should be collected in this project, as I doubt we're the only ones who've changed everything to our tastes, the developers should finally realise what people want in an image editor.

      On a related, by tangential, note: GIMP's new core (GEGL [gegl.org]) seems to be nearing completion, with that comes all the things people have been clamouring for. Such as non-destructable layer effects, CMYK etc. If they fix the usability and shift to GEGL as the core of GIMP it might finally become the Photoshop killer we've all been waiting for! Failing that Krita [gegl.org] is coming along very well as an image editor, it lacks a few features, but is far more usable than the GIMP.

      Overall, I don't think anyone should be saying: 'year of the Linux desktop!' just yet. But this is definitely a step in the right direction. :)

      • Re:representative ? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @04:09PM (#19818173) Homepage
        As someone who began using GIMP before using Photoshop, I find Photoshop's interface to be awkward and GIMP's to be natural.

        Given that a significant majority of people who use GIMP probably used Photoshop first, I wonder what percentage of "moaning about the usability of the GIMP" comes from simple acclimation to a different way of doing things? I'd be interested in seeing the results of introducing one group of people who haven't done any digital graphics work before to Photoshop, another group to GIMP, and seeing how long it takes them to feel comfortable and learn the ropes. Then, you'd have them switch tools and see how well they adapt.

        As it stands, I think we're seeing a lot of selection bias.
        • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @04:28PM (#19818437) Homepage
          As a person that uses both daily the ONLY part of gimp I dont like is the same crap that all other software pulls.

          From version to version ,dont change where a function or item is. They moved the lighting effects all over the fricking place. and every new version seems like it's a damned easter egg hunt.

          Photoshop does NOT change locations of things very often. (V4.0 compared to V8.0(cs) does have some different locations but not many)

          it's what pisses off every windows user when a new release comes out. "where did they hide function "XXXXX" this time!

          After using a new version of gimp for a few days, it's as usable as Photoshop. Some people lose their mind when they have to do different things in similar apps, I dont. It's like my wife who cant drive the Ford because the wiper controls are different from the GM. I find it entertaining.
        • by giorgiofr (887762) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @04:30PM (#19818475)
          Not really. GIMP does everything differently than any other app I've ever used. It doesn't take long to understand that THIS is GIMP's main UI-related problem. All they need to do to fix that mess is design the UI so that it is similar to every other app out there - single window, one menu with all the commands and a few toolbar, you know the drill. Dump GTK while they're at it.
          So no, I don't think this is a case of selection bias - it's pretty clear to anyone who's used it that GIMP is simply the odd one out. I have quite a few other peeves with GIMP but those *do* stem from my own habits rather than the app's design flaws, so I won't comment on them.
          • Re:representative ? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Solra Bizna (716281) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @04:39PM (#19818581) Homepage Journal

            The 'G' in GTK stands for "gimp," FYI.

            -:sigma.SB

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by evanbd (210358)
              So? Are you arguing in favor of Not Invented Here? I have no idea whether there are other widget toolkits out there that are enough better than GTK to warrant switching, but if there are, the fact that GIMP created GTK in the past when those toolkits weren't around is not an argument in favor of keeping it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by eternalnyte (765741)
            I really can't be the only one that absolutely loves GIMP's UI.. can I? Everyone that seems to have a problem with it is always saying the same thing.. "It should look like Photoshop", "It should feel like Photoshop", heck "It should be Photoshop". Personally I hate applications with one big monolithic window.. they always tend to then have encosed sub-windows that you cannot pull out of the main window, this drives me crazy when using a multi-monitor display. GIMP is a godsend for allowing me the flexibi
            • by Skye16 (685048) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:05PM (#19820081)
              But when you're NOT using a multimonitor display, it's a fucking nightmare trying to arrange things in a useable, friendly manner.

              My main "this is fucking stupid" remark is the irritation at having menus for each of the little sub windows. I can handle saying "File->New" on the tool palette, if I absolutely must, but everything fucking else is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Gimp is the ONLY application that EVER does things this way; the only reason I want "Gimp to be like Photoshop" is because at least Photoshop follows the same fucking UI paradigm as the rest of the god damned operating system (or desktop environment). From my novice->intermediate usage of Linux over the years (i.e. I feel comfortable I can install and get Linux to do whatever I want, but it still takes a while sometimes), I haven't found a single fucking program that does similar things to Gimp. I'm not saying they don't exist - I'd be astonished if they didn't, but I am saying the fact that MOST don't work that way is an utterly confusing lack of consistency. If Gimp is so tightly coupled with GTK, and one would assume, Gnome is pretty tightly related to GTK, then you would THINK that consistency across Gnome applications (at least those that come bundled with the vanilla Gnome release) would be pretty in tune with each other. I've not yet seen that to be the case.

              That is what irritates me. Gimp will always be an easter egg hunt for me; I only use it at work since I don't have a ripped off version of Photoshop there. I would be okay with that if the UI were at least similar to other UIs on the Gnome DE. But they're not. Not even close.

              This is exacerbated even more when you consider the fact that I primarily use GIMP on Windows. I realize the GIMP is targeted primarily for Linux distributions, but to expect people to be happy with a UI paradigm that is utterly foreign to their OS of choice (whether Windows or OSX) is at best silly and ignorant.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jeevesbond (1066726)

          As it stands, I think we're seeing a lot of selection bias.

          Agreed, to an extent. There are several things very wrong with the GIMP, such as layer sizes, the multiple windows, the vast amount of screen real-estate (unless you put everything into one panel like I have), the number of tools that should be merged into one, the brush sizes, needing to go through 10 dialogues just to save a png (or some format other than xcf), the transformation tools mess the image up if used more than once, the obfuscated w

        • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:23PM (#19819711) Homepage

          As it stands, I think we're seeing a lot of selection bias.


          Well, selection bias against anyone who has ever used other computer programs, not just image editors. I don't know of many computer users who are accustomed to having a program with 12 different windows that doesn't even have a single document open.

          If they want to create a new, more intuitive UI from scratch, then do it. Don't steal icons, toolbars, and palettes from Photoshop and then cry that it is unfair when people are baffled that it doesn't behave even remotely like Photoshop. There have been lots of successful image editors in the past 20 years that used different metaphors and tools and layouts and methods than Photoshop does. People don't universally complain about the horrible UI of Paint Shop Pro or iPhoto or MS Photo Editor or Lightroom or Aperture (or Photostyler or Live Picture or...).

          People complain about the GIMP UI because it is a horrific example of what happens when programmers design interfaces, not because they're trained monkeys who can't operate anything but Photoshop.
    • Re:representative ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Soulfry (12966) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @03:14PM (#19817481) Homepage
      Because involvement in human-subjects research is voluntary, there will always be a self-selection bias. However, we can still estimate the representativeness of the population by understanding the types of people likely to download and install ingimp, and those who are not. If you fall in the latter camp -- you'd never want to use ingimp -- we really want to talk to you. Send us an email at the email address given on the site: http://www.ingimp.org/contact [ingimp.org].

      In any case, having some data is better than having no data at all. Currently, there is a very active and vibrant group of individuals working on GIMP usability issues (see http://gui.gimp.org/ [gimp.org] ). ingimp's data complements this other data to help quantify the ubiquity of behavior/activity/computer hardware setups in the wild.

      Michael Terry
    • Re:representative ? (Score:4, Informative)

      by tknd (979052) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @03:44PM (#19817883)

      Anything is better than nothing.

      But even just by examining a few users, you will learn a lot. We went through this exercise in an HCI course I took. We were divided into groups of 4 students and we were required to observe 4 students (no in the class) while they used predetermined website they had never seen before (usually small online stores selling furniture). The total man-hours in the assignment would have been 1 hour pre-user * 4 * 4 observers = 16 hours. The operations were simple: find a bed and matching night stand, find 4 chairs and add them to the cart, etc.

      With only 16 hours of work and 4 subjects it was immediately obvious that there were significant flaws and things that could easily be fixed. For example, there were many times where the user sat there and stared at the screen because they were trying to figure out how to do what they wanted to do.

      I imagine with this GIMP project you could do two things: collect data about users of gimp (distributing the tool to anyone) and hand selecting users of the tool and examining the results on a case by case basis. That should provide a wealth of information.

  • It's not that bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by saibot834 (1061528) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:38PM (#19817059) Homepage
    At the beginning it is hard - just like many programs. But my experience is, that you get used to it pretty fast.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) *
      I though so too. Until I started to use Photoshop, after that I know how to use GIMP a little better because I know of more things to find... But sience I have Photoshop now I rairly need to use the GIMP. GIMPs usability is its major flaw, it has many of the useful feature of photoshop but it is so clunky (and photoshop isn't a good interface) that I probably have made more money from using photoshop then the GIMP even after paying the high cost of photoshop because doing work take so much less time, that I
      • It's not only a matter of price. It's also a matter of your freedom. I prefer GIMP, not only because it can handle everything a non-professional can possibly want, but also because it is free software [gnu.org] (under the GNU General Public License).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jellomizer (103300) *
          With the extra money in the pocket I can afford extra freedoms, Like being able to go to a movie, with my wife, having better food, nicer riding car... GNU is not free as in freedom is it free as RMS Tells you it is free. Life in a free society requires you to make choices, some of these choices are sacrificing one type of freedom for an other. If I chose free software all the time even if it is less of an overall value then I choose to loose the ability to use other forms of freedom. There is nothing s
        • by GeckoX (259575)
          Yep, we should all drive Lada's.

          Ok, not free in any sense really, but hopefully you'll get why I used that as an example.

          Gimp's relative 'freeness' has absolutely ZERO relation to it's inherent usability. This is one of the reasons why the Gimp is STILL such a usability abomination...because so many people argue it's 'freeness' as the trump for all. "But it's ui sucks!", "Yeah, but it's FREE and therefor better!"

          There is an argument that non-free software evolves better UI's because since people have to PAY
    • by springbox (853816)
      The interface is more intuitive than Blender [blender.org]. Maybe that interface needs to be fixed instead. (Of course I've only used it for 15 minutes and tried one of the "how to use Blender's unique interface" tutorials before giving up.)
      • by Knuckles (8964)
        The Blender interface is geared towards people who will spend thousands of hours in front of it and need to get stuff done fast. How well you understand it in the first 15 minutes is completely irrelevant. Unfortunately, Microsoft has followed your model and created software that is easy to learn, but will frustrate for years afterwards.
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          This concept is called expert user interfaces. Basically your UI can be complicated with lots of options and weird key shortcuts, provided the users are experts and will have the time to learn all this stuff. Photoshop is extremely daunting for someone who's never used it before. But for someone who is a graphic designer and spending 8 hours a day using it, they find it very usable. Personally I find GIMP easier to use than Photoshop, just because it isn't geared towards professional graphic designers.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      My major gripe about the GIMP is that the filters that ship with the software are "destructive."

      What I mean is that if you have your layers arranged a certain way, and a certain selection before running the filters, God only knows whether your layers will be the same, or what your selection is when it finishes. (IIRC, some of them would even move windows, change tool settings, etc) Would it have killed them to save that information and restore it when done?
    • .....lame.....so very lame......
  • About that name... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by R2.0 (532027) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:39PM (#19817079)
    So, if I invent a version that gives data on why the name sucks (the otehr main problem with the program), will the developers pay attention to that too?
  • by woodchip (611770) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:40PM (#19817087)
    I don't remember ever having a problem figuring out GIMP. But it would drive me insane if they start changing things around on me.
  • Representative? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by McDutchie (151611) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:40PM (#19817091) Homepage
    I already see one potential problem with this approach, and that is that it collects usability statistics from ingimp users, not GIMP users. How would it be guaranteed that the two groups are statistically equivalent?

    (No, I have not RTFA yet.)
  • by junglee_iitk (651040) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:43PM (#19817125)
    There are far too many anomalies of usability, lack of features and intricacies required for Gimp. Today, Photoshop is the industry leader, and anyone doing serious editing is using it. To be successful, Gimp must surpass it in more than one way (the one way being free). Kind of like what Firefox did to IE. Unfortunately, Gimp is no where ready for that. And I get a feeling that it is (heading to) nowhere.

    I have been using Gimp for a long time. When I first installed Linux it was the only program everyone used to talk about. KDE's kolourpaint was not yet there for general purpose paint-brush replacement. I have used it for years under the hood of open-source fanboyism. And I think that is the reason why it has suffered. It had no competition, and now it is just a software which you don't want to open, again.

    Now, I know it is not a paint-brush replacement. But it is neither a Photoshop replacement... and the middle land is already full of other utilities. Inkscape, Krita, ... may be even Blender. The problem is that no one wants to be in the middle. Utilities need to rise to the top, or they face the fate of XMMS. I hope there will be a replacement in GTK too, just to show Gimp how to use the toolkit :)

    PS: posted this on journal before... this is shameless re-posting.
    • by mpapet (761907)
      Today, Photoshop is the industry leader...

      I don't think the GIMP project primary goals include world domination.

      To be successful, Gimp must surpass it in more than one way
      There is a huge entertainment industry segment using FilmGimp and GIMP so, it already surpasses whatever else is out there right now in some segments. I would argue that it is quite successful anyway.

      But it is neither a Photoshop replacement
      There will never be a day when Photoshop is the equivalent of GIMP and vice versa. GIMP is excelle
    • Organizational tools are a 'middle ground' of digital imaging software that needs serious attention. Especially with consumer grade SLRs becoming more popular and probably bringing RAW formats with them, considering that no popular OSs natively organize RAW images in any useful way.

      Photoshop Lightroom is quite good from a number of standpoints (UI being one of them). It provides reasonable editing tools, I'm a pro and I can do a good chunk of what I need without switching to Photoshop. Even when I do need t
  • by LM741N (258038) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:44PM (#19817129)
    is in getting others to use the program because of its name. Lets have a contest to rename the GIMP.
    • by sqrt(2) (786011)
      I do think they should rename it, if for no other reason than to eliminate it as a point of criticism.

      Although, it's entirely possible they could pick a name that's worse.
    • We need to do that with a lot of open source applications. Newbe Question how do I do this simple task that was really easy in Windows or OS X, Linux user answer "oh come on it is just as easy as windows you run the program konflabjixxiaidjf v.3.99 it is just like windows". The program may be the easiest to use program in the world but if it has a Supid name that people will not connect the name to the function of the application they will not use it.
      • Then who defines what is "stupid" and what is not? Why are "Skype" and "Adium" better names than "Pidgin"? Why is "Excel" a better name than "OpenOffice Spreadsheet"? (I dare to say that the latter is better!) Why is "mIRC" a better name than "X-Chat"? Why is "Outlook" better than "Evolution"?
        • by Telvin_3d (855514)
          All things are judged in relation to the competition. GIMP is a stupid name, at least in relation to Photoshop. At least 'Photoshop' hints that photos and images in general might be involved. For all but a small subset of the population, the biggest association the word 'gimp' has is physically disabled people. And before it gets mentioned, 'GNU Image Manipulation Program" is a fine (if long) name, but no one, not even the official web site calls it that.
        • Well Skype, Adium and Pidgin are all stupid names (I only have heard of Skype myself, and others know Skype because it is packaged and advertised quite well). Excel is not not a better name then OpenOffice Spreadsheet, most people who see OpenOffice Spreadsheet will know it will be a program like Excel (Excel only being know because its wide use, and forced training from schools and companies), mIRC is better then X-Chat for people who chat on the IRC (And know what the IRC is). X-Chat looks kinda R+ Rate
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by FooBarWidget (556006)
            Would it really solve your frustrations if each and every open source app have names like these?
            - Linux Image Studio
            - EasyMail Professional
            - Open Vector Drawer
            - Web Navigator
            - Open Developer Environment
            - TextEdit Pro
        • by Laur (673497) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @03:47PM (#19817921)

          Then who defines what is "stupid" and what is not?
          While I see what you are saying, naming your software with the same name (or acronym) as a derogatory term is pretty stupid by any criteria. Ask yourself, would you use the New and Improved Graphics Generation and Enhancement pRogram? Would you tell your friends about it? Would you suggest it to your boss?
      • by doshell (757915)

        So how do Windows users figure out that:

        • Excel is a spreadsheet application?
        • Outlook is an e-mail client?
        • Firefox is a web browser?
        • Winamp is a media player?
        • Adobe Reader displays PDF documents?
        • Skype is a VoIP application?

        All of these are quite popular in Windows land. By your logic, since none of them have names that correlate to their function, no one would be willing to use them...

        Counter-examples aside, KDE does something useful to help users with this: the K Menu (analogous to Start menu in Win

        • by doshell (757915)

          I will add something else: most users have their first contact with a program when they click on a file that opens with that program. For example, I don't think anyone runs Adobe Reader directly and uses the File|Open dialog; instead they click on the icon for a PDF file. This way they learn Adobe Reader is a program that reads PDFs.

          While this can't be said of some applications that don't have "files to open" (e.g. an IM client), it is certainly true of many of the more common computer operations (e.g. ed

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Blakey Rat (99501)
          Yes, yes, but imagine if those apps were named:

          * Deafy
          * Retard
          * Dumbass
          * Drooler

          GIMP isn't a bad name because it doesn't describe what the program does, GIMP is a bad name because nobody wants to use gimped software.
      • by Nasarius (593729)
        Have you used a Linux desktop in the past few years? The freedesktop.org specs require [freedesktop.org] a certain amount of metadata for application "shortcuts", which are used by KDE and Gnome to categorize and describe nearly every application in the menu. If you're willing to spend five seconds looking at your options, you'll have no difficulty finding a Linux equivalent for any common task.
    • I agree. I once brought it up in a meeting where the idea of bringing in an image manipulation program was discussed. I made the mistake of calling it "the gimp." People laughed and didn't give it a second thought. Take the example of CinePaint. It used to be called Film Gimp. Which one sounds more professional?
    • When I talk to "normal" people and mention GIMP, I'm always careful to call it the "GNU IMP graphics software". It is, otherwise, one of the most ridiculous names in modern software.
       
      Jolyon
    • Let us call it Open Image Studio. Does that really sound like a better name to you?
  • by kabdib (81955) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:45PM (#19817147) Homepage
    With cameras and microphones and other things:

    ----

    "Our performance traces indicate large amounts of cussing when images are resized."

    ---

    "Wow. During that file open, three hundred users gave the finger to the camera."

    "And that one guy --"

    "I don't want to talk about that guy. Wahwahwahwahwah I-can't-hear-yoooo. Don't remind me of what he did."

    ---

    "Nine hundred instances of users hitting the computer with a hammer while cropping. At least, that what we think the accelerometers were saying."

    --

    "The rapid rise in temperature was probably caused by the users pouring gasoline on the system and lighting a match. We'll try to address that issue in the next release."

    • by Unoti (731964)
      Haha, good stuff...

      "Oh and look, right after trying to figure out transparency layers, 80% of our user base launched Wine and Photoshop"

  • IMHO, people should understand that the MDI way (that is, the "photoshop way of arranging the windows) was born under the assumption that you had only one screen to work with.

    But with X-window based virtual desktops, you just dedicate one of them to the Gimp. Check it, your Gimp experience will improve a lot!

    --
    Text link ads, the easiest way to earn money with your web [text-link-ads.com]
  • GIMP's Typical Use (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If they want to know how GIMP is typically used, that's easy. GIMP's typical and most popular use is for people to say, "Hey, you can edit your photos under Linux with GIMP, and you don't have to use Wine and Photoshop."

    But professionals using GIMP for doing real work? That's atypical. Hopefully that will change.
  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:51PM (#19817229)
    You know, how do you recognize a project is someone's pet project? It's an overcomplicated solution for a problem with a trivial solution.

    Want to find out what makes the GIMP ui suck? Ask the damn users! They won't exactly shy away from telling you.

    I'm a Photoshop user and I have GIMP installed here to use the occasional esoteric plugin functionality. Let me tell you few things you can immediately get busy fixing:

    1. for some reason GIMP developers decided every single thing needs its own window and its own menu bar. It's weird as f*ck: put the entire layout in a single window with integrated panel layout (similar to how Eclipse does it, for example).

    2. each plugin is its own modeless exe dialog that takes arbitrary amount to start after it was called (at which time you can modify the processed image.. sometimes, and sometimes GIMP crashes because of it): create a proper lean plugin API and modal plugin dialog.

    3. the menus and options are all over the place: there seems to be no strategy at all about what goes where

    4. GIMP has really bad startup time, and performance, compared to commercial graphics editors (such as Photoshop)

    5. There's no way at all to organize your layers in a more complex setup: there are no layer groups, layer folder, or anything like that. It's just a big sack of flat layers, that you can select one at a time, and link them together. This is Photoshop 4 level functionality, and most graphics editors are waaaay past that by now.

    6. There are no proper drawing tools in Gimp at all. For a graphics package that claims to be targeted at geeks making icons and web devs making web designs, this is ridiculous. We're forced to fake our ways with selection tools and scripts, which covers only a fraction of what we need.

    7. A personal issue I have with Gimp: no proper grid. I use the grid in Photoshop all the time, set on unobtrusive "pixel" mode, and usually at 8, 16, 32 pixels with subdivisors. In Gimp, no subdivisors, no pixel mode, and for some reason the *mere fast of displaying* the grid, makes everything slow down to a crawl.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Soulfry (12966)
      There is a very active group of individuals who are currently doing things like expert walkthroughs and observational studies: See http://gui.gimp.org./ [gui.gimp.org]

      Our data is intended to complement this data by quantifying the ubiquity of tasks/activity/system setups. For example, what are typical resolutions of monitors? This type of information can help focus design by indicating what types of interaction designs are feasible and not feasible given the hardware of current users. What we've seen so far is a far great
    • 4. GIMP has really bad startup time, and performance, compared to commercial graphics editors (such as Photoshop)

      Only under Win32, and mostly in the font loading spectrum. It's a hell of a lot faster in a native GNOME.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:51PM (#19817239) Journal
    The project hopes to answer questions such as 'What is the typical monitor resolution of a GIMP user?' and 'Is the GIMP used primarily for photo editing or drawing?'"

    Looks to me like they're about to fall into the fallacy that caused Daimler-Chrysler to do a redesign of the Jeep line that killed their market.

    The marketing department looked at what fraction of SUVs were actually used off-road. They came to the conclusion that it was small. So they redesigned their line to be more comfortable on-road at great cost to its off-road performance.

    Turns out that a significant fraction of their market was people who NEEDED the off-road capability - and had the resources to pay for it, reliably buying cars, year after year, through all economic cycles.

    Jeep stopped being the car they needed and became another clone of the rest of the market: "Mall Terrain Vehicles" that LOOK like an off-road car but are really just a funny-looking small/high van that qualifies as a "truck" to escape the fleet mileage regulations. Their guaranteed market went elsewhere and they were in head-to-head competition with a slew of vehicles over which they had no advantage.

    Similarly, Coke looked at all the people buying Pepsi, saw that they were younger and that Pepsi's main difference was that it was sweeter, and replaced Coke with New Coke, which was sweeter yet. Result: People who drank Coke because they liked a less-sweet drink switched to Pepsi.

    And then there was the high-ranking officer in WW II who spent months counting all the bullet holes on the returning bombers, then did a big presentation on how those areas should have armor added. At the end of his presentation a lower-ranking officer asked "Shouldn't we, instead, add more armor to those areas that are only lightly holed? After all, this sample represents only the planes that came back."

    = = =

    I think the same thing could happen here: Paying attention to what people do a lot of just focuses on what you're already doing right - at the cost of ignoring the things that people do occasionally, or only some people do, but which they need to have. Further, the things they do rarely may be used rarely specifically BECAUSE they're hard to use and the interface needs improvement.
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @03:20PM (#19817585) Journal
      Then there was the time IBM instrumented a mainframe to determine what instructions were heavily used so they could focus their optimize-the-microcode effort on them.

      They found one particular instruction that accounted for some exceedingly large fraction of the execution time. So they went to work on the microcode and doubled its speed. Then they deployed the new microcode and measured the application performance, expecting to see a big improvement.

      It didn't change a bit.

      After a little more research they discovered they'd optimized the idle task's wait loop.

      = = = =

      Collecting data can be useful. But making good decisions based on it requires wisdom and insight.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      I agree with your general sentiment, and I also agree that this project might be a dead-end. A better approach would have been to take the man-hours spent creating this software and instead use it on proper man-on-the-street usability studies. Grab someone, sit them in front of GIMP, and have them create a greeting card or something. Record it on video and watch it later on, they'll get a lot more information than this automated system can obtain.
    • by X_Bones (93097)
      What makes your analogy a false one is that the ingimp folks aren't like the marketing departments from the big companies you mentioned. They're not collecting broad 'market data', if you will, from Photoshop/PaintShop/CorelDraw/etc. users (or all SUV drivers, or all soda drinkers). They're doing exactly what you seem to want them to do, which is ask their target users how to improve the product they currently prefer.

      It's as if Chrysler sold you a Jeep with sensors on the steering wheel and seat cushions
  • If they roll out a package for Fedora, I'll be installing this soon. I like the idea of Gimp, but I always fumble around the interface, and rarely use it when I am not in a hurry.
  • by FooBarWidget (556006) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @02:59PM (#19817323)
    Is GIMP still being developed? This is a serious question.

    I've been a big GIMP fan for years. Years ago, I was excited about the 2.0 release of GIMP. It brought many new features and the UI got a serious revamp. But now it has been several years, and it seems that GIMP development has slowed down. They're still releasing newer versions with bug fixes, but no new features. For example: I recently bought a Wacom tablet, and while GIMP has Wacom support, I miss some of the things that Photoshop has, such as support for variable brush width based on tablet pressure. The long-awaited GEGL, which was introduced years ago and will supposedly add CMYK and 16-bit support, is still not ready, and to my knowledge is still pre-alpha. (Not that I need CMYK and 16-bit, but at least that silence all the complainers.)

    A year or two ago I also read an article about someone wanting to sponsor GIMP development. But that effort went nowhere, as his request was eventually ignored.

    What is going on? Is GIMP still being actively developed? Are the GIMP developers still interested in adding new features?
  • by Dekortage (697532) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @03:14PM (#19817501) Homepage

    From the presentation slides, it seems like 200 people have installed it (netting "over 100,000 commands" in the log files). Obviously more will do so in response to the Slashdot article (and appropriate web pollination)... but aren't these self-selected geeks already? How are you going to get non-geeks to install this instead of the regular GIMP (assuming you convinc them to take a look at it)?

    Furthermore, how does this help determine what GIMP isn't doing properly? I mean, if you have various tools at your disposal, and GIMP sucks at doing X, then you might do half your work in GIMP and the other half in another app. So all the usability problems around X won't show up in the logs -- almost a kind of self-denial.

    I use Photoshop on a nearly daily basis. Last time I tried GIMP it was not ready for professional print design, to be sure, and only probably good enough for desktop publishing or Web graphics. How about Pantone or CMYK support? Non-destructive layer effects? Variable-sized brushes? Actually useful text formatting?

  • Keep it simple. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @03:27PM (#19817675)
    The biggest problem I have with GIMP is it's interface. It's clear the application was designed by programmers and not designers. I feel like they've tried to cram too much onto the screen and they suffer from a similar problem I was with Microsoft applications. They try to offer too many ways to do things and get too technical with details. I don't need 10 different sliders for customizing a brush. If I want a custom brush I should be able to just create the graphic as I would anything else then just drag it into a custom brush box and be done with it.

    Photoshop is getting progressively more bloated but I still find it more fluid than anything else. I'm not constantly hindered by the application.

    The solution isn't to do more coding. The data they gather may result in solutions that only complicate the issue. What they should do is sit down with a small team of designers. Include people with experience in photo-editing, website layouts and interface design. Ideally, find people that have little to no experience with GIMP. Work with this team to develop an interface. And most importantly, keep things simple.

    Inevitably, most applications end up being overly complex because of some overwhelming desire to cram in every last feature the developer can dream up. There also seems to be little planning. Build a set of guidelines and adhere to them. And one last thing, be sure that all essential function can be activated via the keyboard. When I'm doing time-consuming production I don't want to hunt around for small icons, or be constantly switching between the mouse and keyboard.
  • I watched the video, and the only thing that stuck in my mind, is that I think you're not qualified to study usability if you have to Alt-Tab through a bunch of firefox instances because you haven't discovered tabs yet.

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