The Gap between Designers and Free Software Developers

There is a gap where FOSS developers can’t communicate/relate to UX designers and vice versa. On Hacker News @diacritica of Penpot mentioned it to be a dream to unite and bridge this gap (I quoted this on Penpot forum).

The co-founder Bernard Tyers of Open Source Design also mentioned this:

It is a massive and complicated tangle of reasons why UXers don’t, or try to and fail, or try to and fail and try to and fail and then give up, to FOSS.

Some reaons are, and I say these with the utmost respect for FOSS contributors, they:

  • don’t fully understand what design is
  • don’t have the energy/resources to work with designers
  • equate all design with icons and making things “sexy”
  • aren’t interested
  • don’t know how to find us (designers)

On the other hand, lots of designers don’t contribute, or fail because, and I say these with respect to (most :smile:) designers:

  • they don’t understand Free and Open Source Software philiopsophy
  • think they are the most important person on the project
  • aren’t willing to be part of the commiunity and learn
  • can’t/dont want to understand the users are vocal
  • equate it (all) with for profit software
  • find distributed decision making difficult

It’s a hard problem and there is not one solution. The effort designers have to exert to do design is different than that of a developer. I don’t mean it’s harder or easier, just different.

Often, for a designer there is an “uphill battle” effort to get good design in software, any software.

The power dynamic is very much not in our favour. It’s usually “contribute code” to get something done.

The number of FOSS projects that “get” and “do” design is small, but growing. For me this is the most exciting and interesting place in software.

The possibilities of projects to work on is infinite.

We designers need to take time, be humble, learn about the community/project, respect experience, show evidence where possible, and gain trust.

Project (software) contributors/maintainers need to learn and understand the different facets of design, listen, assume our input comes from good intent, listen to evidence, respect experience.

If you’re going to #FOSDEM2023 be sure to come visit our Open Source Design devroom (assuming it’s accepted again).

Or better, submit a design related talk. You’d be welcome.

The activities of all these people involved in their various roles are all part of the Free Software Development Lifecycle (FSDL), and it is an objective of Social Coding to explore how we can bridge the gap, close the divide.

Update: Look for more interesting interaction on the the fediverse discussion.

Here’s a related article. This is why UX/UI designers find it hard to contribute to Open Source projects | by Louie Morais | Medium

Warning, the article has a slight inflammatory tone.