Recently at the non-profit we needed a package to manipulate images for our latest project (which I might talk about sometime in the future). Somebody mentioned that we just use GIMP, at which the poor sod that had to do the work shuddered, it would save the organisation a couple of hundred pounds but his face said it all, he was horrified.
I am a big GIMP fan, it has huge power for a free application, however, I also recognise that it one of the most unfriendly applications I have ever used. Considering that the competition costs several hundred pounds, i.e. PhotoShop and PaintShopPro, there is a great opportunity to improve the interface and sell it as a low cost alternative to people that don’t want to spend loads of money.
A few years ago during my time as Business Manager at University College London I got myself involved in a great project called openusability.org, which was set up to involve usability professionals in open source projects (nobody argued with the principle that many Open Source apps could do with major design improvements).
I was already interested in usability of open source applications. Eventually though I could not find a way to make collaboration work with the university and I moved on. However, I though I would do a search on “gimp usability” and I came accross the blog of a GIMP programmer and noticed that openusability have arranged for a usability person to help the team. Also, an article last year on NewsForge brought up the subject and the comments about the package are fantastic reading, there is a lot of passion out there. Will it be possible for a usability person to make the changes, read the history and user experiences in those comments and make up your own mind. I think that the barriers to change are more political than design or technical. A usability person can’t change that. But maybe I am wrong, and I hope I am, let’s hope the openusability inspired project works out, read the latest on m+mi works blog