Biological software and HIG

Today I obtained a trial license of a data analysis program. I plan on using it for the next two weeks to see if it could improve the analysis workflow in our laboratory. I noticed this software uses the Tk widget set to achieve cross-platform capability (in fact, it can run on Linux, which is a big plus for me). However, in my opinion, Tk widgets look rather ugly. I wonder why the company didn’t consider using Trolltech’s Qt widgets. Mind, I don’t have any ties with TT but I appreciate their toolkit (licensed either under the GNU GPL or a commercial license) in the KDE desktop environment.

But let’s get to the point of this entry. This software, but not  only this one, has a rather unintuitive user interface (though not as bad as other products I’ve seen in my career). I see that a lot of software in the life sciences has rather poor  UI design, up to being almost completely unusable. There is a lot of non commercial software released just for obtaining a publication, then completely unmantained. I wonder if the authors of such software want really to help the scientific community by releasing their work or they do so just to obtain one more paper in their curriculum vitae. Commercial software isn’t any better either. I’d expect at least commercial companies to follow HIG (Human Interface Guidelines) to produce usable UIs. Usabilty is kept in high regard in free and open source software. Why can’t companies listen? They surely have more resources. This is even more important considering that not all biologists are computer-savy, and can’t waste their time fighting with poor user interfaces.

Dialogue & Discussion