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Thinking Upside Down
A Lesson in Design and Community Consultation
by Andy Dent
September 24, 2010
Summary
Komodo IDE version 6 radically changed the design of one of the key aspects of what makes it an IDE, not just an editor - Projects. There have been a lot of unhappy comments from the user community. How much consultation should a company provide?

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If you read the discussion forum thread on projects, you can see a number of people's complaints about the change. I'm not going to argue the merits of the change here but I'm intrigued by the thought of how much design should take place in public and if a community consultation is appropriate.

The Komodo v5 IDE allowed for multiple Projects to be open to provide tree browsing of selected files, within the one main IDE window. This feature was much appreciated by people like myself who tend to work across multiple projects, sharing files and using those project documents to organise subsets of work.

Just to give you a quick idea of the magnitude of the change: the redesign replaces projects with a filtered directory view called Places and only allows one Place to be be open per window. To see multiple Places, you have to create multiple IDE windows, visible on your taskbar and requiring more disruptive switching. The change is not as painful if you are using multiple screen computers, provided you're willing to give up the screen space to see things side-by-side

Remember that Komodo IDE is a commercial product. Does that give them more right to make large changes without consultation compared to having to woo an open source community? Would you encourage other vendors to publish mockups and other prototypes before committing to a redevelopment? Is it time for more consultative design or is that just a mudhole into which the project would sink?

One of the comments on the above forum from an ActiveState employee is interesting and I think informative of their attitude: If you’ve followed bugzilla, you’re aware that there were plenty of bugs in the project system.
True, we could have fixed those bugs, and gone on with the status quo, but there were aspects in the existing project system that were standing in the way of where we wanted to take Komodo.

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About the Blogger

Andy is a free-lance developer in C++, REALbasic, Python, AJAX and other XML technologies. He works out of Perth, Western Australia for a local and international clients on cross-platform projects with a focus on usability for naive and infrequent users. Included in his range of interests are generative solutions, software usability and small-team software processes. He still bleeds six colors, even though Apple stopped, and uses migration projects from legacy Mac OS to justify the hardware collection.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2010 Andy Dent. All rights reserved.

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