Full Article Attached MozillaZine on Skins

Tuesday April 11th, 2000

I have decided to put my own head on the chopping block and weigh in on the Mozilla skins and native widgets debate. To read more, click "Full Article" below.

#25 It's the user, stupid

by mpt <>

Wednesday April 12th, 2000 7:24 AM

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It's completely understandable, but still very sad, how many people in this discussion have overlooked one simple fact. And that is that software is meant to be used.

There's a lot of fluff and nonsense here about Mozilla being skinnable, and being a platform for future Internet apps, but all that is really only of interest to developers. And what is the ratio of end users to developers? A thousand to one? Ten thousand to one?

A few points.

* The large majority of users do not care about skins, just as they do not care about Windows or Kaleidoscope themes. In fact, for a decent proportion of users, if you changed their Netscape skin behind their back, the next time they tried to use Netscape they would be utterly lost. If you doubt this, try it on your mother after she has been using Netscape 6 for a few months.

* The vast majority of users do not care that Mozilla is a platform for future Internet applications. They couldn't give a stuff. Mozilla opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for developers; but for the end user this is largely irrelevant, and will remain so for a couple of years at least (until those exciting possibilities start becoming real apps with significant market share).

* If someone complains about the tackiness of Mozilla's default user interface, saying `but it's skinnable!' is not a valid response. In fact, it is a shameful response. When I buy a new car, I should not have to repaint it because the default color is hot pink with green polka dots. Why should I have to put up with the equivalent from a computer program?

* If someone complains about Mozilla not using widgets with native look and feel, saying `the capability to [use native widgets] is right there, in the code sitting on the CVS server', as Chris did <http://www.mozillazine.or…alkback.html?article=1330> , is not a valid response. In fact, it is absurd. When I buy a new car, I should not have to replace its engine with one of my own making, in order to allow the car to drive on the same side of the road as every other car in the state. Why should I have to put up with the equivalent from a computer program?

* Saying that the non-native toolkit was required to fully comply with CSS standards is a red herring. No user agent should be expected to do things which are impossible with the native toolkit. The W3C is not that stupid, and if the CSS specs really say that, it is an error.

* Consistency with the rest of the OS is one of the most fundamental things required for a usable user interface. The sort of people who read MozillaZine persistently underestimate the importance of consistency to the average user, because (a) they use computers more than the average user, giving them more time to learn the intricacies of inconsistent apps, and (b) they often use multiple platforms, so they are exposed to inconsistent user interfaces anyway.

* Netscape 6 must ship with native-looking skins on each platform, and these native-looking skins must be the default. If this does not happen, Netscape market share will continue to wither, and Mozilla will suffer as a result.

-- mpt (Aphrodite <> design maintainer)