Open Source Design

Open Source Software (OSS) is an interesting phenomenon. The idea of having many developers working individually and together for free to create an offering for others to use is truly intriguing. I'd recommend reading Chris Anderson's new book, "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" for an explanation for the motivation behind this type of free contribution. I've been interested for some time in the aspects of Open Source software that are done well and the aspects that aren't done as well. I've also been interested in the related issue of the relative contribution to Open Source projects by developers versus designers. Let's first start with the general interest in Open Source Software. I asked my Twitter followers to take a poll asking them what type of software they preferred and fully 65% indicated that they prefer open source software. The reasons given included the fact that it is free and that they like the philosophy behind it. However, the reasons often given for preferring proprietary/commercial software is better design and support. When I asked the followers who are designers whether they had contributed to an open source project, only 11 percent said that they had and 95 percent were of the view that we needed a better system for having designers contribute to open source projects.

Many of the open source projects I've seen do need help in the area of user experience design. There are exceptions but most of those involve design contributed from a company that directly funds that work and often that results in a commercial offering. In fact, some would argue that it is the addition of good user experience design that provides the business value to create a commercial product from an open source project. Is that the only way to improve the design of open source projects? I'd very much appreciate it if you would use the comment section below to provide any ideas you may have on how to improve the design of open source software.