Novell announced the launch of
the Better Desktop initiative, a new component of the openSUSE project
that provides open source developers with usability testing data and
resources they can use to improve the quality of the Linux desktop.
Novell is releasing primary desktop research, including video footage
and analysis of usability tests, at
Instructions for constructing and operating a low-cost usability lab
will also be provided. For the first time, open source developers
worldwide will be able to see for themselves the types of desktop
software designs that are succeeding with end users. As a result, open
source developers will have the resources to build applications that
better meet the needs and expectations of users and ultimately help
drive the adoption of Linux on the desktop.

“This is a valuable contribution to the Linux community that will help
open source developers benefit from Novell’s research to create a
better, more user-friendly desktop,” said Gary Barnett, research
director at technology consultants Ovum. “Usability is a key requirement
in order to drive the Linux desktop into the mainstream. Novell’s focus
on usability, and this contribution to the worldwide community of Linux
developers, will help break down some of the barriers to mainstream
Linux adoption on the desktop.”

Although usability testing and refinement can dramatically improve
software development efforts, most developers lack the resources to
conduct these tests. With Novell’s contributions through, open source developers now have the
information they need to refine applications, including adjustments to
menus, screen layouts, dialog boxes, and even the icons and colors of a
user interface.

“Novell’s Linux desktop usability test results represent a significant
addition to the resources available to open source developers who are
working to enhance the Linux desktop,” said Jan Muehlig, founder of “Novell is making it easier for developers to get
insight and fundamental information of how users interact with the
desktop through state-of-the-art usability research. This will help open
source engineers everywhere to create packages and applications which
better meet user needs, improving the overall quality of the Linux

Nat Friedman, vice president of collaboration and desktop engineering
for Novell, said, “As a programmer, it’s sometimes difficult to know how
ordinary people with no technical experience are reacting to your
software. Linux people tend to know other Linux people. In these
usability tests, we selected test subjects who were experienced with
Windows, but who had never heard of Linux, and asked them to perform
basic tasks using the Linux desktop. We expect that developers from a
variety of projects will come to and review
these results to see first hand how they can improve the design of
different applications, desktops and distributions. Ultimately, improved
usability will help Linux succeed on the desktop.” Momentum
The Better Desktop initiative is the latest addition to the
fast-growing openSUSE project. Sponsored by Novell, is a
community-based effort that involves developers worldwide in the review,
testing and development of SUSE Linux with the goal of making it
accessible to end users, not just developers. In the first eight weeks
alone, more than 4 million page views have been logged at the project
site, 7,000 Linux users have registered and beta editions of SUSE Linux
10.0 have been installed more than 30,000 times. With the shipment of
SUSE Linux 10.0 last week and the release of the Alpha 1 version of SUSE
Linux 10.1, the momentum around the openSUSE project continues to build.