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Ease of Use and Documentation

The more I play with new stuff, I tend to find that ease of use and documentation are playing a bigger role. I'm lucky enough to enjoy a fair amount of leisure time, but wonder just how much of it should really be spent just fighting with something to get it to work, especially as often alternative choices are available. I'll take this blogging system as an example. It falls into the realm of things that have three distinct phases for me: installation, getting my feet wet, and customization.

I have to give b2evolution high marks on the first two. The critical factor in getting those first two was ease of use. Unpack a directory and run through a quick couple of pages to setup an initial configuration. Login, create a new user and write a new entry. Wow it displays, simple as that.

Only problem is with something as dynamic as a blog you gotta have knobs to turn! Going back to the admin interface gives a few high-level options, but not quite what I wanted to change. Given the version number, maybe not all the options are wizified yet. At which point I turn, or I should say "try to turn", to the documentation. Splat. Houston we have a problem.

I know this rant has been made time and time again, but it holds so true. The best projects not only have reasonable documentation, they have well organized easy to find documentation. But, no one wants to write documentation. I say if your interface has good enough ease of use you don't need very much. FAQs and forums do help and if you are judicious you can usually find an answer there if they have been around long enough, but trying to get to the wheat from the chaff is just painful.

It is free software though, so what right do I have to complain? None really. It's not like I'm going to stop using it, because at the core it is still I've found, so far. Hell, if I was so inclined I could work to improve the situation, which is something I wish more people would take to heart. Beggars can't be choosers. You didn't invest anything for the software, so unless you are willing to donate your own time to make things better, please don't complain. If the authors have a wish-list, submit a request, but don't become the squeaky wheel.

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