Why Are Most Open Source Application And Websites So FUgly?

Lets Start with PHP.net apache.org and w3.org, a quick look at the WayBack machine tells me these sites haven’t changed a bit since 2000(the Apache site is stuck with the same design since 1996). I can understand if these were small fledging projects but projects like PHP and Apache are massive and widely used. What about the w3c site? Would we be making pretty cross browsers sites if they hadn’t set up the standards, yet their own site is stuck in the 80s.

One of the aspects of open source that has been touted is the contributions from the community and people involved in the projects. In the case of PHP and Apache I see a clear disconnect between the developers and users(developers and designers who use PHP). When it comes to huge projects the open source model some how tends to break down since its very hard to keep/manage the communities of massive sizes and take everybody’s views.

There are three projects that I would like to point out which have been massively successful in maintaining the open source model.

  • Mozilla FireFox
  • Joomla
  • Ubuntu

All three of these projects have beautiful sites, great marketing, huge communities.
My first experience with open source communities started with Mambo/Joomla CMS and it really fascinated me how a whole community and developers together left Mambo to create Joomla. As a projects becomes bigger other than development and maintenance it becomes important to handle other aspects of the project. Here take a look at some of the key people who are responsible for Joomla. If you notice out of the 17 key founding members only 9-10 of them are developers and project managers below is a list of other roles.

  • Sites & Infrastructure Coordinator : Forum Admin
  • Shop Team Lead
  • Fundraising Team Lead
  • Documentation Working Group Coordinator
  • Events Team Lead
  • Design & Accessibility Working Group Coordinator
  • Quality & Testing Working Group Coordinator
  • Translations Coordinator
  • Marketing & Media Team Lead

Hey even have a honour roll that shows the list of previous Key members and their roles. the same goes for Mozilla FireFox because the roles and responsibilities have been divided among a few key community members the whole project benefits since these key members can focus on their roles. Have you seen The FireFox Campus Edition website do you think a developer came up with this idea? very unlikely. I love the design and plus what a great way to attract students to use FireFox. All they had to do was create a funky looking WebPage and repackage FireFox with some cool/useful extensions. Shows how important marketing and media is for any projects.

Another thing I really liked about Joomla was their forum which is massive and well organised and structured with a ton of volunteers. All the developers, Volunteers have real pictures in their profiles.

The problem with most Open Source projects is they are started by developers who continue to follow the same process even when the’ve grown big without realizing the need to expand and evolve, they rather take refuge in a restricted mailing lists far from the noobs.

Hey WordPress Devs you need to learn a few things here.

13 Responses

That’s the open source philosophy unfortunately. To keep things simple, stable and universally compatible.

Some websites like kde, etc have evolved a bit, but nothing as professional as ubuntu.

I’d worked with a open source group writing some code and they are extremely careful and strict and conservative about the source commits.

For chrissake, the kernel website (kernel.org), the center of the linux universe is simple.

Open source needs to open up a bit more and learn to commercialize. Unfortunately they view this as selling out, which is responsible for every other distro hating ubuntu and firefox in the first place.

@Anirudh I get what you are saying but I didn’t say Open Source needs to commercialize. There are other ways, they could get people/users involved have a blog run a contest get some sponsors.

because most that developers are not graphic designers and they don’t even care about, they manage the content :d. I guess it have nothing to do with the open source attitude, it is just busy life to develop.
Sometimes i also get “lost” between the lines of PHPCSS……….
I’m a grafic designer and i have to take care also to stay graphivc designer and i see the hidden possibility in open source projects to show how far you can get with it IF you design the graphic side of it!
that contest by the way can be a good idea
IF not the scriptbrainopensourceresponsiblesgretguys judge but some graphic porfessionals with some understanding about future screen sizes at least :d

I can’t agree with you more. There’s no excuse in any of these cases for the below average sites that they have!

In this day and age, the website is the first touchpoint between them and the outside world. Im sure that any of these companies if they asked would get free services from the graphics arts community, hell even i would volunteer to design there home page!

yes, this is what we are talking about
i agree with Liquid boy,

@wangjel @liquidboy agreed my. I think all huge open source projects like PHP and Apache need to follow what Ubuntu and Joomla have managed to achieve.

Those ugly websites are as such due to the FUgly things they deal with. I can only guess that being un-ugly is least of all on their priority list.

i would be really happy to see that design contest to move it forward on a positive way and i guess that contest can be very very popular and may be the developers of that projects will understand how important it is
I would be very happy to see that contest!!!

It boggles my mind too sometimes why people spend months developing something but can’t put up a decent website. Quite often those sites don’t even make it clear on the first page what the software actually does. Though i think useability is more useful than pretty looks. Lots of popular commercial sites are ugly, or at least boring looking.

Well, I’ve my differences Arpit.
First thing first, these site aren’t really ugly. They have a proper layout and provide you almost any information in *minimum no. of clicks*. What they don’t do is follow the latest trends in web *designing*… and let’s face it. They don’t need to.
In fact, in reality, designing the sites in the _cool mode_ might hamper their main motive, which is to reach to maximum number of people. Just imagine opening a flash/silverlight/ajax, or say, wordpress in lynx :)

On and ending note, IANA is redesigning it’s site :)

GIMP is a great open source replacement for Adobe Photoshop and Inkscape is a replacement for Adobe Illustrator.

michael » I wouldn’t call GIMP a replacement for Photoshop. GIMP is rather unpolished and raw the UI is a mess. On the other hand Inkscape is a worthy replacement for Illustrator.

maybe the simple answer is most of them are free~~hence may be gimp doesnt hav as big of a budget as may be photoshop~~~if you want gold pay for it~~~stones are available in plenty