Role of addons

Mike Conley mconley at mozilla.com
Fri Sep 14 18:30:52 UTC 2012


> I think the major issue here is that the UI of Thunderbird is old and creaky and likes to display a lot to the user...much of which the user might not care about.  Instead of ripping things out to fix this, the UI could be made "simpler" by default with advanced options hidden in other tabs, windows, dialogs, etc.

There is a tricky balance here, especially since there's the idea of 
subscribing to a philosophy of minimal disturbance for current users.

Not to mix two threads here, but would the idea be to just keep the UI 
the way it is for current users, and attempt to simplify / modernize the 
UI for new users?

-Mike

On 14/09/2012 2:23 PM, Patrick Cloke wrote:
> On Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 1:06 PM, Kent James <kent at caspia.com
> <mailto:kent at caspia.com>> wrote:
>
>     One of the results of that is well stated in a review of Thunderbird
>     by Linux Magazine <http://www.linux-mag.com/id/7788/> :
>
>     "/One of the problems with Thunderbird is that it doesn’t seem to
>     fit with most users’ needs for email. That is, it doesn’t work well
>     for business users who need features like calendaring and groupware
>     connectivity, and it doesn’t work well for casual mail users who
>     have mostly adopted Webmail or whatever ships on their computer. ...
>     It’s too complex for casual users, and not full-featured enough for
>     business users."
>     /
>
> Ironically I find that most "casual" users I know think Outlook is easy
> enough to use, so...I'm a bit confused by this.  If "casual" users can
> use Outlook, it would imply it's both "full featured" and "simple" to
> use initially.
>
>     //In terms of positioning of the product, I think that we should
>     push at both of these boundaries, at the same time realizing that we
>     will probably never be able to displace webmail for the most casual
>     user, or Outlook for the most complex enterprise.
>
> I agree here.
>
>     To push at the simplicity boundary, we must be willing to reduce the
>     complexity of the user interface. One of the main ways that we have
>     to do that is through addons. The user interface for features that
>     are only going to be used by a tiny fraction of our users should be
>     pushed to addons, and not included in the core code.
>
> To be clear here, you're talking about the user interface, but not the
> actual core code?  That seems a bit wonky.  Maybe it's time to revise
> the UI that touches these features to add "advanced" options?
>
>     In the long run I would like to see us do this more explicitly by
>     adding a category of addon that is maintained along with the core
>     product, and shipped with the core product. So these addons would
>     have the same commitment to support as any core feature, but are
>     included as addons to reduce the overall complexity of the product.
>
> This sounds more complicated to maintain to me.  You have to figure out
> what add-ons are installed (or enabled at least) and check various
> combinations of those to ensure everything still works.  Plus, when
> writing code, it might be harder to understand all the consumers of a
> certain API.
>
> This might also be pretty hard since various aspects of Thunderbird
> don't seem to have good APIs to them, meaning you'd have to create the
> API as well as rip out bits of code.
>
>     Good candidates for that in the long run would be chat, calendaring,
>     RSS feeds, bayesian junk processing, advanced security models, and
>     advanced search and filter functionality.
>
> Is this list actually based on anything?  I use most of these on a daily
> basis, as do most people I know of who use Thunderbird.  How do you
> decide what stays in and what goes?  Can things be prompted/demoted?
> There's political as well as technical questions in there, mind you.  It
> would be great to have hard data about what features are used and what
> ones aren't used.
>
>     In the short run, I would encourage us to be selective about adding
>     new features that complicate an already overwhelming user interface.
>     Just because a developer is motivated should not be a good reason to
>     add new user interface items for rarely needed features.
>
> I think it's reasonable to add the user interface, but it needs to be
> done in a clean way to clearly separates what a normal user and "power"
> user.  It's also good to have sane default values so it will "just work"
> for most users.
>
> I also wonder if some options don't necessary need UI and "about:config"
> is a good enough UI for them.  We've been using this in Instantbird (and
> in some of the chat code as well) and it seems to work fairly well for
> options that the basic user won't need to tweak and an advanced user
> "gets" how to change it pretty instantaneously.
>
>     Comments?
>
> I think the major issue here is that the UI of Thunderbird is old and
> creaky and likes to display a lot to the user...much of which the user
> might not care about.  Instead of ripping things out to fix this, the UI
> could be made "simpler" by default with advanced options hidden in other
> tabs, windows, dialogs, etc.
>
> I don't think it makes sense to talk about this in overall terms.  I
> think it would be more useful to take a look at each feature
> individually and see whether it can be simplified / removed / etc.
>
> --Patrick
>
>
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