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What is "ugly" software?

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Posted by Paul Korm
Jul 11, 2018 at 07:52 PM


I see comments here and there in this forum and—sometimes mild, sometimes very stern—in the vein “this software is so ugly I cannot / refuse / have a hard time using it”.

I’m a sucker for nice looking design anytime—Agenda is my current swoon—but is interface really all that important?  I enjoy using Mathematica—which has almost zero design sense.  I’m ok with Tinderbox because I know where it came from and what the developer’s challenges have been over time.  The only software I find myself rejecting is software that turns out not to do anything useful, or does something poorly that should be useful.  The operative word is “does” or “does not”, not “looks like”.

Obviously a question of preference with no possible basis in fact, but the question is:  can design really be everything?  If software doesn’t have a pretty face is that a permanent thumbs down?


Posted by Dellu
Jul 11, 2018 at 09:55 PM


For me, the value of the interface depends on the purpose I have for that software.

For reference managers, for note taking, research tools, that I consider a very serious task, I don’t really care about the interface. I put the features (functionality) first. I don’t want to enjoy it; I want to accomplish my tasks with it.

But, for less serious tasks, like todo apps, I might prefer the software with better interface over the one with more features.


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jul 11, 2018 at 09:59 PM


Good question, Paul.

In my mind, if the software is unusual-looking, but otherwise well designed, it’s quirky. If it is unusual-looking and not well designed, it is ugly.

I’ve read comments on other forums that make me think the commenter is saying that the software is “ugly” because it doesn’t fit Apple’s design scheme.

But there is no question that a beautifully designed app instills more initial confidence in the quality of the app, whether that’s founded or not.

Steve Z.


Posted by Dellu
Jul 11, 2018 at 10:00 PM


But, the whole emphasis on interface seems to have a marketing motive…than serving the user. It feels over-rated quality, with the purpose of catching the eyes of the less experienced user.

Apple puts a lot of emphasis on design. It encourages developers to invest a lot on design.
“Apple design award, blah…”


Posted by Jeffery Smith
Jul 11, 2018 at 11:51 PM


I hate to post this, but early reviews of Tinderbox (on blogs) invariably had the words “ugly app”, and fortunately, Mark B. started to provide enhancements that could be added, though I thought prettiness wasn’t important.


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