The importance of a good GUI

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Many IT professionals speak very highly of command-line based interfaces. “They work so much better!”, “why have all that overhead when you just need to remember a few commands”, etc.

Yes, I will agree that many services just run better when left in command-line modes. They’re more reliable, and take up fewer resources. And in some cases, they even make sense (think VMWare’s ESXi hypervisor). None the less, in general, the really successful pieces of software all have one thing in common: they all have a well thought out and developed GUI (Graphical User Interface).

Think about it, if command-line Linux is so much more stable (and I’d argue that in the real world, you see uptimes that are longer on Linux than Windows), why isn’t everyone using it ? Because simply put, the interface sucks. Unless you’re the geekiest of geeks, you don’t actually prefer a command-line interface to a nice GUI. It comes down to basic human nature, we prefer things that feel natural and are intuitive to use. A command-line interface is not intuitive to use. A GUI is.

If you look at the desktop computer world, Windows and Mac OSX are the reigning champions. Why is that ? There are plenty of other operating systems out there, including Linux, Unix, Solaris, etc. There have been others that have died off or disappeared over the years as well. The reason why Windows has remained world champ is because of their user interface. It’s easy to use and everyone understands it. In fact, everyone was so used to it and had it so ingrained in them, that when Windows 8 removed the traditional Start menu, you’d think a car manufacturer had eliminated the steering wheel. Obviously this was too drastic of a change to just implement all at once for Microsoft (and I hear they’re bringing a hybrid Start menu back), but it does reinforce the fact that good, well thought out GUIs are one of the most important parts of software. I would argue that it’s probably the most important part of any software. Yes, of course your software needs to do what it’s supposed to do as well, but if the GUI sucks, no one’s going to want to use it. That’s just a fact.

For us IT professionals, having a good GUI also helps us manage, support, troubleshoot and configure software more easily. Ever try to configure an Exchange server using the Exchange Management Shell only ? If you have and it worked, then kudos to you. Personally, I wouldn’t try it with a 10 foot pole. Since my company’s clients are paying for support by the hour, it doesn’t make any sense for me to waste my time with a command-line interface when I can complete the same work in a fraction of the time using a GUI.

Having a good GUI can make all the difference when working with various software. When you’re testing potential software, make sure you fully evaluate the GUIs and ensure they meet your needs.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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