Libre Planet 2022 (proposals due 12/15)

Hello. I’m new to discourse but have been following this group. I’m a ux designer/strategist and work on a blog called called Possible Futures “cataloging movement towards ethics, social responsibility and systemic change in tech, design and culture” and linked to OSD in a post from our Open Source issue.

Someone reached out to me to propose a talk about challenges incorporating design into open source and/or challenges OS has with user adoption. Does anyone have experience with these? Or have overcome these barriers? My focus has been on awareness and barriers to initial entry. Am curious where other people are at and would be up to collaborate on a proposal around this.

Or… just passing this on in case anyone is into doing their own session. Also wondering what folks think about Libre Planet.


Hi @colombene,

Welcome to our Open Source Design community and thanks for posting this topic. This is a big topic.

Alot of us contribute to open source software - both “for pleasure and public good” (i.e. not for profit), and as a day job (i.e. for profit, and hopefully for pleasure and public good :slight_smile: ).

I’m going to tag a few people and hopefully they’ll have some time to add comments. @jan @belenbarrospena @jdittrich @Erioldoesdesign @evalica @htietze (and others).

For me the challenges of incorporating design into open source include the following -

  • often (but not exclusively) the code contributor has a limited view (I guess based on experience) of what a UX designer does/can do. Design is often seen solely at the visual/graphic level, as opposed to being part of the process of designing how the software actually works.
  • the designer does not have the knowledge/experience (based on many reasons - not having the time to spend on it, the interest) of the software to make user experience improvements. They only “scratch the surface” - often at the visual/graphic level. This often “validates” the code contributor’s limited view of design.

(I will say I am biased - my interest and experience is in user research, and interaction design. I know what I know about about visual/graphic design due to the number of years I’ve “used technology”. Don’t get me wrong - they are also important layers of “design”).

The way to overcome these limitations can involve:

  1. to spend time with the project.

UX Design without research is ot UX Design. The Designer should do their user research with the community. Take part it in. Use the software. Get familiar with it. Only then will they really understand it and the community.

  1. be humble.

In open source communities, no-one cares about you being “a UX Designer”. It takes time to gain their trust, and their respect. For me it reminds me a lot of a particular industry where I did a lot of UX work.

In the past users often had “the technology people” coming telling them the next piece of software will fix all their issues. They normally went away, they never heard from them again until the new software was delivered. It was often rubbish because they never listened to them. Did their user research.

Open Source software communities are a lot like that. But they can be more rowdy and colourful. As a designer you need to earn their trust. The reasons for the “sub-optimal” user experience are many, and complicated. Saying “FOSS projects don’t care about design” is mostly untrue. It’s more nuanced and complicated.

Talking about the initial barriers to entry - this is a big issue also and one that does not have a simple answer in my view.

If we talk about the commercial UX world, designers are given time (never too much of course!) to do their desk research, to learn about the domain they are working in.

Often UX designers in open source don’t take that time. Why? I’m not fully sure but I have my guesses (How hard can it be?/I’m a UX Designer, they’ll obviously listen to me/This won’t be too hard/Amongst others.)

My personal contributions to open source software (unless it is a paid for engagement, i.e. a job) is to contribute to software I am familiar with - I use, understand the domain, or is realtively easy to understand.

Also, the power dynamics in open source software projects are historically stacked towards those who contribute code - design, documentation often don’t get elevated to the lofty heights of maintainer/Benevolent Dictator.

There is no onus on the maintainers to accept design recommendations - “commit code or go away”. Thankfully this is changing. Slowly. But it is changing.

There’s alot more to talk on this topic. I hope that’s a helpful start.

About the FSF call for sessions - would you be willing to send a pull request for our website so we can advertise the CFP on our website? You can see previous events here: at master · opensourcedesign/ · GitHub


PS: @colombene You might be interested in submitting your FSF talk to our FOSDEM Design Devroom. We organise a design related track at FOSDEM (Europe’s biggest free open source conference). It happens 5th February 2022. This year (due to the :microbe::microbe:) it will be fully online.

You can find out more on our Call for Submissions:

If you’d like some help on creating the talk, or with the system, you can come ask a question on our FOSDEM 2022 support thread


…about challenges incorporating design into open source and/or challenges OS has with user adoption. Does anyone have experience with these? Or have overcome these barriers?

One explaination that helped me in making sense of the difficulties of open source projects and UX designers working together is that both groups are socialized with fundamentally different and morally charged ideas of what a “good” user is and how creators should relate to them: In open source culture, a good user is also a programmer and a contributor to the project. In UX design a good user is just a user and the design is distant to them: “UX without research is not UX”, “you are not the user” etc. Thus, also the activities associated with the roles can seem alien: A programmer might start right away to try to implement a feature (the right thing to do in classic open source culture) which for a UX designer (in their culture) is “just wrong”. (slightly longer text on this on my blog)


There’s…lots to unpack here and too much to really type out right now. Probably easier to record a quick little video:Loom | Free Screen & Video Recording Software

It barely covers all the complexities here but it’s my two cents :slight_smile:

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Thanks for taking the time! Seems there’s overlap with challenges in “evangelizing design” or pushing for culture change in a programmer-centric environment - broader than open source. I’ve seen that. Also think everyone’s capacity for patience, empathy, understanding and accountability between different disciplines decreases greatly without the compensation, structure and mgmt support roles of paid projects.

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