It makes sense to have an option only if an unsophisticated user can understand what it does and how to set it. Otherwise you should Do The Right Thing for those users.
That’s a comment from an LXDE developer on their mailing list. LXDE is a Linux desktop environment (i.e. user interface) with a focus is on lean code, and a level of usability appropriate to new users. Principles like the one above are central to what makes the project work so well.
Of course it can be more complex – it can be good to have advanced options, as long as they’re marked as such, and the default is suitable for regular users.
Over at 3brick design, a project spawned from Stanford’s Extreme Affordability class, they take user-centered design seriously, and respect the dignity of the people they’re trying to serve. The examples they’ve displayed so far look elegant and functional – I’ll be interested to see what they come up with.
One thing is sure: it’s unlikely to be a single design. As the context changes, the appropriate technology for the situation tends to change as well. Do the users mainly frying or do slow cooking, for example?
Showing that they think about their users in more than just a cooking context, the project has chosen a nice lean blog skin for WordPress called Darwin, designed to be fast-loading and easy on the eye. Good work.
Picture credit: “3 bricks. Many users.” at the Stanford Cool Product Expo blog.