my recent blog on Kopete's changing of the default send key binding to Enter created quite a bit of feedback. my reply to a reply has received a number of comments even, something most of my blog entries don't get.
those upset about the change have two good points. first, the developers obsessed over the technical details, namely that it's a multiline edit rather than a single line edit and that kopete a communications application. these turn out to be rather irrelevant, however, in the context of user perception and experience.
the second point some made is the really important one, however: this "how the user perceives it be damned!" mode of development has led to one set of users (the existing ones who didn't change the defaults, which many did) learning the default mechanism and now it's been changed on them. this is better for those who struggled with changing it and for those who will be using it in the future for the first time. but it does have an impact on current users.
this was an interface screw up in Kopete, and the options came down to fixing it or keeping the experience consistent for "default settings" users. neither option is without it's pain, though the option chosen will be better for many of Kopete's current and the majority of its future users. still, it brings pain, too.
there's a lesson here for all of us: making wrong fundamental decisions in the interface today can create very painful problems tomorrow. this episode also demonstrates how snake-oil usability is as bad as no usability concern at all. we need to pay heed to this.