Console-Interfaces tend to have a lot of strange keybindings (mostly not modifiable) and are therefore often hard to use for somebody who is not regularly using a software. That is why I never got used to the midinght commander – it may be a mighty tool, but for everything I needed, either the shell itself or the facilities of emacs were enough for me, so I never quite had the mood to invest time to learn its keybindings.
Of course, emacs is certainly not easier to learn (except that there are modes which make it easier but are not the default), but its simply that I know and use emacs anyway.
Irssi is a bit better. Even newbees can use it, with only little explanation. But on the other hand, irssi might be a versatile software for IRC, but its UI is not very versatile – which is a good thing (there are yet too much blown up interfaces out there), but explains why handling it is easier.
Well, and then there is finch. Finch is a console-based purple-frontend, that is, you can use it with your pidgin-configuration-folder remotely through SSH without having to do x-forwarding. Well, it has a few keybindings which are unusual to the default GUIs, but on the other hand – well, there arent thousands of commands to move the window up, down, left, right and diagonally each, in fact you have to remember two commands to resize and move the windows in there: Alt+m for moving and Alt+r for resizing. The rest can be done with arrow-keys and enter when done with resizing.
Also, you will get a window-list when pressing Alt+w, but you can also iterate through the windows by pressing Alt+n. Essentially, these are the commands you will need. There are a few others, for opening menus, closing windows, etc., but either you will never need them, or you will somehow remember them, for example Alt+c stands for close, which is intuitive.
The windows are not tabbed, they are freely movable (except outside the screen bounds, but I dont care about this, and its certainly not hard to patch it if one really needs this) and overlapping, like in common windowed environments. Getting an intuitive and easy-to-learn interface in the pure console, with software that really can do a lot of down-to-earth things is something that is hard to find.
Unfortunately, it is still a console-application, which means that there is no way of somehow integrating it into the rest of the desktop, which is why I prefer Pidgin when sitting on my local computer.
But the most important thing is that it solves the problem of crappy links when sitting in trains and using mobile internet. Whenever I get disconnected, some problem occurs, for example some messages get lost, OTR is out of sync, etc. – I used to solve this using Pidgin on a remote machine with xpra and NX which are very well done pieces of software, but having a console-ui which I can run inside screen, which produces a lot less traffic and is still easy to handle, is the preferred way for me, especially because I dont have to reconfigure my configuration, finch just takes the pidgin-configuration and uses it.