The new GNOME human interface guidelines are now official – and obviously some people hate it • The Registry


Allan Day of Red Hat, a member of the GNOME design team, said the project’s new Human Interface (HIG) guidelines are now official.

The GNOME HIG, as Day explained in May, was “quite outdated” both in terms of technical changes for GNOME 40 and GTK (GNOME Toolkit) 4 and also in what he called “contemporary design practice” .

GTK 4.x was released in December 2020 and GNOME 40 in March of this year, although many Linux distributions still use GNOME 3.38. Day noted on Twitter that “the new GNOME HIG is now official. There is still work to be done, but I’m quite happy with it overall.”

One key change is that the design models all refer to GTK widgets that can be used to implement the model, which Day described as an “effort to bring HIG closer to the platform.” There are more specialized widgets than before, which once again makes it easier to implement templates, such as widgets for preference windows. The new guidelines also cover tooltips, which were previously omitted. Accessibility is no longer the subject of a separate guide, but is now part of the standard guidelines, “as it should be,” Day said.

In 2019, Day spoke at the GUADEC event, GNOME’s main annual conference, about user experience (UX) strategy for the project. He conducted in-depth interviews with three user groups about their choice of desktop, not limited to GNOME users. “People’s expectations have been raised: they are less inclined to accept shoddy software than they were in the past,” he said in a series of posts based on the presentation. He emphasized the importance of polish and refinement, integration with the cloud and the relationship between developers and designers.

Despite the best efforts for GNOME 40 and the new HIG, updates to GNOME are controversial. “I really like the GNOME 3.38 design… However, the GNOME 40 looks like the unproductive thing that hurts you,” one user said, while another called the HIG “The specified insanity… Otherwise, how could- provide you with a file picker that no one can use, or an OK button in a dialog box in the window title bar. ” However, another said: “I think Gnome’s interface guidelines are very well done… Daily use is pleasant and does not interfere with software use. People coming from other operating systems s ‘get used to it quite easily. “

The guidelines state that “the main menus are usually placed at the end (in western regions to the right) of the header bar” and that “the secondary menus are located in the header bar and are used to contain actions and parameters for a view or content item. ”Positioning menus in the window header bar has been tricky and counterintuitive for some.

A developing operating system, helloSystem, was inspired by early design guidelines for the Mac, including global menus advocated by usability expert Bruce Tognazzini, formerly of Apple.

Inconsistency: GNOME Web (back) has menus in the header bar, Firefox (front) does not

Inconsistency: GNOME Web (back) has menus in the header bar, Firefox (front) does not

Few would object to the idea that consistency of design and appearance helps users navigate an operating system and its applications, so guidelines are important. There is another problem, however, which is that many Linux applications are cross-platform, and their developers have a difficult decision: is it better for their application to look the same on all platforms, or to adopt system conventions? operation as far as possible? In practice, there is a bit of both. Neither Firefox nor LibreOffice have menus in the header bar, to take two examples that are some of the most popular Linux applications.

In a recent article on “Apps Get Worse”, XML co-inventor Tim Bray noted that “every time you make a change to a popular product, you impose a recycling cost on its users.” This means that any change will be refused by some because it introduces new frictions. Bray also said: “No PM [Product Manager] in the story never said, “It seems to work pretty well, let’s just leave it as it is.” Because it’s not daring. It is not visionary. It doesn’t allow you to promote. Although GNOME as an open source project does not come under these same constraints, there is always pressure to make bold improvements that may not always appeal to users. Microsoft has revamped the Start menu in the upcoming Windows 11 and will no doubt face complaints from users now familiar with the Windows 10 Start menu, which itself was a reaction to complaints about Windows 8, which drastically changed the popular one. Windows 7 Start menu.

One complaint about the new GNOME guidelines is that they embrace the idea of ​​hiding less-used options and features for a simpler experience, saying “don’t overwhelm people with too many items at once. Use structures. progressive disclosure and navigation to deliver a guided experience. ” The downside is the loss of discoverability and the fact that some actions require more clicks or keystrokes to accomplish, leading to complaints that the UI is designed to “make everything take as many clicks as possible”.

The HIG for GNOME 3.38 said almost the same thing: “Use progressive disclosure to show controls when they are needed … showing all possible controls all the time makes an application more difficult to use, because users have to navigate through it. controls that are often irrelevant. Instead, display the commands only when they are needed. ” True or false, this design principle is not exclusive to the GNOME 40 wave of changes. ®

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