Miguel de Icaza: Reorganizing the [Gnome] UI team
Oct 24, 2000, 22:40 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Miguel De Icaza)
Date: 24 Oct 2000 14:46:03 -0400
From: Miguel de Icaza firstname.lastname@example.org
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Reorganizing the UI team.
* A call for volunteers to extend the life of the GNOME User
* A call for people who want to coordinate the individual
parts of the team.
* If you are interested in a managing role in the project,
please read to the end of this message for further
* The User and Developer Gap.
Last year I created a team that was managed by Jim Cape: the GNOME
UI team. The purpose of this team was to close the gap between
developers, users and human interface experts and visionaires.
The problem is that developers many times think in terms of how
their application is structured, and their range of needs and
things they consider important for an application might not be the
same ones that a user needs.
The problem of human interfaces is that there are many opinions on
how what an user interface should look like, or what the behaviour
should be, and which things are ergonomic and which ones are not.
So developers find themselves having a hard time following through
the discussions on the mailing lists.
* What we need from the UI team.
There are various tasks required in GNOME that can be classified as
"human interface" work:
* A comprehensive document with guidelines for user
interfaces. Basically, a free document (FDLed hopefully)
that could be used as a handbook of user interfaces.
* GNOME look document.
* A quick reference guide/checkpoint list for a good user
interface in GNOME.
* Collecting human interface ideas, presenting them to
* Developers willing to implement those ideas.
* Collecting user interfaces ideas
So a way of collecting the suggested improvements and catalogue
them with various criteria is required:
* By complexity: an estimate of how hard it would be to
* By impact: how much better the user experience would be.
* By radicalism: is this a major shift in the user interface,
is it not?
All of these need to be kept, so developers and contributors and
casual contributors can go to a single spot and implement.
It is best if ideas for changes in the user interface layout
contain a screenshot or a mockup of the suggestion.
Of course, code would be nicer, but we realize that the divide
between developers and user interface contributions might not allow
this to happen.
This could contain examples of what we consider to be good ideas -
maybe even things like "this problem was hard, but we thought this
solution was pretty elegant" -type real world scenarions. Ideally
this will expand as things are developing, so all the ideas would
get stored here as a resource for future needs.
Mockups could be screenshots, or .glade files.
* The Old UI Team
Jim Cape and the various contributors to the GNOME UI team produced
loads of mockups that would enhance GNOME, together with a
rationale of how it would actually operate. Not only this, but
they provided animated versions that allowed us to see what was
Their input was integrated at various stages in various places: the
GNOME Panel (Jacob and George), the GNOME Control Center (Jonathan,
Bradford, Justin), and various capplets (we even hired people to
implement the suggestions made by the UI team).
Some of the input was implemented in modules that have never been
released to the public (like the file selector that was part of
Ettore's work on the GNOME VFS).
The original announcement for this happend last year:
* The Quick Checlist
We also need to put together a small and precise checklist that
could help people develop good user interfaces, the check list
should be used by applications developers as a resource they can go
to make sure their application is as good as it can be.
The checklist can be divided in many areas:
* User Interface elements.
* Standard naming/contents of menus.
* Standard mouse bindings for actions.
* Standard help elements.
* Try to use the following stock icons, etc, etc.
* Try to use these keybindings, etc, etc.
Some of these are easy to do, as gnome-libs helps
* Feedback features.
* How kind of feedback your app should have.
* Long operations.
* Accesability features.
* To be defined, maybe Sun can help here.
* Internationalization support.
* How to internationalize an app.
* Pitfalls on internationalized apps.
The quick check list document should not be a huge document, but it
could contain links to other sites and the larger user interface
document that Arlo is preparing.
This should be faily "rule of thumb things" that is not too complex
or lengthy. Something that every developer should skim through to
get an idea how things should be done. If it is too complex, it will
just left collecting the dust.
GNOME has grown a lot since it began. In the beginning, there was
xterm and gcc. Now we have a pretty complete desktop system that
But a working system is not the ultimate goal here, the ultimate
goal is to make GNOME so ergonomically perfect that even when the
fact that it is free software is a great compelling argument,
people will not resist the need to install it, and run it and have
everyone just use it all day.
* User Testing
Arlo would like to see user testing be a full part of the
production of this user interface effort.
This is a bit more complex, as it requires the help of programmers
to implement the features and packages needs to be made available
to end users for testing a specific usability improvements. And
repeat this process until the perfect interface is achieved.
* Coordinating the effort
I have created a mailing list called email@example.com for
people who are interested in organinzing and managing the process
of improving the user interface, and those of you who might help
collecting ideas, organizing them, and creating mockups and those
coders whose biggest interest is to implement the various usability
ideas that are required in GNOME.
Please note: gnome-ui-hackers is not for discussing the user
interfaces ideas, nor discussing what is good, what is bad: it will
be used by the volunteers that will be doing the work described
above. The standard discussion about user interfaces should
continue in gnome-ui list.
So we need various volunteers that will take over specific areas,
those will become the "maintainers" for that portion of the
project. We will provide them with access to the GNOME CVS
repository so that they can maintain the web pages for the project.
* Web helper for the UI team: will help coordinate
and/or author the web pages for presenting user
ideas to developers.
* Someone to write the User Interface Guidelines (Arlo
has voluntereed to lead this effort or act as its
editor, hopefully Arlo will provide accurrate data).
We will also include a set of stock icons that
people could assume that will be available on their
* Someone to write the User Interface Quick Check
Arlo and Tuomas have expressed their interest in takin an active
role in this project.
Besides the organizational volunteers, we will need programmers
interested in improving the user experience: both programmers that
would like to implement the suggestions, as well as programmers
that would like to be part of the usability lab effort: to iterate
over the code back and forth.
I will be peeking at the mailing list, but I do not have any time to
offer in any of the above areas, but I can try my best to help
interested parties with minimal help with CVS accounts, access to the
web site and of course, moral support.
Now, I wonder why my computer CD player skips.