GNOME 2.0 recently passed its tenth anniversary. If you compare it with GNOME 2.32, the last release in the series, the improvement in widgets, utilities, and everything else is obvious. However, what didn’t change in the entire series was the classic desktop layout with a configurable panel, a menu, and launchers on the desktop.
This layout makes GNOME 2 clones like Mate instantly familiar to both anyone who has used a Windows release in the past fifteen years or who used a free desktop like Xfce or LXDE. Users might take a while to learn the details, but they immediately understand the general navigation.
That doesn’t mean that GNOME 2 is intuitive, or even well designed if looked at impartially. But it does mean that users can quickly stop focusing on the desktop, and turn their attention to their tasks, where it belongs.