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Gnome 2.6 Usability Review 424

TuringTest writes ""The user-centric UI webzine" UserInstinct has published a usability overview of the latest version of the GNOME desktop. While their conclusions and recommendations are not mind-blowing, it includes two interesting appendices with a survey of new users (and their reactions to the system) and a list of common tasks of modern computer users with a commentary on how Gnome performs in each one. Note that usually You Only Need to Test With 5 Users (this report tests 4), you need to test additional users when an interface has several highly distinct groups of users and thus the conclusions in this review should not be taken as definitive."
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Gnome 2.6 Usability Review

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  • Only 4? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @09:45PM (#9755720)
    Not 5? Well, this is worthless then. Listen to useability/web design guru Nielsen!
  • Project GoneME (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @09:47PM (#9755729)

    I have started a little project which is intended to get the GNOME Desktop into a different direction. It's not aimed for people who love GNOME as it is now - No, it's more aimed to those who are experts to Unix and who like and wish so many times that some of the changes that went into GNOME never happened. The project was started yesterday and the first patches to *fix* the buttonorder (as one of many ideas and points) were created already. I plan to create the outstanding *fixes* for correcting the buttonorder in the upcoming days (as I have time) and then like to head over to other things that I personally like to have fixed. The project is not aimed to be a cooperation with the core GNOME it's more private work that I started for my own needs.

    In case someone is interested then feel free to read more about it on the Project GoneME [] page. Please do not expect huge wonders, it's just a test to see if people might be interested or not. As said it mainly covers my own interests at the moment. Please also don't put to much value in my brought up project description, they need to be reworked and altered anyways. I wrote the stuff as they came into my mind.
    • Re:Project GoneME (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:06PM (#9755843) Homepage
      I plan to create the outstanding *fixes* for correcting the buttonorder in the upcoming days

      Since when does being an "expert to Unix" imply that you want your buttons in Microsoft order rather than Apple order?
    • by Ilan Volow ( 539597 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:39PM (#9756031) Homepage

      While I completeley disagree with your feelings about where the GNOME project has taken things (I think they should have gone much further and totally flipped off the unix geeks and shouldn't have blindly copied so many of microsoft's mistakes), I do respect you for your decision to fork, as the GNOME guys have been complete and utter jackasses about many things (such as usability, or lack thereof). I have had the same idea as you, albeit to fork GNOME in a completely opposite direction with the Clarux project and making GNOME far more mac-like. While I totally disagree with what you're doing, I'm glad at least someone had the same idea, even if it does run counter to mine.

      One piece of advice to the opposition: the Free Software community says they promote freedom, but often, that's not the case. A while back, I created a fork of KDE that removed some really stupid usability problems the project had refused to deal with for years. I provided all my changes as source code people could download, I complied with the GPL, but Freshmeat refused to post the project because they considered it "only a patch". If you do something considered "significant" like modify someone else's code, it can be considered a distribution. But if you modify something that the Free Software community considers "insignificant", like the user experience, it's only considered "a patch". People in the Free Software development community might tell you "if you think you can do better, make your own version"; the thing is, they don't really mean it. So I'm warning you now, if you are really planning on forking a major desktop environment, you won't be able to rely on traditional community outlets for promoting it.

      Last piece of advice--post as yourself. Stop this silly oGaLaxYo/Anonymous Coward crap. Post as Ali Agaa, be proud of your opinion, and be proud of what you're trying to stand up for and accomplish (even if it is rather silly).
      • by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:43PM (#9756053) Journal
        LOL dude,
        Since when does Freshmeat = the open source community?
        They are a 'unix program website' with every type of license included like proprietary stuff.
        If anything you should have tried sourceforge first right?
      • One piece of advice to the opposition: the Free Software community says they promote freedom, but often, that's not the case

        Oh gosh, Freshmeat refused to list my variant, I'm being opressed. Look at poor poor me, oppressed by Freshmeat and the whole OSS community.

        When Sourceforge, Savannah, and Berlios all reject your project, you might have a point. All you are doing right now is whining.
    • Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nailer ( 69468 )
      I want the Gnome guys to understand two things:
      • It doesn't matter if spatial nautilus is good or bad. Overriding people's existing preferences without asking them is always bad.

      • If you're being paid to work on Gnome for a business, do more of what that businesses clients want. Not less. Currently, most Red Hat staff/customers (who aren't Gnome developers) don't like spatial nautilus. A challenge for the Gnome devs is to either convince those people otherwise (by making it better or explaining its usefu
      • While I have some sympathy for your opinion, it is outweighed by one thing - put bluntly, GNOME's got balls. And I respect that a lot. Ever since 2.x began, they have taken their design goals and refused to let them be compromised by the hordes of bickering Slashdotters that can't live without their favorite features. Forcing people into spatial Nautilus is just another aspect of that - they push you into it because it's part of the project's goals. They have a vision of how the desktop should work and they

        • by Nailer ( 69468 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:32AM (#9756989)
          most behaviors are easily modified there if you're as hardcore as you proclaim to be.

          Where do I claim to be hardcore?

          And if you don't like GNOME's design goals, then fine

          Its not a matter of my own opinion - its a matter of our clients. I work for Red Hat in Australia and I can attest most of our clients don't like spatial mode. I'd like to have it either explained better (welcome to Gnome 2.6! We've included a new spatial mode! Its better for X reason! If you don't like it though, do Y!) or changed by default.

          As one can imagine, my opinions are my own and don't necessarily represent my employers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Did you really mean Unix experts, or did you mean Windows experts?

      Do you have some justification to offer for your changes other than, "Windows does it that way?" And what does the way Windows does thing have to do with so-called Unix experts.

      I completely fail to understand what the big deal is with the Gnome button order. I have been a Windows user since Windows 3.1 and a computer user since many years before that.

      I have used Gnome. Until someone mentioned it on Slashdot, it never occurred to me that it
    • Re:Project GoneME (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zsau ( 266209 )
      The Gnome buttonorder isn't broken, so it can't be fixed. It's just different.

      BTW, can I chose my own buttonorder, or are you just imposing another decision on me? I might find some other aspects of GnoME interesting, but if the only option is Windows buttonorder or old-style Nautilus, you haven't 'fixed' anything. You've just imposed your own preferences.
    • Re:Project GoneME (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sploxx ( 622853 )
      GOOD idea! Really. I'm using gnome right now, but the "remove-every-option-which-maybe-hard-to-understa n d-for-some-people"
      attitude which some of the more influental gnome people start to have really pushes me back to KDE.
      Of course, this is only my opinion. But apparently I'm not the only one here...

      But I think you're doing one thing wrong. Instead
      of changing button orders permanently by a patch, better make such things configurable! That is the
      thing I'm missing most in the newer versions of gnome, rem
    • Re:Project GoneME (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Vitus Wagner ( 5911 )
      Is this for unix geeks? Hamper networking by removing esound - only right architecture decision GNOME ever had?

      Typically UNIX geeks work in highly distributed environment and need networking sound server more than anyone else.

      If you were about replacing esound with NAS or rplay, there would be something to talk of.

      Really we need some project like this - for real unix geeks. There are lot of more or less useful things which are written for GNOME or KDE only. I need to keep GTK and GNOME libs with all a

  • Task #1 - Email

    * Clicked Applications right away
    * Discovered "Internet"
    * Discovered "Web Browser"

    (The above happened in less than 10 seconds)

    * Ignored "Start Here"
    * User admitted to not being used to clicking on Start Here and decided to go looking after the desktop did not have an internet icon
    * Clicked URL bar
    * Typed in URL
    * Logged in
    * "Fuck no I don't want to do that" referring to saving passwords, never saves passwords at home
    * Read mail

    Guess GNOME r
    • What I found interesting was the expectations people had and that the results a) don't necessarily show Gnome only - font handling, system setup, etc. Also, the test subjects? I mean, you're given a system to test, and "experienced Unix user" is all set to download and install Mozilla? FFS. Finally, recommendation 5 appears to be written by someone with no clue about how the software industry works.
  • by Iesus_Christus ( 798052 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @09:54PM (#9755782)
    It's good to see a fairly unbaised, objective look at an open source product on Slashdot. Many times, we see either a "OMG Open Source = good" or a "I couldn't even get it installed, this sucks!" in place of an actual review. In this instance, it seems as though the reviewers actually tried to make this a fair review. They used users with different experience levels to get an overall picture of the usability of Gnome 2.6. While they could have used more than one user for each stereotype for statistical reasons, it seems at though they have done a decent job in their review. It is reviews like this that show us what to work on.
    • It seems to me they were reviewing the tools more then gnome itself. If trillian, winamp or windows media player have confusing controls, I don't blame that on Windows, I blame it on the respective products. So why do so many linux review sites do the opposite? Totem being unstable has nothing to do with gnome 2.6. Rythmbox not having easy to find radio stations has nothing to do with gnome 2.6. The crappy file browsing window DOES have to do with gnome 2.6 and they apparently didn't even review deeply e
      • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:47PM (#9756077)
        The Linux kernel and the GNOME desktop did NOT GET IN THE WAY of the applications for those users.

        You're correct about too much time being spent on the applications. But that's how most users operate. They spend the MINIMUM time possible interacting with the desktop and the MAXIMUM time interacting with the applications. (Aside from playing with backgrounds and sounds. I hate webshots.)

        Personally, I think that a tiny bit of work on that study and the NEXT study would show Linux being incredibly easy to use even for novices.

        #1. Get rid of the unstable apps. Each icon that they click on MUST launch an application and that application MUST be the most stable of the bunch.

        #2. Populate the desktop with the apps they'll be trying to find (nothing like making it easy for them). This is what I do at work. And remove any other icons. They can put other ones there when they are more comfortable with the system.

        #3. Put the controls for changing the background and the sounds in a very visible location and name them something like "Cool effects". Then give them lots of pictures and sounds to choose from.

        So, the desktop would have the "My Computer" (or whatever) icon.

        The "My Network Places" (or whatever) icon.

        The "Recycle Bin" (or whatever) icon.

        The "Work applications" folder/link icon.

        The "Cool effects" folder/link icon.

        The "Games" folder/link icon.

        The "Help" icon (context searchable, etc).

        Also, once you've run through with each of the testers the first time, have them form small groups and run through the test again. In the workplace, they will talk to each other and share tips/hints/ways to install spyware crap/etc.

        Does the desktop facilitate or hinder that kind of human interaction?

        And toss in a screensave as a background option just to give them something that Windows doesn't do. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @09:58PM (#9755802)
  • 6, 7 or 8 users might not get you that much more information than you'll get from a 5 user test... but it's when the public at large gets ahold of your program that it's really put to the test.

    Like the article says, you need to hold a second testing group when there's a second classification of user who uses your program. And when you release you program to the public, if it's a truely good program than somebody will think of a situation in which to use the tool you made that you didn't antisipate.
  • Good review - it's especially funny because its raw (unedited) format. I especially liked the part in the Mac/Systems Architect User's notes that said:

    "Task #4 - ICQ/Chat

    * Loaded Gaim

    * "Holy crap" at the number of protocols


    I didn't know I was being recorded when I said that! :)
    I thought the review could have used just one more user though - the Beginner who is NOT "hesitant" (as the article puts it).
    • I'm not sure that I've ever seen a beginner who isn't "hesitant".

      When users become more accustom to computers and they are intermediate, some users will charge head on into things and get them selves into trouble. Some don't. It just depends.

      But I've observed MANY people in my short career of helping neighbors and friends and such with their computers. When they are beginners, they fall into one of three categories. The first is those who hate the comptuer and fight it all the way. They learn how to do a

  • best part (Score:4, Funny)

    by mnemonic_ ( 164550 ) <(ude.hcimu) (ta) (cemaj)> on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:09PM (#9755862) Homepage Journal
    'What the hell is "GNOME-gegl2.png []"? "That's disgusting!"'
    • Re:best part (Score:2, Informative)

      by feronti ( 413011 )
      Why, it's an extra sacred cow. No, really... in India, cows with extra legs are even more sacred than normal cows. I don't know if that's true for other deformities, and I did hear it from a friend who spent most of his trip to India high on hash, but that's what I've been told.
  • Who detests this drive towards "task based" interfaces? I find that it takes significantly longer to do anything that isn't explicitly spelled out by the interface. I always find myself searching through the options systematically because the task I want to do is something that's buried three screens deep, behind four hidden advanced option buttons and a moat of dire warning dialogs that promise all sorts of horrible things that'll happen to me if I dare continue. Then, in the next release, all the searchin
    • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:18PM (#9755906)
      In any menuing system, there is no rule that says that the menu has to be a true tree. There's nothing stopping you from having a main menu of "What are you here to do today?", and having the most popular functions being placed in more than one position on the interface.

      Doing it that way might lead to a more confusing set of decisions at design time, but the user will more often than not find themselves one click away from what they want to do next if you do it right. Afterall, it's easier to find any given option if it's "hidden" in three places instead of just one.
      • Afterall, it's easier to find any given option if it's "hidden" in three places instead of just one.

        It's just a lot harder to find the one option hidden amongst the duplicates of others.

  • by io333 ( 574963 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:11PM (#9755876)
    Why isn't there an open source attempt to model what the folks in Cuppertino are doing? KDE and Gnome are both Windows copies. I think folks would switch in droves if they could get an open-source Mac copy to run on their PC hardware.

    I can't think of any incentive for switching from an XP interface to one that is almost as good as XP.
    • Apple has since the begining of time brought in design consultants to work on every aspect of the user interface... meanwhile the geeks who design OSS projects absolutely want nothing to do with the design consultants. (The irony is that the stereotypical geek would love to date the stereotypical design consultant, but she won't go anywhere near him...)
    • Actually, you can set up GNOME to have a dock similar to OS X's, and the menu bar also. GNOME gives a lot of freedom as to how you can use it. Of course, GNOME isn't as pretty as OS X.

    • by aixou ( 756713 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:48PM (#9756085)
      This reminds me of when a friend proclaimed that he hated Linux (KDE to be specific), because it "feels like a shoddy copy of Windows"... It's funny for me to hear that from a Windows user, because that's how Mac users have felt for the past 10+ years in regard to Windows (shoddy copy).

      Seriously though, I really don't believe an OSS project could have the focus or resources to take on the task of keeping up with Apple's design. They might get the "look" right, but the "feel" is something much much harder to grasp. In the end all you'd have would be a dock clone, and a clunky interface. The Mac OS has always thrived on having the best UI consistency and a very intuitive feel, which is something that Linux just can't really compete with.

      Unix and Windows are much more similar to eachother than they are to the Mac OS. For one, both Win and *nix hide programs down deep in an arcane directory structure that you aren't expected to learn (you can, but most don't). On a Mac, you are expected to navigate the file system to access what you need (if you want to open an App for example, you open the Finder, go to the Applications folder and then open your app). Win and *nix don't really expect you to have to move to where you want ago, hence the usage of the Start menu and Shell PATHs which give quick access to what you need.

      An OSS project that copied the Mac would really be copying the Finder and the directory structure. In order to get the Mac feel down pat, you'd have to make the directory structure much more browse-friendly than it is. You can't expect grandma to navigate to usr, bin, and then select from a long list of programs what she wants. Unless a developer/distro with some major clout (i.e. one that wouldn't be completely shunned by the Unix world) decided to revamp the directory structure (or hide the standard tree in favor of a simpler user oriented one), I would recommend that *nix Desktop Environment developers stick the Windows-esque start bar clones that they already have.

      For now, if you want the Mac look and feel in a Unix environment, your only and best option is OS X.
      • I find it funny when these "studies" say nonsense like "for open source to compete with windows it must handle these proprietary formats perfectly" - as if windows did that! How many times has YOUR browser been hosed by the bloated and buggy Acrobat? Anyone ever tried opening a powerpoint presentation in office97 that was created in office2k? Or for that matter opening a late model powerpoint presentation in microsoft's own powerpoint "reader" on a machine that doesn't have office?

        Open source doesn't have

      • In order to get the Mac feel down pat, you'd have to make the directory structure much more browse-friendly than it is. You can't expect grandma to navigate to usr, bin, and then select from a long list of programs what she wants.

        How long has it been since you've used a Mac? Mac OSX has a /usr directory, a /etc directory, /bin, etc. just like any other unix. These unix directories are hidden from the Finder, but you can get to them from the command line. These Unix directories are supplimented by so

        • How long has it been since you've used a Mac?

          I use OSX everyday and spend a fair amount of my time in the Terminal. I'm well aware that OS X has a standard (but hidden to the Finder) Unix directory tree.

          Mac OSX has a /usr directory, a /etc directory, /bin, etc. just like any other unix.

          I guess I was a bit vague when I said "you'd have to make the directory structure much more browse-friendly than it is". I didn't mean that you'd have to change all the directories around, but that you'd probably want
      • Yuck, the fact that you're forced to navigate directories in Mac OS SUCKS. Fortunately, they have the Apple menu, but those retards did away with that in OSX, where the Apple Menu doesn't include a list of most programs. Navigating through menus is much quicker than navigating through a file-system.
      • On a Mac, you are expected to navigate the file system to access what you need (if you want to open an App for example, you open the Finder, go to the Applications folder and then open your app).

        That sounds really unscalable- just as soon as you have more than a handful of "applications". Since it clearly cannot list every single installed program, it must only list commonly run gui applications. So it is in fact a menu stuffed into the filesystem.

        A user shouldnt ever have to deal with the filesystem ou

        • That sounds really unscalable- just as soon as you have more than a handful of "applications".

          The "Applications" folder on my Powerbook contains 102 items, a very manageable and navigable amount imo.

          A press of the tab button in the terminal reveals that I have 1602 command-line apps.

          If I had to wade through a directory with 1704 (the sum of my command-line and /Applications apps) executable programs to find the GUI program I wanted to use, I would go insane.

          The way Apple laid it out is very practical
        • A user shouldnt ever have to deal with the filesystem outside of their home directory.

          You've never worked in a collaborative environment before have you? There's always shared directory trees, and they're never in home directory.
    • They even sue people for creating Aqua themes fer chrissakes.
    • by jdub! ( 24149 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @11:31PM (#9756347) Homepage
      GNOME is generally closer to Mac OS than Windows, particularly given recent design decisions. We certainly DO NOT aim to clone either interface - we tend to think that the "not quite Windows" feeling has a strong, negative impact on training, worse than being obviously (and positively) different.

      Your distributor may set their GNOME defaults up to be familiar to Windows users, however.
    • Why isn't there an open source attempt to model what the folks in Cuppertino are doing?

      ROX [] may be what you're looking for. While they say it's inspired by RISC OS (which I never used), it reminds me of Mac OS X (which I use) in a number of ways: extensive use of drag and drop, windows don't fill the entire screen, application directories, to name a few.

  • Will gnome die? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by omar_armas ( 633987 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:15PM (#9755897) Homepage
    I tried hard to use Gnome 2.6 as my primary desktop, but I gave up in favor of KDE.
    Some reasons:

    -Too slow
    -not so well integrated
    -doesn't feel a unified system(shortcuts, menus, etc)
    -Again, too slow. Every release it gets slower.

    The have changed enlightenment for sawfish, then for the actual wm.
    The same happened for the file manager: gmc, then nautilus
    And for the browser: galeon, nautilus, epiphany, now mozilla?
    A very poor control center. Example: try to add virtual desktops from the control center. It's impossible, it's hidden in the desktops applets.
    It's a mess, since the people funding the project dedicated to other things, Gnome seems to have lost direction.
    To me, Gnome is just a desktop bar, all the enviroment and other apps doesn't feel really integrated.

    • KDE is fast? Breaking news to me. I've been using Gnome since 1.4 IN SPITE of its usability problems because it doesn't require 256MB of RAM and run like a turtle hitting the bong. I agree that copying Windows is dumb, but most people use Windows, so maybe that's their thinking.
  • by timmyd ( 108567 )
    Has anyone done usability tests on GNOME (or KDE for that matter) with respect to internationalization? Last time I checked, most applications are written just for the English speaker and typer. It seems like to get a good setup with all the programs in the appropriate language, you need to restrict yourself to a specialized distribution..which isn't a great option if you need to support more than one language.

    With gtk2's new input module support, it has made it easier to input languages which require a mo
  • At the risk of starting a flame-war (please, I know this is /., but there's no need for that), can anyone tell me if Gnome is more usable than KDE? Are they both putting the same amount of effort in making their desktops user-friendly?

    One of the more interesting things in that study was their list of tasks... Now that the problem is broken down in smaller pieces, it might be fun to test several designs in rapid iterations (tweak, test on 5 users, repeat) concentrating only on 2-3 tasks at a time. Oh- perha
    • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:36PM (#9756015) Homepage
      Are they both putting the same amount of effort in making their desktops user-friendly?

      I would say that Gnome has had it as an explicit focus for a lot longer than KDE, and has been working a lot more on various aspects of usability. One example is the (always ongoing) effort to make the desktop fully accessible to people with disabilities - an effort that pays off for the rest of us as well, in the form of a more consistent desktop and some fun toys (like screen readers) to play with :)

      As to which desktop is actually the better one for you - well, that's up to you, really. Try both for a time, and select the one you are more comfortable with. Or don't choose; alternate between both as the mood strikes you. Either desktop's applications work fine under both, after all, and interoperability between them is steadily improving.

      What you absolutely should do is to ignore all the flamewars and sniping on places like /. - most people dissing one or the other desktop are pretty clueless fanboys that only embarrass the mature users and developers of their chosen desktop.

    • Caveat: I'm primarlly a gnome user.

      If you were a new computer user I'd suggest trying gnome. Of the several computer newbies I've introduced to Linux thus far, Gnome seems to be 'easier' for them to get around.

      Although both the Gnome and KDE teams seem to be equally interested in usability, Gnome has been lucky enough to snare some external companies who put a fair bit of time, money and effort into the task (most notably, Sun & Redhat).

      As you're a XP user though, I suspect KDE might be closer to wha
    • Try Knoppix (KDE-based), then Gnoppix (Knoppix, but GNOME rather than KDE). They're bootable CDs, so no need to install. I think GNOME looks nicer; but it's really a personal preference.
    • The best way to find out is to try both. Most distros come loaded with both (hey, they are free!) so do the testing yourself.

      Personally, I much prefer KDE. It's getting better and faster all the time, and after it's customized to one's liking, it's great.
  • Certification (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IceFox ( 18179 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2004 @10:22PM (#9755937) Homepage
    I like the idea of creating a HIG certification program of sort, but not for Gnome, but for all of the Unix/Linux desktop. Why? If you have a Gnome certification then of course core Gnome gnome apps will strive to be compliant and so will some others, but it wont really go farther than that.

    Maybe start a project. This way open office, KDE, Gnome, SDL, wine (hehe), and other applications will be interested in making sure that their applications are compliant. It will probably be harder, but the payoff will be a hundred times better. Not only will you get Gnome apps all interacting with each other, but you will have all the rest of the Linux/BSD/Unix apps working alone side nicely.

    Another reason why this would be a good project is because all of the other work that is being done there. Stuff like making sure your application uses the standard desktop icon names when referencing icons (so either Gnome or KDE icon sets work in both KDE and Gnome apps).

    Having a little list of current compliment HIG applications would be a major incentive for apps to get on that list too. Maybe it would even spawn a little compitition about keeping/getting all of their apps (kde/gnome/etc) compliant.

    -Benjamin Meyer
  • They put buttons in the 'wrong' order.. Normally it's Ok/Cancel, with Gnome it's Cancel/OK!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Too many of the users were familiar with Microsoft software. Are they testing usability or similarity to their previous experience. If they are testing similarity then by having most users familiar with Microsoft, they will get a pre-ordained answer -- the more it looks like Microsoft the better.

    Also, how about Chinese user, Hebrew user, Arabic user, to test language differences in the interface. How about blind user, disabled user? Even illiterate user? I am not joking. Check out the Simputer. []

  • by oddbudman ( 599695 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:19AM (#9756613) Journal
    Its lunch time so i thought I would throw my hat in the ring.

    I have been using Gnome 2.6 for i guess a few months now and I have to say it is excellent. I used to use fluxbox (a great WM) but to be honest I haven't really looked back.

    I use it nightly as a desktop workstation. I do everything on it from developing firmware for Atmel micros, GUIs in GTK2, web browsing, warez downloading and playing enemy territory.

    Gnome 2.6 is faily well intergrated these days. Generally a right click on something will bring up options with what you can do, Left click selects - its nice and predictable. Ctrl-C Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V work as they do in Windows - very cool.

    Straight after installation I could do drag and drop burning (good for making an mp3 cds for my car). Another thing that has me impressed are all the cool system tray apps that come with it. They are easy to add and handy too. Right now I have one for net, one for cpu and one for local weather. The Local weather one is awesome as I can always have my finger on the pulse.

    I can't say I like spatial browsing though. Not default at least. Personally I found it really frustrating. Its not like i didn't give it a go either - I had it in spatial mode for about a month. It spreads like a cancer across your workspace. Before you know it you have waaaaaay too many windows open. Hiding the address bar is pretty stupid too imho - it makes it really easy to get lost and confused (especially when spatial mode decides you need 3 windows open to traverse 3 directorys). Perhaps if spatial mode didn't open a new window each time (or swapped middle and left click functions), and showed where you were I wouldn't mind it as much. My problem with spatial browsing was solved when i turned it off :)

    Another dislike is definitely the file select dialog. Who makes a file select dialog where entering the text yourself is not an option? Would it really have thrown the file select dialog into chaos if it was included? Why make it so it is completely unintuitive for a computer user who has been using Windblows for years? Now a file select dialog with text entry and typeahead search on the files in that directory would be great default behaviour. (please don't tell me about the hotkey either - that is not intuitive)

    Generally though I think Gnome 2.6 is pretty awesome. It is the best Linux DE I have ever used and I will continue to use it. It is definitely a step foward for the Linux Desktop.
  • You'd probably get some nasty comments about gnome's speed if you gave them middle-aged computers.

    Right now gnome's main usability problem is it's speed. That's the only reason I don't use it. I have a 900mhz Duron. Sure it's old but it runs wind32 and qt apps quickly-- quickly enough for most tasks. I hope gtk gets speed tweaks soon. (I've even heard people with recent CPUs saying gtk feels lethargic on their systems.)

    I know the study was aimed at the layout of the desktop and such but let's face it resp
    • Right now gnome's main usability problem is it's speed.

      One significant improvement that would help many GNOME users would be to add jump scroll support to gnome-terminal.

      In xterm (or the even peppier rxvt), there is a limited number of refreshes that can happen a second. Internally, much text can go by between each screen refresh. This avoids huge numbers of unnecessary screen displays being done. You can easily cat tens of thousands of lines of text to rxvt almost instantly -- gnome-terminal takes a
  • Ha ha! (Score:3, Funny)

    by BollocksToThis ( 595411 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:38AM (#9756705) Journal
    I'm amused by the actions of the experienced unix guy, because this is *exactly* what I do, every time I sit down in front of a linux desktop (and the first thing I did trying out MacOS X in a store):

    1. Opens terminal
    2. 'ls' in home

    (On MacOS X, step 1 was the hardest, because there's either no console icon by default, or the store had removed it)

    It doesn't matter what I'm trying to achieve, I always do this. Does anyone else do the same?
  • HIG certification (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:41AM (#9756717) Journal
    Currently, the HIG (see above) is made available to developers for voluntary adherence. If more resources were made availCurrently, the HIG (see above) is made available to developers for voluntary adherence. If more resources were made available, the GNOME project could start a certification program to document compliance with the standard. This would allow users to seek out certified applications and know that these applications would integrate well with their existing, the GNOME project could start a certification program to document compliance with the standard. This would allow users to seek out certified applications and know that these applications would integrate well with their existing desktops.

    Horrible idea. None of the good desktop interfaces out there have *ever* required certification. We know that it is not necessary to produce an easy-to-use desktop. Further, this will discriminate against those people that do not have money to pay certification fees, slow development of applications (as individual versions would have to each be certified), and slow evolution of the HIG itself. I am opposed, and think that any attempt to formalize a certification process as part of GNOME would simply lead to bad feelings, loss of good will for GNOME, and project fragmentation.

    Unfortunately, those who were not were just as quickly lost and confused. To maintain the abstraction, we recommend that it be removed from the view of the new user and kept in the application menu.

    There were a number of suggestions like these -- hiding advanced functionality. While this is a reasonable approach -- the terminal is still in the applications menu, and easily available and easily found by non-novice users -- it is also extremely important not to work too hard to hide functionality. One of the largest problems with GNOME 2.x (IMHO, of course) is that significant and valuable functionality has been hidden or deprecated in the name of more basic "easy to use" features. This includes two of my favorite pet peeves:

    * Viewport support (someone apparently decided that it was "confusing" to allow the user to have a window partly on one viewport and partly on another, so it was replaced with a number of virtual desktops). As a result of this technical decision, sawfish (which is not the newbie-recomended GNOME WM in any event) underwent significant negative technical change.

    * User-rebindable accelerators. In GNOME 1, unlike every other GUI that I know of, accelerator keys attached to menu items can be simply and easily rebound by highlighting a menu item and tapping the desired key combination. This is a phenomenally powerful feature that demonstrated that the OSS world really *does* enjoy new ideas and significantly improved the GNOME user experience. It meant, for the first time, that the user was not bound by the decisions of the application developer. KDE has a similar-but-not-identical feature that allows *some* menu item accelerators to be globally rebound (frankly, I'd like to see the synthesis of these two featurs). Anyway, some usability person decided that this could be confusing to a new user (fine, I'll buy that) and the solution presented was to entirely disable this feature and requires manually adding a line to a text file on a per-user basis, instead of simply providing a toggle button in an "Advanced..." dialog or something similar. As a result, few users know about or take advantage of this functionality.

    A remedy is needed for this situation. The answer could be an installation application that can speak to all of the popular distributions. It could be built in such a modular way as to allow new backends and functionality.

    This is a good idea, and should have been done a while ago. It's a bit disheartening to think that this will likely have a very limited subset of functionality and be used by most users, though.

    A solution to this problem that allows for applications to be downloaded from webpages an
  • by arrianus ( 740942 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:13AM (#9756869)
    The recommendations don't follow from the user experience. Several don't necessarily follow, but I'll present the dominant problem here:

    Maintain the Abstraction from the Underlying System

    This is almost universally the wrong approach -- this is what Windows tries to do, and MacOS avoids. The key is to make the underlying system simple, and make the UI reflect that.

    The problem with abstracting the two is that it leads to bit rot. At some point, the Windows registry will think a file is in one location, whereas the file is actually in another. Or the UI will misunderstand the way that the 5 options in the configuration file should be presented as 2 options in the UI. Or there will be some underlying binary configuration file, with some option that's not available in the GUI, that somehow gets flipped, breaking the whole system.

    You very strongly don't want an abstraction. On the Mac, installing an application (I haven't use OSX, so my knowledge is based on the older versions) is as easy as dragging the folder onto the hard drive. To erase, you wipe it. On Windows, if you wipe an app like that, it'll leave bits and pieces of itself scattered throughout the registry, links in menus, DLLs in system folders, and dozens of other places. Worse, the uninstaller will often no longer work. Most clueless users, if they try to erase an application the wrong way, will end up with a semibroken system, since there are different levels of abstraction that do not maintain consistency.

    The whole Windows (and increasingly, GNU/Linux) approach of abstracting out underlying complexity is flawed. The trick is to eliminate the underlying complexity, and have a single set of simple structures that the GUI tools (or the users manually) operate on.

    When I first used Red Hat in '96, the types of issues that threw me were: I wanted to change the login text. I grepped for the old login text, found /etc/issues, and I edited it. It worked. I rebooted. It went away. It took me the longest time to figure out that an fucking script in /etc/rc.something/ was overwriting it. The information was stored in two places. I overwrote the wrong one, and boom. I was fucked. I stopped using Red Hat precisely because of the complex configuration scripts, which made the system fragile and ultimately, easy to break and difficult to use.

    This shows up a huge number of places -- especially in a heterogenous environment like GNU/Linux, you often have multiple configuration tools. I can download a half dozen Apache configuration tools. Very often, if you run one, then switch to another, the thing no longer works, since they edit different options in different ways.

    One way to implement this (presented in an oversimplified fashion) is to first design what you want the UI to look like. Once you know, you design the underlying structure to match. This is the opposite of what most GNU/Linux and Windows developers do, where they try to engineer the most flexible underlying structure possible, and then develop a UI on top of that. This doesn't necessarily lead to less flexible underlying structures -- it's just that to have a good UI, you want to give some thought to the user experience when designing the engine, and especially, the configuration files.
  • Should you build your UI based on feedback from the average Joe? I'd like to lay down while driving my car, but clearly designers think the best idea so far is sitting in an upright position. Grow a set, innovate the UI* and quit trying to clone Windows. * and by innovate I mean think tank concepts not geeky crap like why every "average joe" linux distro comes with 700 things theyll never run. YEAH, MAN I WANT THOSE NEATO EYES THAT FOLLOW MY MOUSE ON THE TASKBAR! sigh.
  • by ky11x ( 668132 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:34AM (#9757007)

    I'm beginning to get very frustrated by these usability studies because they all tend to make the same false assumption that "familiarity for new users" == "usability for all users."

    This is simply NOT true. Usability is a complex quality, and it is the result of compromises among often conflicting goals such as discoverability of options, reduction of keystrokes/clicks for common tasks, customizability where common base cannot be established, compatibility with competing interfaces, humaneness of interface after long-usage, accessibility, internationalization, etc. etc. How quickly New Users can discover and perform tasks is only one dimension of the usability scale, and one that's not even all that important except in a setting like public access kiosks or Internet cafes.

    Different OSes approach this problem differently, and where as Mac OS X has chosen to compromise all the goals with an emphasis on discoverability and tolerance after long usage, Windows has chosen to place a different emphasis on sacrificing flexibility for complex tasks in favor of making simple, repetitive tasks easy to accomplish. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

    The traditional strength of the various Linux desktop systems has been flexibility and customizability, with less emphasis on the other issues. I'm not suggesting that the needs of new users whose primary OS is not Linux in settings like Kiosks and labs should not be taken into consideration, but it should not be the ONLY consideration.

    Usability studies like this one emphasize the needs of new users with Linux as a secondary OS over everything else. Take this as an example:

    These extra areas (the desktop-reveal button, the workspace switcher, the file manger icon, the terminal icon, and the running application button in the top right) could be removed by default...

    This is the sort of recommendation that makes sense for kiosk machines (simplify the UI as much as possible and go for task-orientation), but it doesn't make sense for long-term usability. Removal of these features means that users will have to discover them and add them back in, and that plays into one of the weaknesses of the current Linux desktops: discoverability is relatively poor. This is a very shortsighted and pointless recommendation for a desktop system that is also meant to be used as a primary desktop system for many home users.

    I wish usability studies would really think about what usability is, over all and long-term, rather than just "can new users in a hurry get an email written?"

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson