One of the cool things that happened at this year’s GUADEC was that a bunch of us started writing the new version of the Human Interface Guidelines. There’s a long way to go, but we’ve already got some parts drafted, and the process is going well. Kudos to Matthew Paul Thomas and Calum Benson (who did much of the groundwork) for their work so far, as well as Laine Christensen, who helped port some material from the current HIG.
The next version of the HIG is going to be a big improvement on what we already have. It’s going to be a much more flexible and dynamic resource, consisting of a series of semi-independent patterns. These will vary in their content: some will provide general advice on topics like providing configuration options or handling errors. Others will be specific to individual kinds of interface components, like editable lists or toolbars. There will also be facilities to add new patterns, so that the HIG is able to reflect new kinds of design, accomodate experimentation, and is able to become a genuine community design resource.
The HIG v3 is a opportunity for us to learn from the experiences of 2.x. Topics where additional guidance is required will be elaborated and we’re going to be filling in a number of significant blanks. At the same time, there will also be places where the new HIG will be less formulaic. The aim is for the guidelines to be a resource that people can use to do good design, rather than being a prescription for exactly how an interface should look (though there will be some of that). It will point to different approaches to the same design problems, and it will advise on the appropriateness, advantages and disadvantages of each.
For me, the most exciting thing about the new HIG is that it will set out a new design vision for GNOME. In some places, it will be updated to reflect existing changes. In others, it will advice new approaches which have not been seen in GNOME before. The result will be a set of guidelines for making GNOME look and feel modern, clean, and better than ever.
Keep your eyes on the usability list if you want to help write the new HIG. There’s plenty of work to do. 😉