GNOME Contacts is a new feature that is planned for GNOME 3.2. It includes both a GNOME-wide contacts framework that can be used by different applications as well as a dedicated contacts application. I’ve been working hard on the design of the application part for a while now and thought it was about time I showed the work off.
GNOME Contacts will pull together your contacts from your different online accounts and integrate them into a single address book. This means that looking up someone in GNOME Contacts will give you access to a summary of all your online relationships with that person (or as many as we are legally allowed to), including the various ways you can communicate with that person and links to the different places where they exist on the web.
One of the things that makes all this awesome online contacts integration possible is another new feature that is planned for GNOME 3.2: GNOME Online Accounts. I won’t talk too much about this because I’m not all that involved, but I will say that this is a huge win for GNOME in general. Web integration is the kind of thing that has been talked about for a long time but has never really materialised. Well, it’s happening. It’s a new departure for us, and it is a major modernising step. GNOME Contacts will be the first GNOME application to be built from the ground up with online accounts in mind but I’m sure it won’t be the last.
But anyway, you want to see mockups!
As you can see, GNOME Contacts has a simple two pane design. Search is going to be the primary way in which contacts are found, so the search box is put in a prominent place (the first place in terms of how the UI will be read). Next to that is the add contact button.
We’ve tried really hard to make GNOME Contacts about people rather than data. This is one reason why the right hand pane has such a prominent and rich representation of the contact, which makes it feel personal. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to pull in a range of different data to display there so that the most recent status update, Tweet or even IM message is included below the contact name.
The right hand pane also demonstrates the desire for GNOME Contacts to be what I’d call a minimal impact UI. Different tasks associated with the contact, such as editing contact details or adding a note, don’t involve radical UI transitions. The header stays where it is to provide continuity and context and UI changes occur inline rather than within new windows. There are no jarring context changes which results is a UI that is both more efficient (since the user does not have to continually reorientate themselves) and more comfortable to use.
One thing I’m especially happy with is the low number of disclosure points in the design. There are exactly two places where someone can reveal further options in the main UI: the application menu (which is present for all applications) and the user menu which is hosted in a button within the contact pane itself. This means there should be little searching around for menu entries.
Both editing and linking show how GNOME Contacts will pull together the your contacts from across the web. Editing is done per online account so that you can see which details are held in which online address book. Contact linking will be done automatically as much as possible, but there is also a facility to manually link contacts from different online accounts.
These designs are currently being implemented by the mighty Alex Larsson (who has also been contributing to the design process). I’m sure he’ll give a report on his progress at some point in the future. We haven’t been the only ones involved in the design, of course: Lapo Calamandrei was a major contributor and there are lots of Jon McCann‘s ideas in there as well as some nuggets of wisdom from Jimmac.
Questions? Comments? Opinions?