As always, the GNOME design crew have been hard at work of late. We helped to drive many of the changes you can see in the last GNOME release, including a new color picker, updated application designs, new scrollbars and updated spin button widgets. We haven’t taken our foot off the gas though, and there’s plenty of work to report.
It’s an exciting time in GNOME design land right now. GNOME 3 is a big undertaking: we’re working to improve the entire experience, including everything from interface widgets and controls, through to applications and the core user experience. But we are making good progress, and more and more pieces are slotting into place. Slowly but surely, the design of the overall experience is starting to take shape.
It has been far too long since I’ve posted a GNOME design update. In fact, it’s been so long that I’m dividing this update into two. In this first part, I’m going to detail design work that is focusing on the core GNOME user experience. The second post will cover application design updates, as well as application integration. I’ll post that update in the next few days.
Excitingly, many (though not all) of these new designs are planned as features for the next GNOME release. If you want to help implement any of these designs, just get in touch.
Lock and login screens
This is something that we’ve wanted to do for some time. The lock screen plays much the same role as a screensaver – it is what is displayed when your device is idle. The difference between the lock screen and a screensaver is that the lock screen is really useful, of course, since it will display the time and updates about notifications (the notifications part will also be configurable).
Cue a motion mockup from Jimmac:
This motion mockup shows several things. In the first section, you see the process from boot through to user selection. (Yep, a simple spinner and fade in is all we want.) The second demonstrates what should happen once the machine has gone idle – the screen blanks, is woken up to display the lock screen, then the lock screen is removed and login occurs.
[Edit: a note about this – although the video shows the lock screen being removed with a short mouse drag, it will also be possible to remove it using the keyboard or with the mouse wheel.]
More details about the lock screen design can be found on the lock screen wiki page.
Message tray design updates
One area where we’ve all been keen to see some improvements is around notifications and the message tray. The GNOME design crew recently returned to those designs and came up with some updates which we think will make a big difference.
Under the updated designs, pop-up notifications will avoid the mouse pointer (some of this behaviour already landed in GNOME 3.4, actually) and linger until we are sure they have been noticed. The expanded notifications will also queue up so you can always see when new messages arrive.
Plans are also afoot to replace the moving targets in the tray with larger static icons:
Jon and Jimmac have spent quite a bit of time working through the details of how scrolling should work under different conditions. The idea here is to keep things as consistent as possible across different types of devices, while still leveraging their different strengths.
Jimmac’s motion mockups show the desired behaviour for both pointer and touch devices. We’re hoping to see scrolling improve along these lines in future GNOME releases.
Jon and Lapo have done a bunch of work that aims to improve the state of printing in GNOME, and they have produced some quite detailed mockups for new print dialogs. These look great in my opinion, and are a huge improvement on what we have right now.
One of the best things about these designs is that they let you get a clear preview of what will be printed. They also present a clear set of simple options.
Initial setup is intended as a specification for what the user should see the first time they boot into GNOME 3. This is new territory for GNOME, but it is an important piece of the picture if we are going to produce a consistent experience for our users. The goal is to ensure that the system looks and feels like GNOME from the moment someone starts using it.
The initial setup assistant will be an optional component that can serve as a reference implementation for distributions. It includes several important elements for new users, such as a setup screen for online accounts and a product tour to help people get started.
There are other areas that the GNOME designers have been looking at, but which aren’t as fully developed. Other recent design work on the core user experience includes:
- New designs for how software updates should look and behave
- Time and date selection widgets
- Updates to the high contrast theme
- And, of course, lots work related to bugs and minor iterative improvements
My next post will deal with recent application design work, as well as application integration. See you then.