[OT] Blowing my mind about Linux
ambassador at fourthworld.com
Sat May 12 15:48:43 EDT 2012
> On 05/12/2012 04:33 AM, Richard Gaskin wrote:
>> Alejandro Tejada wrote:
>>> Last time I checked, most Linux developers
>>> EXPECT that most of their users are
>>> Software Developers.
>> Looking for Linux for human beings?:
> Ubuntu WAS, but with the advent of Unity I am no longer sure that it IS.
The situation with Unity is very much like the transition in the Mac
world from what is now called "Classic" to OS X. Many people didn't
like the changes; I know at least one member of this list who still
prefers OS 9 to this day.
While it's true that Mark Shuttleworth wears the unofficial title of
Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life (his Launchpad account is
"sabdfl" <g>) for a reason, it's also true that the initiatives finding
expression in Unity are often driven by usability research.
Before embarking on the design, the team at Canonical requested screen
shots from the user base, and they reviewed those thousands of screen
shots to find similarities, looking for commonalities they could build
right into the desktop environment without requiring post-install
For example, a great many people had been installing Docky, Conky, and
other launcher/dock UIs. Now that's taken care of with Unity's
Launcher, just as OS X introduced it for the Mac world, as had other
OSes before it. Most folks spend their day using about a half-dozen
apps, only occasionally using anything else, and it's no accident that
that's number of icons that fit very comfortably in a launcher pane even
Moreover, we know from research going back to Apple's earliest days, and
reinforced with a lot of research at universities and private companies
since, that hierarchical menus are physically difficult to use. In
earlier Linux desktop UIs, accessing apps meant mousing carefully
through nested hierarchical menus; now, with both Unity in Ubuntu and
Gnome Shell in most other distros, the most commonly-used apps are just
one click away in a launcher.
While the UI team has published results from only a handful of their
user tests, Mr. Shuttleworth noted in a reply to me on a discussion list
that the team does much more testing than what they can afford to take
the time to publish.
I had the opportunity at UDS this week to discuss user testing with
Charline Poirier, one of the design leads at Canonical, and she
impressed me with a largely agnostic attitude about details in the
current Unity UI that have no yet been user-tested. She indicated that
more tests were to be done in the Q (12.10) cycle, and indeed it seems
user testing is an ongoing passion there across the team.
In fact, early version of Unity's Launcher included a "smart hide"
option which left the Launcher visible and hid only when windows were
maximized. This is different from most other launcher/dock
implementations which offer only "always shown" or "always hidden until
mouseover", and it was an innovation Shuttleworth was initially quite
proud of. But user testing showed that the hiding behavior was too much
of a "sometimes" rule to be easily understood by new users, so despite
his early pride with the design Shuttleworth acknowledged the test
results and directed the team to remove that behavior from 12.04.
Like all desktops, Unity is far from perfect. But with Canonical's
funding it has arguably more user testing behind it than any other Linux
desktop environment, and the teams responsible for it are committed to
ongoing refinement going forward.
> As a part-time human being I am now using XFCE.
That's the beautiful distinction of Linux over all other operating
systems: We have so many choices that everyone gets exactly what they want.
I used XFCE on one of my very old machines before I converted it to a
faceless server, and it's quite nice for what it does.
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