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GNOME and its UX Design Strategy

Recently posted here on blog Diolinux my view on the design theme in Linux, either in distros or applications. Today I bring a summary and considerations from a number of posts by one of the top designers on the GNOME development team. gnome-ux-design-app-software-shell-visual-appearance-user-experience-user-experience

Knowing where you want to reach an important step for any project. After all, if you do not know where your destination, anywhere serves. This can be good in some cases, but overwhelmingly the result is not the best. Design is interpretable and can be considered as art. Masterpiece for some, trash for others. However, we cannot deny that there is logic and design behind projects such as GNOME, KDE, Deepin, Elementary OS, among others. I speak not only of beauty, but of the experience in which the person will have when interacting with the graphic environment and its programs. Roughly simplified, this UX Design. It is not enough to be beautiful, it has to be as intuitive and functional as possible. If software is poorly built, your users will have a bad experience of use. Whether you like it or not, GNOME has a working logic.

Member of the desktop designer team at Red Hat, one of GNOME's top designers, Allan day, has made a series of articles informing the directions and design guidelines on which the project team wants to take. After the GUADEC (European GNOME User and Developer Conference) in Greece, Allan decided to create the posts by explaining some more experiences gained and paths desired by GNOME. I recommend to reading first postby addressing their learning by exchanging experiences with others at the conference.

UX Strategy for GNOME

Contact with various users and members of GNOME has made it possible to create strategies that will potentially be part of GNOME UX. These goals are a response to research that can point the way to success in the desktop market. All this subdivided into goals:

Always deliver quality

That is the # 1 goal of delivering quality throughout the GNOME ecosystem, including the look and feel of the software and not forgetting its usability and user experience. Better performance and bug fixes are also considered as aspects of UX.

GNOME and the Cloud

Cloud apps, examples of apps in Electron and Progressive Web Apps. It can be included in the system, along with features that integrate, where possible, GNOME with existing services.

GNOME App Ecosystem Growth

One of the main goals of a platform like GNOME running applications is therefore logical that the number and quality of the apps offered is crucial. Flatpak has enabled easy distribution of many software, however there is a lot of work to be done around the GNOME program development platform.

Modern hardware support

Currently much of this work is done by distributions, however other aspects such as high definition support, touch screens, and much more are under GNOME's responsibility. This work is important because according to Allan in his research, the choice between OS and hardware is usually intertwined. Thus GNOME must always support the latest hardware in the market.

Prioritize and get more impact

GNOME resources are limited, so prioritizing and knowing how to direct resources to their proper places is essential to maximize and impact as much as possible. Prioritizing resources that users use to a greater extent over unused functions is the smarter way to enhance the most important features for users. Investing in the toolkit is a question that can benefit a whole set of apps that are worth of GTK. At the same time, there is a need for conversations and decisions that impact as few people as possible, paying more attention to the most used, and in some cases decreasing the amount of software over the first goal, always maintaining quality. Obviously, that kind of subject should be treated delicately. After all, resources are not replaceable in a project. upstream like GNOME, and developers can and should be free to work on what they want.

We can observe that prioritize the resources used, most of the time by users, and aim at quality one of the most consolidated guidelines in this strategy. But what specifically does this mean? In the following, I will demonstrate some concepts Allan has made available, believing that the polishing of basic and essential resources is the key to enhancing the end-user experience improvement.

Unlock and sign in

Starting with the unlock / login screen that in the case of many, the first contact with the system. Many people use this feature all the time, so we can say that it is the perfect example of feature receiving huge attention from GNOME designers. The team has been developing UX, see below for a mockup of the resource.



Another important point is the system notifications area, daily interacting with the various programs in my system and receiving and being able to easily / intuitively view the notifications, enhances the daily use.

According to Allan Day, The design team has systematically reviewed almost every part of the GNOME core system to polish and refine them. Part of this work has already come to GNOME 3.34, where you'll see a collection of visual style enhancements..


Menu and interface elements

With designs from an updated system menu, it is intended and solve longstanding known issues. The team has been working on various aspects, for example system dialog boxes and more. The system menu will also receive news and improvements from UX, we have done some experimental work in this area and we are planning to develop the work of drag and drop Georges Stavracas did at GNOME 3.34, says Allan Day. We even recently did a post with some news from verse 3.34 from GNOME.


Today the design team has already spent a lot of time on essential applications such as Settings, GNOME Software and Nautilus. Following this concept of prioritization, others apps of basic use, were also analyzed. Two examples Allan mentions are the document and image viewer.

According to him, document and image viewers today do their job reasonably well, but they have no refinement in some areas and do not always appear to belong to the rest of the system. They also lack some critical resources.

See below the mockup from the document viewer.


It is a mockup from the image viewer.


For this reason updated designs were created using the same visual patterns for these software, so that they seem to belong together. Some features have been added, the simple image editing one of them, something that users mentioned. It is intended to extend plans to other commonly used basic GNOME applications, the Gedit text editor and video player can be enhanced.

Many other applications and parts of the system are being restructured when it comes to UX Design, but Allan Day has made it clear that the focus of the team is the most used and it makes no sense for him to share others without this level of priority.

Development platform

Making life easier for the GNOME developer is an important point. Prioritizing the development platform makes each application appear to have better visual consistency, so it can be an extremely effective way to improve GNOME UX.

Again, this is an area where the design team has been putting a lot of effort in recent times, especially around the system icons. In addition to the icons other aspects of GTK are being worked on, as not all widgets respect the same design pattern, making it difficult in many cases to implement GNOME application designs, resulting in a quality that designers would not want. For this reason GNOME designs are reviewing each of the project's design standards to maintain the highest possible quality and to be fully supported.

We want each pattern to look great, work great and be easy for application developers to use. So far, we have new menu designs, drop-down lists, list boxes, and in-app notifications, and more to come. This initiative is underway and we need help from platform and toolkit developers to complete it., says Allan Day.


I recommend reading the Allan Day series of posts, a lot of enlightening can be obtained in these subjects. Some statements I would like to highlight are:

UX is more than the user interface: everything that makes up the user experience. As such, what I have presented here represents only a fraction of what would need to be included in a comprehensive UX strategy..

As an open and upstream project, GNOME has no direct control over who works on what. However, it is able to informally influence where resources go, whether by advertising priorities, by encouraging contributions in specific areas or by tracking progress towards goals..

I like to see all this movement and goes well with the post I wrote recently, all this strategy only tends to benefit users and increase the competitiveness of the Linux desktop in the market. Obviously, not everything is just flowers, and some bumps can appear along the way. Something that could improve the interaction between GNOME users and developers by listening more to users and perhaps incorporating the most commonly used extensions into Shell natively.

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