The Spectre of Math

March 20, 2010

consistency in UI

Filed under: Linux,Technology — jlebl @ 4:11 pm

So ubuntu tried (or is trying) changing the window bar completely in beta 1 of lucid. They moved the window controls to the left of the bar and reordered them. Presumably to free up space on the right for “something.” What that something is, is unclear. But that “something” cannot possibly be anything critical, since apps should work in different themes and different distros.

I guess they may end up doing something cool with the freed up right hand side. But, and this is a big but, is it going to be worth all the annoyance to people switching? Given that all three of the computers run a different flavour of linux, it is likely that this “new” ui will only be on my home machine. I still can’t get used to closing the window on the left, especially since at work, on my netbook, on marketa’s machine or on whatever random computer I get to use for a bit it’s on the right. I think at some point I’ll be annoyed enough to change the window button order back (once I figure out what gconf key does that).

People that have to also use windows will be annoyed to no end. Whatever minor improvement in usability we may get from whatever cool thing is on the right hand side of the window title bar in the future will be more than wiped out by the annoyance of having to switch between two layouts on two machines. So using the UI is slower simply because I have to think what machine I am on.

This is my favourite pet peeve with the direction GUI is trending to. Consistency is usually flushed down the toilet for whatever “cool” experiment a certain designer is trying. MP3 players have been suffering from this for years. Web pages have the same problem. Now many other applications are following suit.

GNOME Shell and friends for example come up with completely different looking and working widgets for standard things such as scrollbars, buttons and menus. The netbook launcher is almost unusable for it. If it was built from standard widgets it would have probably had working keyboard navigation, would have been arguably easier to use and even would have been easier to code up and would have fewer bugs. GNOME was suffering from this from the beginning. We had widget themes way before we had a half working desktop.

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