Giving feedback

Lucas Rocha shared Seth Godin‘s blog post “the worst feedback is indifferenceon Google+, and I posted a reply.

In the interest of openness and distribution (and actually posting content on my blog), here’s my response:

I was on a call the other day where someone told me that they wouldn’t ever give me negative feedback. I replied: “No! Please give me negative feedback, especially if it’s constructive. Tell me when what I do sucks. If you can, please tell me why it sucks too. If it’s good or great, tell me about that too. Please let me know what you think.”

After working in the FOSS community as a designer for a decade and a half, one must have a thick skin. Us designers often produce highly visible things, sometimes with controversial ideas (sometimes for bad, sometimes for awesome).

I hope all of us in the community can work together and be respectful of each other enough to say when things produced (designs of any sort, code, documentation, etc.) might be good or bad… and also have the courtesy to point out why we hold whatever opinion we may have.

It’s important to have some respect for people when doing this. Even the most awesome people produce the worst ideas sometimes, and that’s fine. It’s all on the path to working together to make things better. We need to foster open communication whenever we can and separate the design from the designer, the code from the coder, the writings from the writer, the managing from the management, etc.

In other words, attack stuff within reason (either with negative feedback or attacks of awesomeness) and elaborate, but be careful not to hurt each other.

Adwaita (GNOME 3 theme) for Chrome

Like many of you, I split my time between two excellent browsers: Firefox and Chrome. Neither feels really all so native in GNOME3 — although Firefox, as it mimics GTK+2 by default, fits in just a little better. Every time I started Chrome, however, I felt a bit frustrated with how much of a sore thumb it stuck out and decided to do something about it.

Introducing the Adwaita theme for Chrome

You can have GTK+3-ish scrollbars, too…

So, go ahead and install the theme and the scrollbars.

Notes:

  • Chrome’s theming isn’t too flexible, so the tabs are probably about as close as they’re going to get.
  • Due to a bug in Chrome, custom scrollbars do not work in iframes. I have made a workaround (thanks to CSS :not() magic) so that you still will have scrollbars whenever iframes need them. (This matters quite a bit for some web apps, such as Google Mail.)
  • There’s a bug in some builds of Chromium that prevent it from accessing the Chrome Web Store. The issue tracker mentions some work-around, and future builds openSUSE builds of Chromium will have the fix soon.
  • I’ve released the git repos of each on github: adwaita-chrome and adwaita-chrome-scrollbar

Unfortunately, I haven’t spent the time to make Firefox fit in a little better. It would take a bit more effort. Hopefully the Firefox GTK+3 port is coming along nicely? (:

(Alternatively, someone would score some huge hero points by making Adwaita for GTK+2 resemble the GTK+3 version, instead of Clearlooks. This would also make other GTK+2 theme using apps fit in a bit better too, such as LibreOffice.)

the future of Nautilus

Hi everyone! I worked on a few different things during the Novell/SUSE HackWeek. One of these things was continuing my Nautilus redesign that I (Garrett LeSagestarted last year, continued with others (Allan DayHylke BonsMáirín Duffy, etc.) at the London UX meeting and at LGM2010… and then further talked about on the Internet. During the HackWeek this month, I worked collaboratively with others (Allan, Hylke, Lapo Calamandrei, Andy Fitzsimon, and more) using Inkscape, Google Wave, Dropbox, IRC, and IM and we brainstormed on ways to improve Nautilus — not just feature by feature, but how everything would work together. Our overall goals:

  • All the functionality that you need. Nothing you don’t.
  • Clean, simple, attractive
  • Well-suited to small screens
  • Makes many essential functions more discoverable than at present

Please note that this is a work in progress, and is not to be considered final. I am posting our design draft here to request feedback and discussion. To properly move designs forward in the community, we really need to discuss them in the open. We feel these concepts have matured enough to be seen outside of our cross-company collection of designers. The result of our discussions were summarized in another round of mockup explorations, as well as a document summary of key ideas we agreed upon. (This document needs to be moved to GNOME’s wiki at some point in the near future.)

Mockup notes: You can see the progression of the groups of the mockups. We also were playing around with ideas on how to integrate the two menus. (It was later determined that embedding the application menu in the titlebar caused two issues: First, people expect it to be a window manager menu. Second, it could only properly be done with client-side rendering with non-existing versions of the window manager and GTK+. Please disregard this placement in the mockups.)

Menus

Overall, this menu restructuring:

  • gets rid of the complexity of Nautilus’ menu system
  • provides the same general feature set
  • prevents us from designing multiple levels deep
  • makes Nautilus look much cleaner than it currently does by not having a menu bar
  • wins us much-needed vertical space

Actions menu

  • File management actions — now moving to an optional (but on-by-default) action bar at the bottom of the window.
  • This is a discoverable version of the right-mouse-button contextual menu.

[Actions]
Open With ###
Open With >

Duplicate Rename…

Compress…
Dropbox > (and other extensions go here)

Move to Trash

Cut
Copy
Paste

Undo
Redo

Create > (folders, documents, etc.)

Select All
Select Items Matching…

Application menu

  • Whatever else, when you’re not actually managing files

[Application menu]
New Tab
New Window
New Administrator Window

Connect to Server…

Empty Trash

Preferences

Help
About

Close Window
Close All Windows

‘Side-step’ breadcrumb menus

  • Activated via click and hold on breadcrumb folders.
  • Display sibling folders (at the same depth as the folder represented in the breadcrumb).
  • ‘Root’ breadcrumb folder displays other possible roots:

[# Home]
USB Stick
Foo on share
Trash

Location…

Back and forward menus

  • The back button shall display all history in the past only, and the forward button shows all the future history (relative to present location). Normally, this means the forward button will be disabled until stepping backwards in history.

[ < ] [ > ]
# Foo
# Bar

Clear History

Places menu

  • This menu replaces the places sidebar and bookmarks.
  • When the places sidebar is hidden, it should show up to the left of the Breadcrumbs as a menu, in the same place.
  • It is to be determined if the places sidebar will exist in a toggled form, or if it shall be reduced to a only a places menu.

[ Places ⇩ ]
(All the places one would expect)

Edit Places…

Places

Originally would be the only sidebar, but as of recent mockups, sidebars may go away entirely. Places would then be implemented as a slab-menu.

  • It acts similar to a normal menu.
  • You can click and slide the mouse down during that click to select items, and when you let go, it gets activated. (The eject icons are special cases, but work similarly.)

[FIXME: more info about places]

Actions Toolbar

Dynamic context menus show relevant actions for the selected item.

  • Make contextual actions discoverable
  • Super-easy! Removes the need for awkward right-mouse-button operations
  • Excellent for users with a single mouse/track pad button

Status “minibars”

(See the bottom-left mockup in nautilus-streamlined for now.)

  • Transient, display information only when needed
  • There is no “status bar” by default”
  • # of selected items are shown when files are selected
  • Network loading is shown (with a spinner on the left and stop icon on the right)
  • These minibars will be aligned to the right (unlike the streamlined mockup)

[FIXME: This was discussed in-length, in-person, at LGM2010. We still need a proper mockup.]

Sharing

A quick and simple way to set up any type of share (eg: local, network, email, IM, Sparkle, Dropbox, Ubuntu One)

  • Reduces menu clutter by locating all sharing mechanisms within a single dialog
  • Makes sharing clear and simple
  • Fast: recent shares are listed first

[FIXME: We have ideas, but this still needs a proper mockup]

New widgets

  • There are no custom widgets in the Nautilus mockups… just new, standard GNOME3 ones!
  • Mockups like these should completely drive what it means to be GNOME3. We should not do one-offs in the software the mockups depict, but make widgets and set paradigms for the entire platform.
  • We should mock up other significant software that incorporate these features.
  • Let’s make sure all the core GNOME apps are new-style, and others will follow. We have to set the example.

Say goodbye to…

While we strive to keep the same featureset in future Nautilus, there are some things which are going away. Please note that almost all of these items in the list are being addressed elsewhere in the interface. We are removing:

  • computer:///
    • The items displayed in computer:/// are already present in the places side pane and will also be present in the breadcrumb dropdown when that is completed
    • computer:/// isn’t as useful as Places or the dropdown because it is one step removed – it’s essentially hidden
    • ‘Computer’ isn’t a good description of the contents of computer:/// anyway. ‘devices:///’ would be more appropriate.
  • “filesystem” in the UI
    • Nautilus should focus on serving real people’s needs. People do not need to manage system files in a file manager. However, that said…
    • We’ll have a hidden gconf key to enable filesystem for über-geeks (or better, wanna-be-uber-geeks, uber geeks use the terminal… or ctrl+L), who are the ones who want this feature in the first place.
    • It will also be possible to navigate the filesystem by hitting Control-L and typing locations, just as it is in current Nautilus.
    • remote directories mounted in /opt/ (and other random places) will be exposed under network
    • any location Nautilus can see is “bookmarkable”, and these bookmarks will show up in places
  • Split pane (“extra pane”)
    • Split panes would prevent many of the features being advocated here, including the single toolbar and actions toolbar.
    • This design removes many of the reasons for split panes in the first place, however. For instance: Non-directory specific controls are kept to an absolute minimum.
    • Split pane mode really calls for better window management.
  • Everything in the sidebar other than Places: including Tree, History, Emblems and Notes.
  • User specifiable backgrounds, emblems and custom icons.
    • Spatial mode as a distinct UI. The Nautilus future design is the perfect combination of the spatial and browser UIs. Its minimalism should feel comfortable and familiar to spatial users.
    • Spatial mode could still be retained as a preference, of course, as: ☑ Open folders in new windows

Many aspects of Nautilus’s UI are extremely old-fashioned and are barely used. The maintenance burden they represent outweighs their usefulness. Nautilus bugzilla is choked up by reports about backgrounds, custom icons and spatial mode. Many of these never get touched. Better to have a minimal UI that is complete and well-maintained than a plethora of half-finished features.

TL;DR (Summary)

A number of us designers in the community are brainstorming and proposing changes to Nautilus. We’re going all the way and suggesting more than little fixes here and there (which is what Nautilus been doing for years.) We’re building a vision of what better file management could be. Read the results of our design discussions above, and check out the latest round of mockups. If you’re a designer, you can also grab the source SVG for editing in Inkscape. Also, please feel free to change the file contents in the mockup to something else. (:

Google Wave & native scrollbars

For those of you also using Google Wave, you may have noticed the funky scrollbars. They’re bad for all sorts of reasons, most notably performance.

Máirín (rightfully) complained about them in a community designers’ wave we’re in, so I decided to take five minutes to see if I could implement a hack… and was successful!

Basically, with essentially 4 simple lines of CSS, we’re able to easily turn on your browser’s native scrollbars and turn off Google’s weird scrollthing. Since I published it on userstyles.org, it’s available for Firefox (using Stylish or Greasemonkey) and Chrome/Chromium (since it now has native Greasmonkey support).

Scrolling is now extremely quick in comparison, and it acts as expected.

Get it here: System scrollbars for Google Wave

A blog post

For whatever reason, my “oh yeah, I have a blog!” blog post has shown up on Planet GNOME… again.

Is it there to serve as a reminder that I actually do have a blog, and I should do these posting-blog-posts and uploading-pictures things?

Here’s a picture that I uploaded yesterday. It’s a sunset over the dunes in Gran Canaria. (GCDS was amazingly great.)

sundown at the sand dunes

Also, I guess I should update my hackergotchi on PGO… and probably post something about SUSE Studio sometime… and perhaps update that Nautilus mockup as well?

Nautilus, streamlined

While at the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, an impromptu graphic and UI design session erupted in the hotel hackfest room. We worked on GNOME artwork and design related subject matter. A few of us discussed and sketched wireframe mockups of gnome-shell and Nautilus.

This hackweek, I decided to start fleshing out the mockups. I tried getting gnome-shell properly working on my machine (running openSUSE 11.1), and was mostly unsuccessful there. I have a lot of ideas based on the BetterDesktop usability studies we did at Novell (years ago) and would be interested in helping out the gnome-shell crew. (:

I saw David’s recent blog post on a simplified Nautilus and decided to skip past gnome-shell (for now) and produce something that should hopefully benefit all users of GNOME (regardless of using gnome-shell or not): Streamlining Nautilus.

These somewhat-polished mockups are based on the wireframes and discussions (that we unfortunately did not write down) from GCDS. They are not pixel perfect (but should be somewhat close). A menu bar is not included in the mockups (similar to David’s screenshot) — but the menus do need to be retooled as well.

Icons not in the toolbar would be configurable somehow. Keyboard shortcuts would all work the same.

…There are many more notes in the actual mockup, so click the thumbnail teaser graphic and view the full thing at 1:1 size already! (:

As stated in the mockup, you can contact me via @garrett on Twitter, over email, or in IRC. (I prefer Twitter and IRC over email, by-the-way)… or you could post a comment on this blog post too.