Saturday, February 8, 2014

Areas of investigation

The GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) establish a set of application design patterns common to the GNOME environment. From the HIG wiki: "Design patterns are the main elements that make up an application design. Some patterns, like application menus or header bars, are essential. Others are optional. Patterns can also be combined. Making appropriate choices about which design patterns to use is an important part in designing a GNOME application." (emphasis mine)

These design patterns in GNOME 3 are quite different from GNOME 2. And as GNOME continues to grow, the project also continues to change and improve these design patterns. For example, GNOME 3 applications use a "header bar" in place of a traditional "title bar." The idea seems to be that the application title appears in GNOME's black "top bar," which becomes part of the application menu.

In GNOME, these patterns include:

  • Application menus (1)
  • Header bars (2)
  • View switcher (3)
  • Content overview
  • Grids
  • Lists
  • Search (4)
  • Selection mode  (5)
  • Action bars
  • Gear menu (6)
  • Sidebar list (7)
  • Notifications
  • Secondary windows
  • Popovers

(numbers correlate to diagram, from HIG wiki)

You can see an example of several such design patterns in this GNOME 3.10 screenshot (from Fedora 20):

In this screenshot, note the use of sidebar lists, navigation, search, gear menu, and view switchers in both GNOME applications.

One way to explore my research question would be to conduct a usability test against prototypes (functional or on-paper) of the new design patterns. By testing several applications that use the same or similar design patterns, the usability test results might identify usage areas where the design patterns work well vs where they do not work well. These results might inform future GNOME design and development - especially important, since "Making appropriate choices about which design patterns to use is an important part in designing a GNOME application" (HIG wiki).

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