Friday, September 19, 2014

Excited about GNOME 3.14

When I studied the usability of GNOME for my Master's degree, I was pleased that the GNOME designers took the results seriously and created "usability bugs" based on my findings. And this summer, I spoke about the usability of GNOME at GUADEC, and was again pleased that the GNOME developer and user community also views usability as a serious and present topic. At GUADEC, I learned that several of the bugs based on my usability study would make it into the next version of GNOME.

And the next version of GNOME is almost upon us!

A few days ago, Jakub shared a preview of GNOME 3.14 via a "making of" video. The video provides a brief view into all the hard work going into this release.

One thing that surprised me in Jakub's video was icon animation. I didn't realize that would be featured in the new GNOME. Animation is an important part of user experience, or "UX." The user experience is not "usability" per se, but it is a related topic. UX refers to the emotional engagement of the user to the program. It may be divorced from usability, but typically if a program has good usability it will effect good UX, and programs that have poor usability tend to effect bad UX.

Icon animation makes the desktop seem more approachable. For example, clicking on an icon to reveal a submenu where more program icons spring into existence helps the user relate the action of clicking on one icon to the appearance of the new icons—because they can see the action occur. You can see examples of GNOME animations starting at about 1:10 in Jakub's video.

Today, Allan confirmed via his blog that GNOME 3.14 is on its way. Allan shares these features:

New animations
Yes, the animations previewed by Jakub are there. See the video in Allan's post to see icon animation in Applications View.
Google Images in Photos
"The big news for 3.14 is that Photos will now pick up your Google photos, so any images you’ve uploaded with Picasa, Android, or posted on Google+ will be immediately available there."
Rewritten Adwaita
"Everything feels crisper, sharper, and a bit lighter. There’s also a lot of subtle animations now (thanks to CSS animation support in GTK+), adding to the feeling of polish."
Search More Things
"The number of applications that are feeding results to system search has continued to increase with 3.14, with two really useful new additions:" Clocks and Calculator.
GTK+ Inspector
A new tool for developers.

Update: I think what excites me most is seeing the results of my usability testing, and the improvement in GNOME 3.14. For example, Software includes several changes based on my usability test findings: New first run dialog which explains what the app does, and Moved the Install / Remove buttons down from the headerbar to a more prominent position.

The release notes for GNOME 3.14 should be posted next week.

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