Re: Musings on the contacts user experience

On Thu, 2011-04-28 at 14:43 +0200, Alexander Larsson wrote:

> So, what kind of things do we now want to do with our contacts
> information? Here is a pretty comprehensive list of things that you
> might need contact information for.


Another long-term (after Gnome 3.2) class of use cases I'd like is:

* Start <application>-specific communication with someone

where this could be a game of chess through a chess program,
collaborative document editing through Gedit/Abiword/etc, pair
programming in Anjuta/Eclipse, multi-user GIMP sessions (has anyone said
they need to change their name?), remote music recording sessions.

The potential for productivity, education, and entertainment here is
really high. It's not like these programs couldn't already support these
features (some do, to some degree, though I think few efforts have been
merged to mainline), but I think they haven't thus far because they've
been stuck choosing between:

* entering IP addresses manually and resolving NAT/firewall issues
(which is an obvious non-start for most users, including myself)

* setting up an account system hosted on a server (which obviously gets
into a bunch of issues of its own)

We should be able to avoid both of these issues (particularly the
firewall issue) by using Telepathy Tubes and making the process of
starting this communication as seamless as possible through Folks/Gnome

So, this would obviously be a bit of work (particularly on getting these
programs to integrate well), but I think it's a very nice set of goals
to keep in the back of our minds.

> This is bad, because we'd like to introduce a workflow that starts
> from the idea that you're gonna communicate with a person, so you look
> up the person and then see the available communication routes and
> chose one. This seems more efficient than starting with selecting a
> communications method and only then looking up the contact, because
> you'll be missing a lot of potential information to chose the right
> method (for instance, when looking up the person you might
> immediately see that his status is "on vacation").

I think this is one of the most important changes to focus on to improve
the user experience (making communications Person -> method instead of
method -> application -> Person).

> In order to introduce this workflow for email we need to get the users
> used to it for other reasons. Just adding it as a possible way to
> initiate communications doesn't seem enough. The natural way to do
> this is via IM. When sending an IM message you always start by finding
> the person, and then initiate the communications. In a traditional
> system this is done via the IM main window, and if you think about it
> that window is really just a contact list. 
> So, lets merge the traditional IM ui with the address book. Resulting
> in an integrated IM system that is also an entry into other forms of
> communication (and the other usecases above). This is especially
> fitting given the partial IM integration we already have in the shell
> (ability to get notified and reply to IMs, but you have to manually
> start a not-quite-integrated IM app to send IMs). 
> How would such a ui look? I'm not sure, but to be usable it has to be
> easy to reach, i.e. it can't be a two-step thing (first find the
> contacts app, then find the person) it has to be directly available in
> the shell. The possibilities that I see are:
> * An icon in the system tray area which gives dropdown with online
>   and recent contact shortcuts, as well as an item to open the
>   contacts.

I'm a little wary about adding a permanent tray icon (though maybe the
Gnome Shell people can jump in here) considering how many other methods
we would have to contact people (depending on how many of these ideas we
implement). At the least, I think it should be pinned to the right side
to take advantage of the corner.

> * A people tab in the overview

I agree with Matthias that we should make sure the People table would be
particularly useful. With careful design, I think we could make it a
decent alternative to search (for people who would rather browse).
Though, honestly, the only 2 times I've opened the Applications tab were
to compare it to Gnome 3 review screenshots. I'm a power-user, though,
since I know the names of most programs I want to use (but
gnome-shell/the .desktop files do a decent job of matching by generic

> * Return contacts when searching in the overview
> None of these are imho ideal. The search one is very efficient, but
> not very discoverable, so it must be combined with something else. The

I think Google has shown that most people can wrap their head around
Search String -> <many types of results>. And, at the very least, I
think you only have to be shown once that people are searchable to grasp
the concept. So featuring it in tutorials, help sections and marketing
for Gnome could pick up a chunk of the users who might not guess it's

Maybe we could change the default search text to "Type to search for
apps, docs, people..." (though that's obviously a long string - maybe we
could do something clever like "Type to search for <rotating word>..."
and have it change each time the activities view is shown? Or have it
slowly rotate through the list while the view is open? I'm sure these
violate some core UX principles I don't know about.)

> The weakest part of this is imho the dash shortcut, as it makes the
> contacts dialog seem like an external app rather than a core thing, but
> I can't find a better place for it.

It seems reasonable to me. The address book icon is certainly in the
"first page" view on every mobile UX equivalent I've seen.

> We may also want to allow adding contacts to the dash, just to make the
> contacts a first class citizen of the overview, but i'm not sure how
> useful this is in practice.

I think this would be a good idea. Most users have a limited set of
people they spend most of their time communicating with, so we wouldn't
have to worry too much about this crowding the dash. I'd even wager it's
closer to a "95/5" rule than "80/20". Some phone carriers (at least in
the US) have plans where you get free calling/texting to 5 specific
people, so I'm sure there's some market research behind it.

Though, again, I never use the dash, so maybe I'm not the best to
speculate about this.


[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Thread Index] [Date Index] [Author Index]