Re: Design in the open


I think it is pretty clear that the GNOME UX team is pretty amazing.
As you say, though, I think we recognize that we need to improve in
areas like engagement.

With GUADEC around the corner, I think now is an important time to
make progress on getting better engagement between the developer
and usability communities within GNOME.  Can we plan activities
at GUADEC that could help?  Aside from a BOF, I wonder if it might
make sense to do some of the same sorts of activities that were
done at the UX Hackfest in London.  I think it would be interesting
to do some usability testing while there, if it were possible to make
that happen.  Perhaps the next UX Hackfest could happen to coincide
with GUADEC.

Are plans being discussed on the usability mailing list?  Are there
any particular design-focused talks being planned?  At the Desktop
Summit in Berlin, it seemed a lot of talks were about basic design
principles.  Do you think we will be seeing that again, but perhaps
more focused on GNOME 3?


On 04/25/12 08:27 AM, Allan Day wrote:
Hi all,

Apologies in advance for the long mail - there was no other way.

There have been a few design-related threads on the list recently. I’m
going to try and reboot those discussions in a slightly different and,
I hope, more constructive mode.

Let’s start with the big picture - design is important for GNOME. Our
project’s success rests upon our ability to design and execute an
outstanding user experience. It is in all our interests to make GNOME
design work, therefore - to work together to produce a consistent,
integrated, well-defined, high-quality, delightful user experience.

So far we have made some great progress in this direction. We have a
small but thriving design community. We have successfully reorganised
our development processes around design - development tends to be
design led, and we now have new feature proposals each release rather
than module proposals.

There are very few, if any, real community projects that have achieved
this feat. Members of other projects have even approached me in the
past to ask how they can replicate GNOME’s success in this area.

But there are challenges and things we can do better. Among those
obstacles, I see:

* lack of design resources - we are always trailing behind where we
want to be, and there are important tasks which we are unable to
complete (a new HIG springs to mind)
* improving the quality of design - we can always do better
* getting the project behind a common vision - we sometimes lack focus
* giving people a stake in the project - the danger of design-led
development is that people feel that the project is no longer theirs.
They want to feel they can have an impact and that they can express
themselves through their activities in the community.
* design disagreements can sour relationships and lead to discord
* letting people stay in touch with and understand design activities,
and therefore the activities of the project as a whole
* helping community members to participate in design activities

Now, there have been some initiatives in GNOME to try and help make
design more successful within the community. Some of those are
well-known, like the design wiki pages and the IRC channel, but there
have been other things too, like design office hours (remember those?
nobody came), UX Advocates (also suffered from a lack of take up) and
Every Detail Matters. We are also working to attract more design
contributors, which the Outreach Program for Women is really helping
with right now (yay!)

But there is more we can do. The challenge for us as a community is to
make design an even more successful part of what we do. This isn’t an
easy challenge and I don’t think there are any quick fixes, but we
have experience and a rich community on our side.

It is important to recognise that improving the state of design in
GNOME isn’t just the responsibility of designers. There are things
that all of us can do to help - from the release team and maintainers,
to individual developers and community advocates. Here are some of my
ideas for things that all of us can do to make design work more
effectively and harmoniously as a part of GNOME:

* a more rigorous (and better documented) feature proposal process
* new tools for displaying and discussing designs, such as something
like Dribble or Design Hub
* a process for resolving design disagreements - perhaps maintainers
or the release team could mediate if a dispute seems intractable?
* better communications about where GNOME is going and what the
project is trying to achieve
* some kind of active community management role to help soothe ruffled feathers
* advertised designer playgrounds and discussion areas (for people
wanting to stretch their design wings)
* tackle bad behaviour across the project in a more proactive manner
(will ensure that disagreements don’t get out of hand)
* micro release-cycles in which new features are advertised, completed
and tested
* better testing facilities so people can test and give feedback on UX
changes before release time
* keep a running list of design tasks that are appropriate for newcomers
* work to prevent design disputes - ensure early informal contact
between designers and developers at the beginning of feature

So there are lots of ways that we can do design better as a community,
and contributors on this list can all play a part in helping to make
us to be even more successful in this regard. It will take actions as
well as words to move forward, of course - if you want to help, or
have your own ideas, just get in touch.


tl;dr version

GNOME design is a community-wide effort - it is not just the
responsibility of designers. We’ve got a lot to be proud of in this
area, but there are also challenges to overcome. There many things
that can help to make GNOME design a success, but it will require
people to step up and help out.
IRC:  aday on
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desktop-devel-list gnome org

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