Re: needs major improvement

On 17 Jul 2004, at 19:54, Curtis Hovey wrote:

On Sat, 2004-07-17 at 18:44 +0100, Martin Alderson wrote:
I've just spent some time looking at and how it could be

Thanks for you attention. My comments are in line. I really appreciate
your efforts, though some of my comments below may seem

Not a problem. Reading over it does show that I do go slightly OTT in places but I hope that my point gets across.

It is a pretty sad affair as of now, with no focus on any elements of
the site and really bad design and usability practices on the site. I
wish I had time to write a full essay about this but sadly, I don't, so
a quick list and some ideas for improvement will have to do for now.

The main problem is focus and audience. Currently, the site has very,
very little focus on anything and instead has 5 things, each very

First, Audience - who is it? I don't know. It doesn't say on here and
has a big bold underlined 'user' link which I'd expect to take me to
the users page with nice, easy to understand stuff on it. But alas, I
get sent to the home-page again? What is going on here - as a user I'd
expect that clicking the big 'user' link would take me a different page
than the current one. I then have to assume that the current home-page
is designed for users and therefore this is a end user page. I hope
this is a mistake.

This is an often asked question.  What we need is a set of use cases/
stories that detail that tasks Web users (gnome users, developers,
members, business, etc.) must accomplish while visiting That
will provide the plan for content and organization.

I agree - the trouble with Gnome is that it isn't really designed to be distributed directly to end users. Instead, it should goto distributions first who package it up.

What I would suggest is something like (yes, I know it's a horrible company and all but some important design lessons can be learned from it). While the vast majority of sales come from OEM sales and not direct to end-user, they still manage to not seem confused.

I'd suggest that it should be a site to promote the ideals that Gnome portrays. Also, support should be a big issue and also development _with_ Gnome (not exclusively _on_ gnome). Show developers how great it is to develop with Gnome and GTK API's. Let's show sysadmin's how they can leverage Gnome to make a fully integrated client-server setup and provide some examples of great Gnome/GTK based apps. This is what Microsoft pushes heavily, and that's the best way to get real developer attention.

Second, these stupid banner style 'ads' that are way too big. What on
earth is GUDEC? (I know, but most of your end users will not!) "See you
next year", again, what is this meant to mean? Does this mean GNOME is
over until next year? I'm really getting confused now.

A quick review of the threads on this list will show that far too much
time is spent critiquing and tweaking the design.  Let's focus on what
users need, and how we can help them find it.

I would agree entirely. has some good content on, but it's no good whatsoever if no-one can find it.

We then come to another problem that is badly thought through - GNOME
is not a descriptive name to those who don't know already what it is.
The 'what is GNOME' box is therefore vitally important. It's good that
it's there at all but, the content is not up to scratch at all. 'GNOME
is a Unix and Linux desktop suite and development platform'. What is
the point of this? The vast proportion of people who knows what Unix
and Linux will already know what GNOME is. Therefore, this needs to be
much better phrased. Something like 'Gnome is a free, open and stable
desktop suite'. Also, the next bit makes no sense - 'here'.. what does
this mean? The homepage, or the 'what is GNOME' box? Again, very
confusing and badly worded.

Revision will be accepted for review.

It still needs some more work but hopefully that gets the gist across better.

Below this there is the GNOME news - THIS NEEDS SEPARATED OFF!, and
preferably split into a different page with just links of headlines.
Currently this is way too in-depth for the site. The GNOME Foundation
needs also put somewhere else, not on the homepage. Homepage's are
designed to welcome new users and usher them to the right place on the
site, or maybe grab someone's attention. Currently, does none of this. Again, the foundation needs placed somewhere else because if I
am a new user I am not going to donate straight away at seeing the
home-page. I may do later, but certainly not now.

I think you are making assumptions about the audience. While I will not
defend the global nav to the death, it exists to help users locate the
site that that has the information desired.  The point is that the
majority of GNOME users, and even some developers do not know what the
foundation is, but business users need to find it.

I do understand that but it needs to have less priority placed on it. As you said above, a case study of what users need and use would help prioritize what needs shown on the front page.

The top level links are also disastrously bad. They need split into two
categories, 'user' and 'developer' and then provide links to each of
them. User could be things like 'About GNOME', 'Download', 'Features'
etc and Developer things like 'Report a bug', 'CVS' and 'Help

Are you sure it is two categories?

Good point - again, work on the usability of everything on the site would be a good idea.

The font is also a size too big for the homepage. Not a big issue but
severely stops you putting more on the home-page.

Do you have a usability study to back your assertion up.

Not to hand, but I personally think it looks too big. You may disagree, but many of the other major sites don't use large font's for news copy.

Another problem is how you edit the homepage, which I think is way too
hard. Designers are not good at programmer style CVS commands, and
programmers are not good at design. Simple as that, in general, please
don't make designers use CVS. They won't like it at all. A few
designers will learn to live with it and use it, but think of the
talent you may of lost if you did have a good system - not sure what
that is exactly, but it's something that doesn't require setting
environment variables.

In deed we do want a better way for developers to contribute, though to
be clear, the only designer that needs to contribute is the one that
sets the site style.  I believe alternative publishing tools are under
review.  I've observed that the Make-based page generation system
confuses many pure Web developers.  But version control is a reality in
all Web sites that have multiple contributors, professional and amature
alike.  Seriously!  I've had to introduce many new Web developers to
CVS, but that is a valuable skill, because it *is* commonly used, gnome.
org is not an exception, it is the norm.

True. But I don't think it works well for design, at all. While it's good at tracking changes, it's useless at very quick updates and changes, which Gnome should need. I don't think any CVS using site [opensource] looks great.

So to conclude, 3 things that need implemented in the new site. Focus -
target one issue - say GNOME 2.6. Put a nice screenshot with a 'top 3'
new features. Provide information with plenty of easy to read and
understand lists of features and ideas on how to use the software. Then
put sections below that for news and other issues.
Audience. Have developer hidden away better. Get rid of the jargon that
is obviously developer only.

The third thing is get a better design process going so people can
contribute easier. If people had to fill out 25 pages of IRS forms to
donate charity, people would not donate. This is what you are doing at
the moment using CVS for changes. Provide a simple .zip file which has
all the pages in and then work out a way for people to send their new
pages back. This would make it insanely easier, and lead to homepage
that is not such a bad representation of a great piece of software.

I think you are extrapolating one page to the whole site.  Sites, and
sections of the sites, are ultimately the responsibility of individuals
and teams.  I'm sure everyone agrees that a simpler means of editing
content would spur contributions.  But once the design is set, and
content added, little needs to change.  A library of documents is the
only thing that really needs to be easy for contributors.

I disagree. I would say that this is the reason that the site is stagnating. If everyone starts doing individual changes, you start losing the advantage of navigation of a tightly organized site. If it is segmented well then it could be organized better as teams and would have less problems overall.

Martin Alderson

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