Control center refresh

Some of you have probably heard that some folks at Sun have been working on a proposal for a tidied-up GNOME control center shell. Well, at long last, here are some details!

First of all, I should say that I actually have little personal involvement in this project—it’s being led by Kristin Travis and Jenya Gestrin of Sun’s xDesign team… I’m just abusing my position on Planet GNOME to plug what they’re doing 🙂 And as yet, there’s no production code to speak of, just mockups and Flash prototypes, so there’s still plenty of scope for feedback.

You can download the latest protoypes, peruse numerous mockups, and read about the design process to date (including a usability study on the capplet categorisation) on the Usability Project’s Control Center Whiteboard pages.

Latest control center mockup
Latest control center mockup

Feedback welcome here, on the control center mailing list, or direct to Kristin and Jenya.

18 thoughts on “Control center refresh”

  1. OMFG! I really hated gnome for it’s control center. The last mockup is awesome, the best thing I’ve ever seen. Only XFCE comes close to it and mac, but it’s even better than everything else, including KDE4’s one.

    Gnome 3 might have potential after all…

  2. I strongly dislike it. It’s a copy of Vista’s control center with one deviation: the sub-categories are in a mouse over instead of in tiny text underneath the category name. And there’s no precedent in GNOME’s desktop metaphors for these mouse-over pop-up menus. So, you’re (err Sun is) breaking the metaphor and copying another platform design (that has failed). If we’re going to copy something, at least copy a platform that isn’t getting thrown out the Window in droves: OS X. BTW, that’s already mostly been implemented in the Control Center browser window which is not currently the default.

    In summary, it sounds like a whole team at Sun took a few months to make a flash animation of Vista’s control center on Linux and ram-rodded a usability study through to justify their continued work on their uninspired work.

    I’m sorry that sounds harsh but I really, really dislike this.

  3. On the surface, Accessibility is misspelled (there are two s letters) and Share should be Sharing to match with Monitoring.

    I mostly agree with @jclinton — the discoverability of which category the feature I want to enable/disable is low, given the little amount of per-category context provided. I disagree that going with a model similar to Windows Vista is a bad thing as the text underneath the category name helps a user identify which category the thing they want to change should fit into. (Addtionally, this feature has been carried over into Windows 7, so the argument that it’s obsolete is wrong) I’d be willing to wager an ice cream that a usability study would show a higher “hit” rate with this approach, rather than just relying on search as the current approach does.

  4. It’s true that current situation is totally suboptimal, both with our ugly control-center or the too long « System » menu.

    However, just like Jason, I really do not like the results of this work :-/

    Mac OS X has a good control center, so an easy pick would be to copy it. However, I’d be in favor of totally dropping both the menu and the control center.

    For instance, all stuff related to networking could be configured using the NetworkManager applet. The « about me » preferences can be configured using the fast user switch applet. Power saving features with the battery icon in the notification area, etc…

    Not sure how viable that would be in the long term, but this might be a lead worth chasing: removing the tools centralization and letting each part of the desktop receive its share of « configuration center ». Is that a stupid idea ?

  5. Maybe I should have added that although I don’t like the first results, I’m really thrilled that someone is actually working on improving this situation 🙂

  6. In terms of screen real estate: what Windows 7 does is quite similar but makes better use of the space, i.e. showing more information at a glance without being too verbose

  7. At first glance, it reminds me a lot of the XFCE control center. This is only a good thing.

    At second glance, I’m not sure how much I like the tool-tip menus in the flash demo. The mockup shown at the bottom of the usability study looks pretty neat, though I suppose it obscures more information than the tool-tip menus.

  8. Hi,
    Although it’s always nice seeing people work on improving GNOME, I like the menu the way it is. There are fewer clicks between me and the relevant control dialog that I want. It seems to me this is painting a bike shed which is already quite a nice colour …

  9. I think there might still be some ambiguity for novice users, like for instance “Audio & Video” and “Display”… non-geeks may understand Video and Display as the same thing. “Application Preferences” is somewhat vague, potentially scary, and also conflicts a bit with “Desktop” since it configures a portion of the Desktop behavior (eg: how to handle HTTP URLs and such).

  10. Having the search on the top uses vital vertical screen real-estate; OTOH maybe this is more what people are used to.

    I’m ambivilent about grouping down to more icons; you have to remember where your going although it’s less cluttered at the beginning.

    The mockup in Matts comment looks nice for sure

  11. Oh wow, didn’t even notice the mouseover the first time I tried the flash demo, (although I did click on several of the icons) so definitely thumbs down for discovery on that one.

  12. I *really* don’t like the mockup in Matt’s comment. There’s just too much information to process at once with all the text and icons. Plus, having sideways text like that is harder to read, and it took me several seconds to notice it.

  13. All,

    Thanks for the comments. The end users that we talked to in our
    usability study helped to focus this work on the launcher
    direction. But I see the majority of the comments from the community prefer the Control Center approach. Based on this, I’m considering getting some additional user feedback comparing the two approaches before continuing any work.

    I’ll be pulling together a plan in the next few days, so please feel free to add your comments to that if you’re interested.


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