Mar 13, 2010

Summary of Ubuntu and the new theme

As I wrote before in this blog. Opinions on the (wrong) new position of the window buttons in the new Ubuntu theme getting more. Here a summary of a few of the very good points copied from YokoZar's Writings Blog.
  • Because the window title isn’t centered, the window controls being placed directly in front of it put it in a weird indented position
  • The “slightly off left” location is inconsistent with Nautilus, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Empathy, and every other tabbed program we have, which have close buttons for their tabs on the right.
  • The left position is inconsistent with Windows, previous versions of Ubuntu, and even OSX – users have to relearn decades of muscle memory.
  • Users who interact with both Windows and Ubuntu machines (or migrate from Windows) will have a much harder time than they did before.
  • The buttons are too close to the file and edit menus, making catastrophic misclicks much more likely.  Closing something on accident should be as rare as possible.
  • Even without misclicking, a user will have to take more time to use the window control and avoid a misclick.  This is an example of Fitt’s Law.
  • The close position is also inconsistent with the power button in upper right.  Currently, “close it down” is something you can always do from the upper right anywhere in the system: within a tab, within a window, and even for the whole computer.  The new window controls break that entirely.
  • The new position leaves a lot of empty, wasted space in the upper right of most windows.  While strictly speaking the amount of unused space is the same, it looks much worse when it’s all clustered together.  When the controls are on the right, the extra space can function as a buffer for the potentially destructive window controls.
  • Similarly, the upper left of most windows now becomes much more crowded, creating a rather unpleasing contrast to the relatively empty upper right.
  • In previous Ubuntus you could close windows on the left if you really wanted, by expanding the small circle menu that’s now gone entirely.  File->Quit is also an option, which is now very close to the close box.
  • Gnome upstream has them on the right, causing consistency and developmental problems when we deviate.  This is particularly jarring with the adoption of future projects like Gnome shell and Gnome 3, which will change again how we interact with window controls.
  • The current implementation breaks themes not designed for the new button order (which is currently every theme we ship, so even changing the theme back doesn’t help)
  • A day before User Interface freeze of a long term support release is the worst possible time to suddenly spring this on everyone without explanation.
  • It is very difficult to change them back as we don’t have any UI tool for doing this (the current method is manually editing gconf keys)
  • The new position doesn’t actually do anything beneficial.
there are a few very good reasons in there for not placing the buttons on the left side. In my opinion the strongest points are:
  • "wong position for importance" (as noted in my own post)
  • "weird indented position" as its in front of the window title
  • "buttons to close to menu bar" (more on the menu bar problem likely in an other post)
  • "inconsistency" with themes (most/every theme shipped right now), tab close buttons, shutdown button, document close buttons (all on the right)
  • "crowded corner" the upper left is now full of things, upper right is empty.
  • "new position isn't beneficial"
And what others also already noted. The best UI still has the Chrome/Chromium browser especially with its way of using the title bar as well as the menu bar. Best design I've seen so far.