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Event based UI defaults [WAS: gnome-volume-manager blank CD defaults]



These UI discussions are some of my favorite and coupled with the increasing componentization and modularization of FC is one of my primary reasons for reading these lists religiously. Jeff, John, and Nicolas and others consistently express valid viewpoints and are able to abstract what works best for them and what would work best for most users (which are often different beasts altogether). I dont know if this is no an off list discussion:

I am unaware of the "real" guidelines (would love to know where to find them) for event UI design for the fedora project and gnome but I feel that the defaults of a UI should be targeted at a normal user (majority of the user base). I also believe that it is important to distinguish what will soon be normal users (slightly less technically proficient and dont desire to be more so) from what currently are normal users (moderately technically proficient with the desire to improve). Many of the people that i have known use fedora because they want to learn it and want to experiment with software alternatives but users/companies/governments are increasingly turning to FC as a core set of applications to "do business". These new users are much less interested in creating the perfect computing experience for themselves and would just like a sane set of defaults that arent obtrusive but still inform them of important system events and a helping hand in the right direction when they perform a new/unfamiliar operation.

That said I personally despise "intelligent" menus that reorganize items and "automatic wizards/popups" that push you through the meat processing plant. While this may be a gray line i believe it is the UI's job to subtly provide the user with enough input and reinforcement as to propel them to the next desired step without forcing them down improper paths if they know differently (insert HAL 2000 quote here).

To this end I believe that click able system tray notifications provide a great opportunity to guide less experienced users and dont "steal focus" away from experienced users on a mission. They can be easily ignored and should disappear in a reasonable amount of time (not to mention be configurable if desired). The end goal IMO is to provide the user with the knowledge to make the decision next time if there wasnt a notification present.

I think Fedora is and should be attempting to be an attractive alternative with a shallow learning curve. So it is justifiably a bit more helpful currently then it should be as it becomes more ubiquitous. Streamlining and unifying the process by which the user interacts with the UI when foreign media and other elements (USB cam, printers, mp3 players, etc) are introduced if one of the most important areas of interaction in my opinion. I think we should handle all of these "events" in a unified way so the users becomes used to dealing with a computer that is trying to understand what actions you are trying to make it perform.

This is just the aggregated sentiment of someone who introduces OSS in general and FC in particular to new users on a daily basis. I am only slightly qualified to express these opinions and i ask that you gently correct my mistakes/oversights where they are present. Im sure many of my thoughts are basic principles of UI design in some class i never took in college and i apologize if i am rehashing it for most. My opinions in short can be summed up as this:

* Everything that can stay static should (you want a firm foundation for new/experienced users to feel comfortable on)
* Expose the user to as few new UI elements as possible (this means unification of function and appearance wherever possible like: removable storage, new usb devices, etc).
* The UI experience should be like a tree in that you follow the same branch until you are forced to deviate because of the requirements of your destination.
* Subtly educate the user of possible and suggested actions without forcing them down predetermined paths of functionality (notifications).
* All "interfacing events" (popups, wizards) should be initiated by the user using the interface itself (which may mean simply clicking on a notification).
* Make operations as easy as possible by streamlining and automating the process where there is little question of deviance.


By giving people less to learn (unification) and helping them through the learning process (notification) we jointly educate the unknowing and dont pester the experienced users with "forced interfacing".

Best wishes.

--

Michael Favia           michael at insitesinc dot com
Insites Incorporated    http://michael.insitesinc.com


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