A tale about design

Last week at GCDS, we rented a minivan and road-tripped around the island. One Banshee hacker (Bertrand), one F-Spot hacker (me) and six guys from the GNOME art team (Garrett, jimmac, Benjamin, Andreasn, Vinicius and mpt). From a risk management point of view, this was suicide, who whould do our artwork if we drove into a ravine? Fortunately, that did’t happen, we had a great day and I can write this blogpost, a tale about design.

We were already aware of it, but hadn’t fixed it yet: the F-Spot preferences dialog is totally netbook unsuited. And it is extremely ugly. Behold:

The old preferences dialog (Larger version)

During GCDS, I was approached by Matthew Paul Thomas (mpt). He wanted to redesign our preferences dialog and fix it. We had a good chat and ran over the current preferences dialog, what it does and why. Two or three hours of sketching and drawing later, he presented this:

Preferences dialog mockup (Larger version)

It’s a simple paper mockup, describing the current dialog, what’s wrong and how we can improve it. This was then followed by a proposal for a new design. For a hacker, this is gold. We generally aren’t the best user interfaces designers (let’s just admit it), but we do like good design. When given a spec, we can make things happen quickly. This mockup made sense and it was sound: it follows the HIG.

I handed it over to Stephane Delcroix and an hour of hacking later, we had a new preferences dialog:

The new preferences dialog (Larger version)

Much nicer!

The moral of the story
The moral of this story is twofold:

  • For hackers it’s important to realize that our artwork team isn’t just a bunch of guys with an obsession for pretty icons. They also do our visual styling and help us design great interfaces (one of the things that made GNOME to be a success). If your interface sucks, turn to them.
  • For designers: we love you and even if you don’t feel like coding, a simpel well thought-out mockup can have a huge effect. If you feel stuff is suboptimal, go to the maintainers and talk to them, usually it’s not a big change, but with a large result. And generally maintainers love UI suggestions, if they make sense. And as a shameless plug: we at F-Spot really love UI designers, we know it isn’t what it should be and if anyone wants to help with these kind of things, do get in touch.

It’s this kind of cooperation that makes the GNOME community such a nice place to be in.

July 17, 2009 21:48 #guadec #gnome #gcds #f-spot #design