Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 10th Oct 2010 14:17 UTC, submitted by Extend
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu Yes, yes, it's that time of the year again - a new Fiona Apple album confirmed (which makes anything that happens between now and spring 2011 irrelevant and annoying), MorphOS 2.6 released (will be the next news item), and, of course, a new Ubuntu release showcasing the best of the best that the Free software world has to offer in the desktop world.
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RE[2]: Design fail
by earksiinni on Sun 10th Oct 2010 21:02 UTC in reply to "RE: Design fail"
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I read the "You Can't Innovate Like Apple" article linked on the sidebar ( and I've been keeping Apple's pixel-perfect design method in mind as I've been going over 10.10.

Bad visual design is like bad writing. You can point out the flaws, but that doesn't get at the whole picture. To extend the writing metaphor, every element should be thought about very carefully a la Chekhov's gun, and it's clear that the new volume control applet's elements need more work:

1. What is that arrow bullet on the left next to the Rhythmbox info? Is it a control? If so, why is it flush with the edge of the menu (Fitt's law)? Why would we even need a control there to hide it?

2. Why is there a musical notation icon next to the Rhythmbox title? Isn't it already clear that it controls music?

3. Why is Rhythmbox even mentioned by name at all? How is that important? If you're going to be locking in the applet with a particular music player anyhow, what's the point of repeating its name?

4. This tiny applet is designed around no fewer than six columns, five of them left-justified and one center-justified. Very jarring.

5. The left edge of the menu is not aligned with with the left edge of the speaker button on the toolbar.

6. The speaker button is clearly meant to merge seamlessly into the volume control menu, as if it turned into a tab on a folder, yet the top edge of the menu continues and separates it from the toolbar button.

7. Why is there a drop shadow from the top edge onto the toolbar? So the menu is higher than the toolbar which is already floating off the desktop? Why are we introducing three z levels, does it serve a purpose?

8. The spacing between the volume widget in the menu and its flanking speaker icons is imbalanced.

9. The left edge of the left speaker icon is not aligned with the left edge of the "Mute" text.

10. The contrast between the right corner of the horizontal bar in the volume widget and the menu is very faint and makes it unclear where the bar actually ends.

11. The silly musical notation icon isn't even done properly. First, the stems should be aligned with the right of the dots. Second, the bar's shading is jagged and pixelated, which is OK but contrasts strangely with the dots' fuzzy shading around the edges. The proportions between the bars, stems, and dots aren't right, either, and the dots should be much rounder.

12. The gradient of the Rhythmbox controls has nothing to do with any of the other system gradients and the light source is coming straight from overhead.

13. What vertical justification were they thinking of when they aligned the album text? Is it justified relative to the album cover picture? Is it justified at all?

14. The album art and the Rhythmbox controls are both bounded by two separate boxes that are a different shade of grey from the rest of the menu.

15. Why is the "Sound Preferences..." text not aligned centrally between the spacer above it and the bottom edge of the menu?

16. The spacing between the "Mute" text and the top of the menu as well as the elements below it has nothing to do with the spacing between the other subtitles and the elements above and below it.

17. For that matter, why does the text read "Mute"? Is the sole purpose of that widget to mute the volume? Why is there text at all? Isn't the purpose obvious?

18. Why is there a "Sound Preferences..." option? Isn't this accessible from the options menu? How many times while changing the volume or controlling Rhythmbox through the toolbar applet have you wanted to access Sound Preferences?

19. The spacing between the rows in the Rhythmbox section is off and looks completely arbitrary.

20. Edge shading issues with the volume control slider and the speaker icons similar to what I wrote about regarding the musical notation icon.

21. What's up with the track forward/backward buttons? Very weird positioning of the triangles, they look too crunched together. Why are the ends of the pause button's bars rounded off but those of the forward/backward buttons not?

22. Total imbalance of whitespace between left and right.

23. The eye is being led in contradictory directions. First, the overall elements are massed in a trapezoid that leads from upper right to lower left and from upper left to lower left (unnecessarily broken by the musical notation icon and the arrow bullet). The menu's location in the upper right of the screen reinforces this flow. But then, the Rhythmbox section goes from upper left to lower middle with massive whitespace on the right.

24. I haven't even said anything about how crowded the toolbar looks when with the menu open.

Edit: The point here isn't that the menu is in bad taste. I've tried to select design decisions (or accidents) where the purpose isn't obvious. That's really what brings about bad design, when every single element's role isn't thought about.

Edited 2010-10-10 21:16 UTC

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