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[4]: Design fail
by earksiinni on Sun 10th Oct 2010 22:56 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Design fail"
earksiinni
Member since:
2009-03-27

Man, people really need to chill out on this site. I mean the interwebs are rude, but damn.

2 & 3: I'm not aware of any API for adding subapplets to the volume menu. If there is, that makes sense...sort of. For there to be any conflict, there would have to be a separate subapplet for a different music player. Why not make it so that the title only appears when two different players are open at the same time?

4: By columns, I mean that the applet is designed with the elements lined up into six different logical columns. Columns are a layout technique rather than an element. When there are too many of them they tend to conflict and look jarring to the eye.

8 (you addressed this as 9): I think that the lack of sound "waves" coming from the speaker is enough to imply lower volume since the other speaker has sound waves. But my point wasn't that there's too much space between the speaker and the bar, it's that the spacing is imbalanced with the other side. Adding some breathing room between the bar and the right speaker would fix it while keeping the same rationale (if indeed that was the rationale) intact.

10: The left end of the volume bar looks like it fades into the background and needs a little more contrast.

12: Point taken about the light source, I agree that would look weird. But the gradients are out of whack in general. The gradient for the playback controls is quite different from the toolbar, which is quite different from the volume control slider, which is quite different from the drop shadow. They don't have to all be the same (the gradients help differentiate controls), but my question is why are they so distinct? What purpose does that serve? Seems like they could've made it subtler if their reason was to distinguish the controls.

13: Sorry, I think perhaps you misunderstood my point here. I'm not saying that the individual lines of text are misaligned, I mean that the entire block of the song description isn't vertically aligned.

14: Look carefully at the pixels next to the rounded corners of the album cover and the pixels next to the playback control's edges. The best way to see it is if you have a laptop to tilt your screen back and look at the menu from an angle. Use the eye dropper tool in Gimp if you still can't see it, compare the color value to the grey in, for example, the upper left corner of the menu.

17: I didn't realize that's supposed to be a button. If it is, they need to make it clear that it is a button, because right now it looks like another subtitle. It could easily mislead people into thinking that the menu doesn't have a mute button. P.S., I don't own anything by Apple, I just admire how methodical their design method is, which is why I linked to that article near the top of the thread.

18: Yeah, actually that would be really useful. "Sound Preferences..." is a lot less direct than "Volume Settings..." or "Sound Mixer..."

20: Is it actually because of compression (it's PNG, btw)? Usually image compression results in artifacts, not smooth edges. My complaint isn't about the blurring, which looks good in itself, my complaint is that it contrasts sharply with the straightness of other parts of the element. Compare the stem and the dot of the musical notation.

21: I didn't think it was "ridiculous". I've never seen track forward/backward buttons with triangles that were so closely put together. A little bit of breathing room would be welcome.

22: No need to be facetious. A proper design should account for short song names, and besides, even with longer names the whitespace would still look imbalanced.

23: Sounds like you've never had to put dinner on the table with layout. Visual flow is a very important part of any design.

24: Why should we settle for "bearable"? I want Ubuntu to look excellent.

Blaming GTK is not an excuse. I personally don't know what compromises had to be made, but it sounds like you do. What were they? Even assuming that these flaws were the result of compromises as opposed to oversights, why shouldn't we be free to point them out? And what do you mean by only looking at the "bad side" of these compromises? What is the "good side" of a weird looking musical notation icon? Or improper spacing?

Edited 2010-10-10 23:11 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[5]: Design fail
by Radio on Mon 11th Oct 2010 00:20 in reply to "RE[4]: Design fail"
Radio Member since:
2009-06-20

The badly drawn note or vertical spacing irregularities are valid points, I conceded that; don't mix them back with less valid points. The variability in songs names will always leave the overall design unbalanced. Like the "S" and "T" unalignement illusion (which would require a sub-pixel shift), it can't be solved. The Apple way would certainly have been... not to do the applet. Apple isn't such a genius at design: they usually remove stuff they can't manage, even if they are useful. You may call that genius (and yes, sometimes cleaning up an interface requires a great talent), but they push it to the point it is just a cheap way to avoid difficult design decisions. For example, now that iOS is adding back the complicated useful stuff such as copy/paste and multitasking, it is getting worse and worse: clutter, complexity, low discoverability, performance hit... (other, worse, example: iTunes). When you eliminate features, you better be sure you will never have to put them back, because afterthough integration can be as ugly as footprints in a zen rock garden. That is also why linux distribution design will never be as polished as Apple's, the present poster boy of design (valid till the trend fades off, like it did with Ikea). The applet is an afterthough; wouldn't it look fine all by itself, as a desktop widget? Sure it is not albsolutely properly aligned, but it has a logical layout, with big buttons popping out (even if this is at the cost of using a different, stronger gradient).

Thanks for correcting me, the screenshot is indeed in png; but, to go back to my point, going from a pixel-perfect render to a file in a lossy format such as JPG or PNG smoothens sharp edges, because those formats were made with photographs in mind (and because edge detection is/was computationaly heavy), even at levels of quality where there is no artifact. That is one of the reasons icons often have their own file format.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[6]: Design fail
by earksiinni on Mon 11th Oct 2010 01:15 in reply to "RE[5]: Design fail"
earksiinni Member since:
2009-03-27

I brought up spacing and the music note icon again specifically because you did accept those points, and I was trying to address a different point that you made about compromises. You wrote that I was only looking at the "bad side" of compromises. I'm asking you 1) what those compromises were, and 2) what is the "good side" of those compromises? As far as I can tell, there aren't any compromises in the volume control's design, just oversights.

As to the "S" and "T" alignment thing, I still don't think you understand what I was originally trying to say, or you understand but you somehow think that I'm disagreeing with you. You were the one who originally brought up the "S" and "T" alignment issue, and I agree completely that it would be extremely difficult to fix. Rather, what I was criticizing was that the three lines together taken as a block are not aligned properly. I'm looking at the block of text as a whole that starts from the top edge of the line "Speak Slow" and ends with the bottom edge of the line "So Jealous". That block of text should come down a little to be center justified relative to the album art. Or perhaps I've misunderstood your point.

I'm not trying to defend Apple and I haven't drawn any comparisons to their products at all; you're the one who drew their design into this. As I said before, I don't own any Apple products, and furthermore I don't really have an opinion on Apple's design other than that it's slick. Maybe people are being thrown off because I wrote that their design is "pixel-perfect". I urge you to actually read the article in the link, I'm using "pixel-perfect" to refer to their design process. It refers to the way that they agree on final mockups down to the pixel and don't deviate from that final mockup once approved, not even by one pixel. I admire that method, and I think that it generally leads to results that look better than Ubuntu 10.10's volume control menu. Not that Apple's perfect in any way, shape, or form. So you raise good points about how Apple's design is a cop out, but I'm not trying to say anything to the contrary.

What I am saying is that, cop out or not, Ubuntu's volume control menu has a lot of issues with it. What iOS looks like has got no bearing on that.

That is also why linux distribution design will never be as polished as Apple's, the present poster boy of design (valid till the trend fades off, like it did with Ikea). The applet is an afterthough; wouldn't it look fine all by itself, as a desktop widget? Sure it is not albsolutely properly aligned, but it has a logical layout, with big buttons popping out (even if this is at the cost of using a different, stronger gradient).


But the applet shouldn't be an afterthought! I'm not saying that the applet is illogical, non-functional, or tasteless. I'm saying that it looks off, that it's poorly designed, and I'm pointing out specific reasons why. One can apologize for why the Linux desktop doesn't look polished, but at the end of the day it simply isn't up to snuff. Why should we settle for less? Why should Linux's appearance "never be as polished as Apple's"?

Allow me to preempt a possible reply, that "it's a matter of limited resources". People who do layout have a very specific skill set that doesn't necessarily overlap with the people who do artwork/other design work for the desktop, and certainly we're not talking about taking kernel developers or other coders away from more pressing tasks. Does Ubuntu actually have anyone who does professional layout working on any part of the distribution at all? Given the rather modest list of changes they made for 10.10, the least they could have done is find one person for a day or two to make sure that one of those changes, the volume control menu, didn't look like crap.

The real problem is that Ubuntu's design process lacks any transparency whatsoever. Consider the window control debacle earlier this year and how Shuttleworth came out and outright said that they were ignoring the community on the decision. After I wrote up my list, on Morgan's advice, I tried to find a place to send my observations. Are people aware that they don't have a mailing list for design issues? I wasn't. They do have one for artwork, but a cursory look over the archives didn't bring up anything significant about UI. Fedora has one that covers UI design and artwork (not to be interpreted as a defense of Fedora's design). Am I supposed to file it as a bug? Who actually coded that applet and did they follow a UI spec?

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[6]: Design fail
by WereCatf on Mon 11th Oct 2010 02:38 in reply to "RE[5]: Design fail"
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

"going from a pixel-perfect render to a file in a lossy format such as JPG or PNG"

PNG isn't lossy. It is pixel-perfect.

Reply Parent Score: 4