Friday, August 22, 2014

Updated GNOME HIG

At GUADEC, Allan Day discussed the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines, and mentioned that an updated version of the "HIG" was forthcoming. Allan has now shared the updated HIG, writing:
I’ve recently been hard at work on a new and updated version of the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines, and am pleased to announce that this will be ready for the upcoming 3.14 release.

Its goal is to help developers and designers take advantage of the new abilities at their disposal, without losing their way in the process. This is reflected in the structure of the new HIG: the guidelines don’t enforce a single template on which applications have to be based, but presents a series of patterns and elements which can be drawn upon. Each of these is accompanied by advice on when each pattern is appropriate, as well as alternatives that can be considered.
The updated HIG is really a "preview," but I'm sure it will soon be updated at the official HIG entry on the GNOME wiki. See Allan's blog for a screenshot of the new HIG elements.

What are my thoughts on the new HIG? I like it. It's not widely different from the current HIG, so previous GNOME users should have an easy transition. The interface elements are clean and distinct. I think new users will find this familiar enough to Windows or Mac that they will immediately understand how to get around. And that's an important part of usability: Programs should be familiar, or new users will not understand what to do. And it's important that GNOME programs use the same HIG: Programs should be consistent to each other, so users can apply what they learned in one program to other programs on the same system.

One suggestion would be to add a "checkmark" icon or some other indicator to the toggle button, so users can immediately see if the button is toggled. For example, if you were a vision-impaired user or an older user, would you be able to tell if a button was in the "toggled" state—especially if there weren't other "non-toggled" buttons on the screen for comparison? Most older people's color perception changes, and they lose contrast sensitivity. Adding some kind of marker to the "toggled" button would help—the on/off toggle (see HIG) is better for this kind of display, anyway.

What do you think of the updated HIG?
image: Allan Day

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