GNOME Shell Design FAQ

This a draft only and is work in progress.

What are the advantages of GNOME Shell over the GNOME 2 desktop?

GNOME Shell offers a vastly improved user experience over the GNOME 2 desktop. It corrects a number of problems with the GNOME 2 desktop, adds useful features that are relevant to contemporary users, will be more visually attractive, and is better suited to today's screens and input devices. The design page contains an extended summary of these advantages.

Yes, but how do you know that it's better?

A substantial evidence base has been utilised and developed during the shell design process. This includes:

  • Well documented problems with the GNOME 2 desktop which have been corrected.
  • An extensive literature review that was conducted as a part of the design process. This included empirical usability research which has informed the design.
  • Extensive testing by developers, designers and community members.
  • The utilisation of the shell designers' previous experiences and research activities, and the use of stock usability principles and knowledge.
  • A small usability study was conducted in December 2010 which confirmed the viability of the GNOME Shell design.

How can I make design suggestions or give feedback?

GNOME Shell is a community project, and that includes design. Volunteers and members of the community regularly contribute to the design of the shell, and the project is in constant need of help. That said, the GNOME Shell design is at an advanced stage and the scope for design changes is increasingly limited. Additionally, though the design team makes an effort to engage with the comments and suggestions that they receive, they are extremely busy and receive more messages than they are able to respond to.

Feedback and suggestions can be made via the GNOME Shell mailing list. GNOME Shell can also be found in the GNOME bug tracker. It is advisable to fully read this FAQ and the design page before make use of these facilities. If you are committed to becoming involved in GNOME design and GNOME Shell design, the best way to get started is by finding small issues that you can work on. Identify usability and design issues that are easy to grasp, research them, and work with the design team to develop solutions.

Where can I get more information about the GNOME Shell design?

On the GNOME Shell design page. :)

Why no window list or dock?

The Shell is designed in order to minimise distraction and interuption and to enable users to focus on the task at hand. A persistent window list or dock would interfere with this goal, serving as a constant temptation to switch focus. The separation of window switching functionality into the overview means that an effective solution to switching is provided when it is desired by the user, but that it is hidden from view when it is not necessary.

The omission of a window list or dock also reduces the amount of screen space occupied by the Shell, and therefore makes it better suited to devices with smaller screens.

Why aren't there applets, widgets or gadgets?

The essential functionality provided by the applets found in the GNOME 2 desktop is being replaced by GNOME Shell. This includes the clock and calendar, logout, notification area, keyboard indicator, show desktop button, and so on. A thorough review of the functionality provided by GNOME 2 applets has also been conducted as a part of the GNOME Shell design process and it was concluded that no essential functionality has been omitted from the GNOME Shell design.

Essential functionality aside, an applets, widgets or gadgets framework is essentially aimed towards providing optional and additional functionality, and this does not necessarily fall within the design scope of a desktop shell. Given these doubts over the necessity of applets/widgets/gadgets, this functionality has not been pursued by the shell team (who have been kept very busy taking care of the really essential stuff). Nevertheless, the GNOME Shell team have encouraged mechanisms for allowing additional functionality to be explored and remain open to suggestions in this area.

What about theming and customisation?

One of the core goals of GNOME Shell is to provide the GNOME desktop with a consistent and identifiable visual identity. As a result, GNOME Shell provides a more limited set of customisation options than are provided by the GNOME 2 desktop. At the same time, the Shell designers recognise that customisation is important to some users. As a result, some facilities for customisation have been provided in the Shell, such as allowing launchers to be added to and rearranged in the dash. A powerful extensions system is also planned for a future release that will give users and developers exciting customisation possibilities.

Projects/GnomeShell/Design/FAQ (last edited 2013-11-22 17:00:18 by WilliamJonMcCann)