[ubuntu-art] Meerkat volume control design

SorinN nemes.sorin at gmail.com
Mon Oct 11 07:23:43 BST 2010

Hi mr. Ersin,
you have your right - in many points of design decisions side - some
things seems to lack a serious rationale behind (but I can understand
that as a lack of developer power and maybe some short delivery terms
for this ambitious project [Ayatana]) - but all in all is this is a
work in progress and Indicator Applet with all applets is under
constant refinement.

About developers and development process - I feel that developers
expect the exact feedback that you do here and they agree with this
kind of criticism because those corrections and good ideas come from
user land.
In a way, I can see the way of work of Ayatana team  is like an user
driven development process  - because any good idea can see the light.

That's been said - please consider the "words in plus" when you say
something like :
"... it looks like there wasn't any active design decision made about
the element at all " - we are many peoples here which we start to
think that way (also some bloggers think the same), but finally we
understand that is not enough time
and not enough time and human / machine power for a normal QA process
- the QA process is made on the fly, you just do it ;).
So, for future no need for such words. It can hurt for gratis and is
not so constructive. Just a good / motivated and founded criticism is

2010/10/11 Ersin Akinci <ersin.akinci at gmail.com>:
> Hello all,
> I'm not sure where to send this, so my apologies if I've contacted the
> wrong list.  I was looking at 10.10's new volume control menu,
> pictured here:
> http://files.digitizor.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Selection_013.png
> I want to commend the Ubuntu team for their ongoing efforts to improve
> the toolbar, and I really enjoy the new functionality in the volume
> menu.  However, I've also wondered about some of the design decisions,
> specifically what the rationale was behind them.  I drew up a list of
> 23 issues that I thought the design team might be able to address:
> 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 musical notation icon isn't 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 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. 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.
> In most of these cases, it looks like there wasn't any active design
> decision made about the element at all.  Note how the spacings between
> the last two subtitles and the spacers above them are equal but are
> unequal to the spacing between "Mute" and the top edge of the menu.
> It's pretty obvious that's because the spacing of the subtitles is
> completely determined by the default spacing on both sides of the GTK
> spacer widget; similarly, the space between the top edge of "Mute" and
> the top edge of the menu is equal to the space between the bottom edge
> of "Sound Preferences..." and the bottom edge of the menu. That's
> probably just the default window manager/GTK behavior.  It's not about
> taste, the point is that no active decision was made about the
> spacing, or (weirdly) the decision was made that the default widget
> spacings were ideal.
> In other cases, however, an active choice was clearly made but that
> choice doesn't address the element's purpose.  Why should a volume
> control menu be labelled "Mute"?  Etc.
> I just wanted to offer my observations, though I wasn't too sure how
> to go about it.  It's strange that there isn't a dedicated mailing
> list for design issues.  Are these handled on a component-by-component
> basis?  How do the designers interact with the engineers?  How would I
> go about changing the design of the volume control menu myself?
> Best,
> Ersin
> --
> Ersin Y. Akinci -- ersinakinci.com
> What Digital Revolution? -- www.whatdigitalrevolution.com
> Thinking critically about digital worlds.
> --
> ubuntu-art mailing list
> ubuntu-art at lists.ubuntu.com
> https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-art

Nemes Ioan Sorin

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